Kate Quinn’s THE ALICE NETWORK smashed onto the scene last year with a look at female spies in World War I and World War II.
I highly recommend that book, especially since Quinn manages to delve into very dark experiences and still have the characters come out the other side hopeful and engaged in their futures. (Well, mainly due to the experiences the two main characters have together in the book. Their united efforts to get to the truth of what happened to people they knew leads to a deep friendship that helps them navigate futures they hadn’t allowed themselves to consider.)
Quinn’s second book, THE HUNTRESS, may be even better.
From the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling novel, THE ALICE NETWORK, comes another fascinating historical novel about a battle-haunted English journalist and a Russian female bomber pilot who join forces to track the Huntress, a Nazi war criminal gone to ground in America.
In the aftermath of war, the hunter becomes the hunted…
Bold and fearless, Nina Markova always dreamed of flying. When the Nazis attack the Soviet Union, she risks everything to join the legendary Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment wreaking havoc on the invading Germans. When she is stranded behind enemy lines, Nina becomes the prey of a lethal Nazi murderess known as the Huntress, and only Nina’s bravery and cunning will keep her alive.
Transformed by the horrors he witnessed from Omaha Beach to the Nuremberg Trials, British war correspondent Ian Graham has become a Nazi hunter. Yet one target eludes him: a vicious predator known as the Huntress. To find her, the fierce, disciplined investigator joins forces with the only witness to escape the Huntress alive: the brazen, cocksure Nina. But a shared secret could derail their mission unless Ian and Nina force themselves to confront it.
Growing up in post-war Boston, seventeen-year-old Jordan McBride is determined to become a photographer. When her long-widowed father unexpectedly comes homes with a new fiancée, Jordan is thrilled. But there is something disconcerting about the soft-spoken German widow. Certain that danger is lurking, Jordan begins to delve into her new stepmother’s past—only to discover that there are mysteries buried deep in her family . . . secrets that may threaten all Jordan holds dear.
In this immersive, heart-wrenching story, Kate Quinn illuminates the consequences of war on individual lives, and the price we pay to seek justice and truth.
THE HUNTRESS is very different from ALICE NETWORK. It has more characters, more timelines, more differences of opinion within the characters. A bit more nuance, in my opinion.
Nina, the former Soviet Night Witch (female aviator/bomber pilot) is both a war hero and condemned by her relationship with her father, who speaks out against Stalin and is tracked down, even in the furthest depths of Siberia. She is bloodthirsty, unapologetic and determined to find The Huntress. Truly a fascinating character.
Also interesting is Jordan McBride, the teen-age photographer who sees things no one else does, then continually second-guesses her own perspective. Continually hemmed in by everyone around her—but especially her father—Jordan is at first suspicious of her father’s new girlfriend, the German Anneliese, who has a daughter, Ruth. After the woman roundly gaslights her and convinces her she’s just a German refugee who wants a second chance at happiness, Jordan finds something of an ally in her beautiful stepmother, who encourages her to do the things she’s always wanted to—like go to college, pursue a photography career, and question why she’s with her handsome boyfriend.
Meanwhile, Nina has reconnected with Ian, a former journalist-turned-Nazi-hunter, who is after the female Nazi assassin known as The Huntress, and together with Ian’s associate Tony, they head to the U.S., where they think she’s settled.
There is a lot of spellbinding history in this book, told through the eyes of characters who are compelling composites of their own personalities and the trials of their times. Each one has layers that are explained both by backstory and action, and they all make sense—even when they’re doing things that the reader knows they shouldn’t be, because the reader knows more than the characters do.
It’s tricky, audacious storytelling, but Quinn pulls it off, painting each character with the perfect amounts of flair and authenticity.
And again, somehow Quinn handles dark, complicated events in ways that entertain and leave us feeling hopeful and uplifted.
By the way, if you’re a fan of historical fiction with strong female protagonists, I hope you’ll check out The Romance of Reading Page in March. Celebrating Women’s History Month, we’ll have women authors guest hosting/chatting/visiting on the page every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday Thursday. Kate Quinn will be joining us on 3/25. The first few authors are: Valerie Bowman (3/2), Lisa See (3/4), Beatriz Williams & Lauren Willig (together on 3/6), Camille Di Maio (3/9), and Ilima Todd (3/11). Ilima Todd’s book, A SONG FOR THE STARS, is a fictionalized account of the union of English naval officer and a Hawaiian princess, her fourth great-grandparents. (Kirkus review here.)
Hope you can join us! Happy Women’s History Month, Happy Reading!