Cover image for Alice in exile
Alice in exile
Read, Piers Paul, 1941-
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Thomas Dunne Books, 2002.

Physical Description:
344 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
Originally published: Great Britain : Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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By critically acclaimed author Piers Paul Read, Alice in Exile is an exquisite historical novel featuring Alice Fry-a free-thinking and independent-minded woman in a world ruled by men-and the two men who love her. It is 1913 when Alice, the daughter of a radical publisher, meets Edward Cobb, the eligible young son of a baronet who has recently quit the army to pursue his political ambitions. Edward's family could accept his liaison with a girl they consider "fast," but when he proposes, they are appalled.

When Alice's father becomes involved in a scandal, it becomes clear that Edward must choose between Alice and his political career. He breaks off the engagement, unaware that his lover is expecting his child. Desperate, Alice accepts the offer of a rich and charming (if somewhat predatory) Baron Rettenberg, returning to Russia with him to serve as a governess for his children, while Edward marries suitably, but unhappily.

Two of the greatest cataclysms of the twentieth century-the Russian Revolution and World War I-serve as backdrops to Alice's story as she raises her young son, yearns for Edward, and begins to fall passionately for the Baron.

Alice in Exile is Piers Paul Read's triumphant return to the fiction for which he is widely hailed-romantic, dramatic, and rich with historical detail and fascinating characters that make Alice's story an enchanting and unforgettable read.

Author Notes

Piers Paul Read studied history at Cambridge and is the author of thirteen acclaimed novels and four works of nonfiction, including the international bestseller Alive! and, most recently, The Templars. His previous novels have won the Hawthornden Prize and the Geoffrey Faber, Somerset Maugham, and James Tait Black Awards. He is married with four children and lives in London.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

As striking in her beauty as she is shocking in her behavior, Alice Fry has an uninhibited sexuality that makes her attractive to two very different men. Pregnant with fianceEdward Cobb's child, Alice is abandoned by him when her father becomes embroiled in a sexual scandal that threatens Cobb's political ambitions. With no one to turn to and nowhere to go, Alice is rescued by Baron von Rettenberg, a womanizing Russian nobleman who hires her as his children's governess. Though Rettenberg is immediately attracted to her, Alice resists his amorous advances until it is possibly too late. As the Russian Revolution rages around them, Alice comes to realize the depth of her feelings for Rettenberg just as Cobb discovers his folly in banishing Alice from his life. Although comparisons to Doctor Zhivago or Anna Karenina will be inevitable, Read's Alice is an exceptional heroine in her own right. To read Read is to be caught up in an epic wonder of passion, scandal, and international intrigue. --Carol Haggas

Publisher's Weekly Review

Delicately nuanced and stylish, this work of historical fiction from prolific Londoner Read (The Templars, etc.) elegantly captures the life and loves of strong-willed, free-spirited Alice Fry, a suffragette in early 20th-century Britain. As the novel begins, Alice falls in love with Edward Cobb, a stuffy, conservative young man with political aspirations. The pair's social and moral viewpoints clash and Edward's regal parents already have a better-suited companion picked out for him, but romantic love wins out and nuptials are planned. When word gets out that Alice's father, a small press impresario, has published an erotic manual, the embarrassed Edward deserts Alice and the baby she is carrying. World War I breaks out and Edward and Alice are driven even further apart as he goes off to fight in France and she accepts an offer to be a governess in Russia and is seduced by wealthy, married Baron Rettenberg, her employer. Edward proceeds to marry Elspeth, his parents' first choice, but their union is short-lived. The Russian Revolution erupts and Rettenberg is whisked away from his manor, leaving Alice to tend to war casualties and then flee for safety herself. Both men separately realize that Alice is their one true love. But whom will she choose? After the grim depictions of war and revolution, a somewhat pat ending smoothes everything over. Read has conducted impressive research in order to depict accurately the novel's settings and events, and his storytelling is lively and passionate. Sophisticated in tone yet unapologetically romantic, this is a thoroughly satisfying effort. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Because of her liberal upbringing in late 19th-century London, Alice Fry believes in women's suffrage, the labor movement, and free love. When she falls for a young English army officer, she is completely happy despite his family's disapproval. But a scandal involving her father's publishing business causes her lover to break off their engagement to protect his rising political star. After discovering that she is pregnant, Alice flees to Russia with a visiting aristocrat and becomes his lover and the governess to his children. Soon, she is caught up in the horrific turmoil of the Bolshevik Revolution and World War I. Read, who has written other novels of history and adventure, including The Templars and The Patriot, captures the terror and horror of being an aristocrat during the Russian Revolution, and his portrait of the consequences for young soldiers is especially moving. His latest will appeal to lovers of great historical novels like Anna Karenina and is recommended for most public libraries where historical fiction is popular.-Kim Uden Rutter, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.