Bad ass women and war: The Alice Network

Alright before I get to the book I need to make a confession. Although historic fiction is my favorite genre to read, I had never read work of Kate Quinn before. I know, she almost exclusively writes historical fiction right? Well, shameful truth is that I never picked up one of her books in the passed because I committed the biggest sin a book lover can commit: I judged her books by their covers. To be honest, the cover on some of her other books made them look like the kinda hot fantasy novel you’d read in your late 50s on a cruise…. Totally my bad, because I finally read one of her books and it was awesome.

First of all,I love the narration style. The book is narrated from point of view two women from entirely different worlds. Charile: pregnant, unmarried, and from a very proper, un-approving family. Surprisingly enough, her “little problem” seem to be least of her worries. She runs away on her way to Europe, where she has “An Appointment” set by her parents, to go search for her beloved lost cousin in the messy aftermath of WWII in 1947.She does not have much aside from the cloth on her back and almost no leads. Charlie simply refuses to give up even though Rose has been missing for for years after disappearing in Nazi-Occupied France. Her only hope is Eve. An unhinged, alcoholic woman with a troubled past and a dark secret.

As the odd search party make their way tracing Rose’s steps, we get to take a look into Eve’s past. Her story begins in 1915, A year into the great war when one fateful afternoon changed her life forever. She is recruited to work as a spy and winds up under care of Lili, code named “Alice”, the queen of spies. We initially meet the 1947 Eve as a troubled woman with crooked hands, a bad temper and a severe drinking problem. As her story is unfolded we realize she has her own ghosts to chase and demons to hunt. Following a series of events which eventually brought doom to the “Alice Network”, Eve is wasting away in her dingy London house until a young American girl dressed in an expensive pink dress and heels barges into her house and demands her help. With a mysterious, secret motive, Eve decides to help Charlie. Eve’s cook/house help Roy also comes along. The dashing Scottish lad has his share of secrets and seems to be the only one who is not fast to harshly judge Charlie and her “little problem”

The inspiration for this book was Loiuse de Bettignies. She was a real spy and little known war hero. Courageous, intelligent and resourceful she ran a network of female spies who risked their lives every day in an effort to fight back the German invaders. While Loiuse and her network of female espionage are real, “Lily”, “Eve” and this particular story are an invention of the author. I suggest you look her up after reading this book and learn about the heroes history has betrayed.

“The Alice Network” touches an many different topics, narrates many lives as the story unfolds and drags you along with a touch of suspense. We learn of Charlie’s lavish and yet troubled family life. We get to know and sympathize with burden Eve carries around with her and we watch Roy slowly let out some of his secrets. The book is a breezy read with just the right tone, realistic characters and a breezy style of writing.  Pick up your copy today, take a trip back in time and munch on a batch of fresh croissants!

Yep, this book will probably give you a craving for a croissant! Shortly after Charlie runs her “appointment” to look for rose, she is tracked down and confronted by her overbearing mother who is planning on taking her back and taking over Charlie’s life once again. In a beautiful moment of strength, Charlie declares that she doesn’t want an abortion, does not want a piece of dry toast to watch her figure and most importantly, she does not want her old life back. What she wants is a DAMN CROISSANT! Yes, you arrogant, Downton Abbey-style mother! Your daughter just said damn! *gasp* I’m not gonna spoil the story and tell you what happens next. Instead,if you are feeling peckish,I can tell you how to make some great buttery croissants.

Here is what you need:

(A short funny story: I had never made croissants before this so I researched a few recipes to get an idea for making my own and so many websites listed the ingredients as: 1 roll of croissant dough… Ok then, how about we cut the middle man an just head for a bakery instead? lol)

The Dough: Make it a day in advance

  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; more for rolling
  • 1/2cup plus 2 Tbsp ice-cold water
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp cold whole milk
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp soft unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp yeast
  • 2-1/4 tsp. table salt

The butter layer:

  • 1-1/4 cups cold unsalted butter

And 1 large egg’s white for the wash

  1. Make the dough

Combine all the dough ingredients. If you have a stand mixer just put everything in with the dough hook attachment. If not, use a fork or potato mashed to mix in the butter well. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured 10-inch pie pan or a dinner plate. Lightly flour the top of the dough and wrap well with plastic so it doesn’t dry out. Refrigerate overnight.

  1. Make the butter layer

The next day, cut the cold butter lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slabs. Arrange the pieces on a piece of parchment or waxed to form a sheet of butter. Cover the butter with another piece of parchment or waxed paper. With a rolling pin, pound the butter with light, even strokes. Pound the butter until it’s about 7-1/2 inches square and then trim the edges of the butter. Keep pounding and rolling till you have an even sheet of butter. Put it in the fridge while you roll out the dough.

  1. Laminate the dough

Unwrap and lay the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Roll into a 10-1/2-inch square. Brush excess flour off the dough. Remove the butter from the refrigerator—it should be pliable but cold. If not, refrigerate a bit longer. Unwrap and place the butter on the dough so that the points of the butter square are centered along the sides of the dough. Fold one flap of dough over the butter toward you, stretching it slightly so that the point just reaches the center of the butter. Repeat with the other flaps . Then press the edges together to completely seal the butter inside the dough. (A complete seal ensures butter won’t escape.) Repeat rolling and folding, and then refrigerate the dough to let it chill for 30 mins.

Put the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface and with the rolling pin, “wake the dough up” by pressing firmly along its length—you don’t want to widen the dough but simply begin to lengthen it with these first strokes. Roll the dough into a long and narrow strip.

Depending on how big you want your croissants, cut your dough into triangles. The best way to do that is the cut first along the length and then along the width creating rectangles and then cutting diagonally. Roll your croissants tight.

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Now, most recipes call for a whole egg for egg-wash, but I find with most dough using just the egg white with a small splash of cold water in it makes for a shinier, more crisp top.

Make sure you remember the egg wash before popping them in the oven pre-heated to 375 F for 20 minutes! I forgot to egg wash mine. Tasty but dry on the outside :/ Also, roll yours with more grace than I did. XD

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