Tuesday, March 2, 2021

The Rose Code


 The Rose Code: A Novel

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

      I am going to be a little snippy right now about how many books are being written with World War II as the backdrop but I must also immediately counter that with saying there are so many different things to talk about it’s going to be a long time before there is nothing new to say. I find I like best the very different takes on what life was like if you weren’t a soldier. I recently read one about the use of homing pigeons and am now reading one about what it was like to cook with rationing, both gave me a new perspective. The Rose Code was another.

      Perhaps you’ve seen the program The Bletchley Circle or Enigma Code. The Rose Code takes us on the same journey but with the depth a book can use as a tool. Details you might miss in a program. In The Rose Code, three young women of very different backgrounds find themselves giving their lives to the war in the way we are finally getting to know about. Women with brains who are allowed to use them. 

     Bletchley Park was a deep secret even the people who worked there didn’t know about. If you worked in Hut 4 you didn’t know what Hut 11 was doing. You didn’t need to know, you just did your part of the puzzle with your head down. Secrecy was sworn to under the threat of treason. But the devotion to the cause really made that a given.

     Osla was the girl with everything, looks, privilege, even a Prince. Mab, the complete opposite. The two young women discover Beth cowering in her home with her domineering mother and mouse of a father. Beth has her own set of talents and brains and Osla and Mab bring her in to Bletchley.

     I found it interesting to read how they actually worked out codes, the process they used, the machines they used, the struggle to find that one word or letter that opened up the whole message.

     The author discusses the use of asylums as a means to dismiss women who were nearing collapse from the incredible tension of working days on end with no rest and the pressure of knowing too much. If they cracked, what would they reveal? Keeping them drugged in a place where, if they talked, what they said could be excused at incoherent ramblings. There was the introduction of the lobotomy. A tool that was considered to show great promise.

    And then there is the problem of a spy in their midst. I thought I had that figured out but I was wrong.

    The Rose Code was an intimate look at the lives of the code breakers of Bletchley Park, the pressure to find an answer quickly because of the lives depending on it, and knowing something that could not under any circumstances be shared. This is not just any story using World War II as a backdrop, the author drew on actual people who worked there and tweaked their stories with a bit of artistic license. There is real substance here.

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