Title: The Rose Code
By: Kate Quinn
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Andra
1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of East-End London poverty, works the legendary code-breaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart.
1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter—the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger—and their true enemy—closer. (Goodreads)
The Rose Code is the first book I have read by Kate Quinn (though I have had the paperback of The Huntress in my TBR pile for quite a while). My introduction to the writing of Ms. Quinn has been a very satisfying experience. I found the flow of the writing easy to read, the story was engaging (albeit long), characters had depth and kept me interested throughout the entire story. The story has certainly peaked my interest in these code breakers and I think it has ignited a spark for further reading for that time in the world’s history ☺
The story takes the reader from the beginning of the war with an alternating time frame perspective (year by year, approximately from December 1939 to November 1947) which to my delight was easy to follow (not confusing as sometimes shifting time frames can be). We follow the lives of three women as they grow to be friends while working as code breakers at Bletchley Park during the war. Let me tell you – not all is as it seems. It is tough on them and their families with respect to the secrecy of their work, knowing the Official Secrets Act of 1939 prevents them from speaking to anyone of their work, which can be a lonely prospect for these women as they are not to even talk amongst themselves as they work in different sections at Bletchley Park.
The three women: Wealthy Canadian born debutante Osla – who is dating Prince Philip of Greece; bold and standoffish Mab who has pulled herself up by her bootstraps to support herself, her mother, and her little sister Lucy, and third, brilliant but shy, cowed Beth, whose mother has demeaned her so much that she thinks she is dumb and worthless.
I really enjoyed the transformation of each of the women as the story unfolded. Personal disaster rips these women apart several years after they meet and they would never speak to each other again. Except one of the women gets a message to the other two women that there was and still is a spy/traitor in their former code breaking group. Against almost impossible odds, the women need to get back together to break one last code. Exciting stuff you say, it was interesting, nail biting and fun to read. Fingers were crossed that they would solve who the traitor was…
The secondary characters (Mr. Grey, Harry, Boots) were also interesting and in the end – did play an integral part in breaking the last code – with barely time to spare. Certainly kept me on my toes in the final chapters of the book ☺
The narration and storytelling made me feel as I was actually in the story. It also has me now very intrigued by this time period in history.
I cannot say how much this book grabbed me and kept me reading as fast and furiously as I possibly could (darn work kept getting in the way of my reading). I am thankful I got to experience the easily readable Kate Quinn.