Alice in Exile

ISBN: 0312325789
ISBN 13: 9780312325787
By: Piers Paul Read

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Biography History Fiction General Fiction Historical Historical Fiction Romance Russia Tbr Fiction Tbr Wayback To Read

About this book

Alice in Exile is Piers Paul Read's triumphant return to the fiction for which he is widely praised: romantic, dramatic, and rich with detail. It features Alice Fry--an independent woman in a world ruled by men--and the two men who love her. It is 1913 when Alice meets Edward Cobb, the eligible son of a baronet. When Alice's father, a radical publisher, gets involved in a scandal, Edward breaks off their engagement, unaware that Alice is expecting his child. Desperate, she travels to Russia to serve as a governess for charming Baron Rettenberg, as the Russian Revolution and World War I rage on.

Reader's Thoughts

Jennifer Dougherty

I think I'm becoming old and jaded. Any book that ends up neat and tidy -- no matter how many hardships the characters endured throughout -- isn't cutting it these days. I did like the historical perspective of the Bolshevik Revolution, though.


This is a gorgeous, satisfying book. If you liked Dr. Zhivago, you'll love Alice in Exile. It's also a bit like Alan Furst's books, which also evoke a tender, somewhat melancholy mood that brings to life not only a past era but a past sensibility, both good and bad. Read is slightly notorious in Great Britain for being a Catholic anti-feminist. It doesn't show in Alice in Exile, in fact, he does a really marvelous job of giving us the world through 1913 suffragette Alice's eyes. She's young and naive, yes, but she's never less than brave and resourceful in facing them. Alice Fry is studying languages at the university, something she's able to do because her father has a bit of money, just enough that he can be a radical publisher and take care of his family, which in those days meant servants. Alice falls in love with Edward Cobb, the heir of a baronet, that is, a man who has too much money to ignore but who is not descended from aristocracy. And he falls in love with her. Society, though, conspires against the couple, and they break it off. Without telling Edward that she's pregnant, Alice accepts a job offer with a Russian baron - she'll be the governess to his two younger children. He is a womanizer, or rather a connoisseur of women... All of this plays out with the coming war looming in the background, and then it's upon the characters. One of the real pleasures of the book is its measured pace. So much is from the interior, intelligent viewpoints. It's not a book that would make it past the relentless show! don't tell! of today's agents.Here's Edward, arguing about women getting the vote with the conservative woman his family wants him to marry (p. 56):"So what are the intelligent arguments against it?""Oh, there are a number. First of all, most women are simply not interested in politics and quite rightly see their proper sphere of power and influence in the home.""But there are women like you," said Edward, "who know as much if not more than most men about what is going on in the world.""Of course, but first of all we are a small minority and always will be, and secondly our influence is more effective if it is exercised through men.... It sounds fine to say that women should be independent of their fathers and husbands; some idiots even make it sound like the emancipation of slaves; but in reality it's a Gradgrind's and Casanova's charter that will make working-class women into wage-slaves and middle-class girls into sluts."Elspeth spat out the word 'slut' with a particular vehemence and glanced sharply at Edward as if to say that he should know whom she had in mind. Or did he imagine it? Edward may have been sensitive to the charge that he was behaving dishonourably in sleeping with Alice Fry, but he was surprised to find in Elspeth so strong an apologist for a strict sexual morality... did he feel unmoved by Elspeth's beauty because he had been so frequently and thoroughly satisfied by Alice?Here's sample, from page 221, about Alice's second Easter in Russia:... during the long liturgy of the Easter Vigil, in the church packed not just with the villagers, but also with the walking wounded from the house, she did not feel the 'enlightened' superiority to the superstitions of the peasantry that she had shared with Baron Rettenberg the year before.Quite to the contrary, the faith and hope that animated the candlelit faces struck her as more real and so, in a sense, more true than the sneer of the sceptic; it was as if the stone gargoyles or wooden carvings from the Middle Ages had come to life, drawing her into the certainties of an age of faith.The book is about love and war, England and Russia, adultery, justice, faith, and families. It's a marvelous read.

Bonnie Feldstein

I enjoyed this book; found it a good read.

Sarah Whitmore willis

Most of the way through I would have given it three stars. Definitely upped his game in the last few chapters. Beautiful ending.


Romantic read with interesting setting against back drop of WW1 and Russian Revolution. Very readable.


The beginning was really interesting but I didn't like the ending at all. The heroine was very naive at first, then she fell in love with a married man who wanted to seduce her. In my eyes the man remained a swine and couldn't understand why she loves him. So what looked like a good book at first became a morally questionable tale of a woman.Still, it made me think about past times and my own life too, so in a way it raised interesting ideas in me.I probably won't read it again.


Amazing novel following a woman who flees to Russia. She endures the winters and the Revolution. Such a great insight into Russia and very educational! This novel has it all: romance, betrayal, love, war, poverty, wealth, suspense... It's what good books are made of:). I leant this book to a friend and never got it back, which is a bummer cause I'd like to reread it


I enjoyed this book very much indeed. It gave me more insight into conditions in Russia towards the end of World War One than I have ever gathered from academic accounts in history text books. The book is well written and held my interest all the way through. Alice Fry develops from an intelligent, independent but rather naive young woman at the beginning of the book into a compassionate and well-rounded woman who endured the many hardships imposed on her by the revolution with equnimity.

Alice Dove

So far am loving this book, I am feeling what the main character is feeling and understanding the era. Updated to add, I have now reduced the star rating to three, as it tailed off significantly into "filler" material, causing me to lose interest. Still a good read, captivating to about half way then a little harder going. Good, intelligent writing. Historical interest.

Karen Fiandaca

Interesting story set during WWI in england and Russia


I had high hopes for this one, but never actually finished it. It's rare that I don't force myself to finish a book, even if I don't love it.


I liked the historical elements to the book. But overall the book was just blah.

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