The Rose Code
By Kate Quinn
Published by Harper Collins
What’s it about?
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 codebreaking 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…
What I think:
What a book!
I was completely engaged from the first page until the last.
I have never been Bletchley Park but it’s on my 2021 to do list and now I am even more excited to go.
I loved each of these different women.
Osla is charming and witty and fighting against the stereotype of the dim-witted debutante. She is smart and resourceful and generous. Her relationship with Prince Philip is written in a way that is believable but also respectful.
Mab is hard working and resilient. As her story unfolds there are such beautiful moments of joy but oh my goodness such heartbreak – I was nearly on tears at points.
And then there’s Beth – potential traitor, possible mad woman. But she is just brilliant. Her mother is a shocker and there are points when I was cheering her along as she finds her confidence and stands up for herself.
The friendship and animosity between these women of such different backgrounds is so compelling. And the time shifts between the war days at Bletchley and run up to the Royal Wedding in 1947 add to the drama.
Bletchley itself is a huge presence in the book. The work that was going on, the secrets that were reveled and kept and the lasting impact that the war has in the men and women who work there are so evocative. There is such a sense of duty and camaraderie but also racism, misogyny and snobbery.
There are so many twists and turns that I was kept guessing right until the end – to say any more would absolutely spoil this experience for future readers.
This book is so thoroughly researched that the reader feels like they are a part of the Bletchley codebreakers. I loved finding out about the realise inspiration for the characters in the end notes.
I absolutely loved this book – one of favourites of the year so far. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
About the author:
Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice.
A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages.
She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia.
Thank you to Harper Collins for my gifted copy of the book and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to be a part of this fantastic blog tour.