Monday, August 13, 2018

Book Review: All the Pretty Things

All the Pretty Things: The Story of a Southern Girl Who Went through Fire to Find Her Way HomeAll the Pretty Things: The Story of a Southern Girl Who Went through Fire to Find Her Way Home by Edie Wadsworth

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I used to follow author Edie Wadworth’s blog years ago. I was drawn to her quick wit and beautifully decorated home. To this reader, fellow homeschooling mama Edie Wadsworth was intimidatingly perfect: gorgeous, smart, wealthy, and so talented.

After reading her memoir, I’m blown away by the “real” Edie, or rather, what it took for Edie to travel the path from always-hungry little girl to the redeemed but still struggling adult. Her story (as well as her sister's and cousin's) is a tribute to how kids can rise above their circumstances. And rise she did.

Edie Wadsworth is a class act. She is positively loaded with grit and determination, with a healthy helping of honesty, grace, and kindness. She’s the real thing. A lot of reviewers criticize her adoration of her father. I get that—it is hard to imagine idolizing such a deadbeat dad. But the bonds between daughters and fathers are strong. We readers just don’t see her father as she did. We don’t quite get how charismatic he must have been. He just seems sad. The real hero in this story, of course, is Edie’s mom. She worked unbelievably hard to raise and support three kids on her own. Her memoir would be truly compelling, no doubt.

This isn’t exactly a beautifully written memoir, thus my rating of actually 3.5 (3 for writing, 4 for storytelling). It’s a little choppy and stumbles around a bit, but the story is powerful and you can’t help but want to high five Edie for rising out of the ashes.

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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Book Review: The Alice Network

The Alice NetworkThe Alice Network by Kate Quinn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eve and Charlie: two women, a generation apart, both suffering from tremendous loss after World Wars— WWI for Eve, WWII for Charlie. The chapters alternate between the two stories, but they are connected early in the novel.

Eve was a spy during WWI, part of a real life group of women spies known as The Alice Network. These women, led by Louise de Bettignies, risked (and many lost) their lives for their country as they led double lives to uncover classified information. When we meet Eve, she is an angry alcoholic, nearly 30 years after her stint as a spy. She reveals her story to Charlie throughout the course of the book.

Charlie is a 20-year-old pregnant college drop-out. It’s 1947, just after WWII, and her parents fly her to Paris so she can get rid of her “Little Problem.” She ditches her mother, however, so she can search for her missing cousin, Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war. Charlie’s only clue to Rose’s whereabouts is the name Evelyn Gardiner, which leads her to Eve.

Eve appears to be a brusque, unpleasant old woman, but Charlie needs her help in finding Rose. Charlie rekindles something in Eve: a desire for revenge. They set off together, with Eve’s driver, Finn, in search of their separate stories.

I loved this novel once I got into it (although that took a long time, so keep reading). The alternating narratives were a bit confusing at first, and I kept questioning Charlie’s story; but once I immersed myself in the novel, I got through it quickly. Charlie’s narrative wasn’t nearly as compelling as Eve’s—sometimes it was quite annoying—but it got much better in the second half of the novel. I ended up really loving Charlie’s story, too.

Eve’s story is incredible. I’d love to see the women of the Alice Network portrayed in a movie. These women were the epitome of undaunted courage. What amazing bravery! I am inspired to read more about the Queen of the Spies and her entourage.

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