Kate Quinn is not a name I have heard of before, but Bletchley Park and the Enigma code is something I have and it has fascinated me for many years. So when I got the opportunity to read this book, I was delighted and set about solving the mystery.
Osla, debutante with the world at her feet as well as all the men and the thought that she doesn’t really need to work, just make the right match, makes you think of some privileged posh person. Osla is anything but. Determined to do her bit she suddenly finds herself on a train to some big house in the middle of Buckinghamshire.
Mab, feels she has worked hard to get where she is. She wants something better in her life not just for her but her little sister Lucy as well. She is on the look out for someone to get her out of what she grew up in. But in the meantime she has to distract herself with the work at this big house in the middle of Buckinghamshire.
The third main female character in this novel is Beth. Daughter of the landlady where Osla and Mab lodge at. Beth is downtrodden, under the thumb of her Methodist preaching mother and will ever remain the spinster of the parish. But her quick thinking brain in solving crosswords and puzzles also leads her through the gates to the big house in the middle of Buckinghamshire.
Bletchley Park or BP as it is referred to by the ‘inmates’ within the story holds many secrets, no one knows what anyone else is doing but everyone knows it is something important. But it is not just the secrets they are working on, it is the secrets these three women have brought to the BP, their lives are going to be inexplicably changed by what they discover amongst the codes in front of them and what they most importantly discover about themselves.
In an interesting dual narrative, the different thread of the story is really only some 6-7 years after the main storyline. The days in the run up to the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten in Novembers 1947.
Osla finds herself having to attend the wedding of the year when she is called to revisit her recent past when a code arrives.
Mab was planning a party where she could fold some napkins into swans to listen to the wedding on the wireless when a code arrives for her and it seems she needs to confront her past as well.
For Beth, she has remained in the past, there was one last code to break and in her mind she has never had the chance to crack it and reveal the truth about the past.
Can these three women come together and solve this final piece of the puzzle?
This book drew me straight in, I have been fortunate to visit Bletchley Park (and so want to go back) that I really did feel like I was walking through those gates, hunkering down in a hut with nothing but a jumble of letters and paper and pencils to crack something unknowable. What an experience it must have been and Kate Quinn brings that experience so much to life in this book.
This is a long novel but so worth it, to get so involved with everything, whether it be the light hearted moments, or the thrill of the chase when it came to cracking a code or experiencing life as a debutante in war torn London.
Whilst I did think at times some of the timeline seemed a bit wrong from my knowledge of the time, it was only manipulated to suit the story and was explained fully at the end of the book. The author also explains the basis of where some of these characters have come from and who they are based on, though there are a lot that you will recognise
One of the best historical novels I have read in a long time and one that I could happily reread.
Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.
The Rose Code is out now.