The rumblings of war are shuddering through London like the Underground.
And for three women, life is about to change forever.
Meet Olsa, Mab and Beth, the vivid, vivacious and glittering trio that have sprung from the ingenious Kate Quinn’s authorial brain. ‘The Rose Code’, Quinn’s latest novel follows them down the rabbit hole of the British intelligence system in WW2 and you’ll get paper cuts, you’ll be flipping the pages of this book so quickly!
London socialite Osla who just wants to prove she’s more than a ‘silly debutante’, working class Mab who wants more than an ordinary, uneducated life in Shoreditch and desperately quiet and uniquely intelligent Beth who think she will never escape from under her mother’s thumb: Three utterly different women’s stories converge as they are recruited to work in Britain’s top secret codebreaking headquarters, Bletchley Park.
No secrets can leave Bletchley, and no one can ever know the full story of what happens there. Nonetheless, we meet an eccentric cast of characters who charm and baffle you, who crack jokes and form a literary society in the face of the horrors that they’re met with daily. Translating battle plans and quipping over the latest park couples and scandals go hand in hand – because what is light without the darkness?
But secrets seem to be leaving Bletchley Park and in the years after the war, one of the three women is paying the price for it…
We flash back and forth in time as the mystery of the traitor of Bletchley Park unravels over a dual timeline. Why are three women who were once so close, estranged after the war? Where did it all go wrong? And most importantly, is the traitor still at large?
This book has been one of my favourite summer reads this year. A stunning historical fiction, it feels as if it could be a diary, a real account, as Quinn captures the giddy closeness of female friendship alongside the neck-breaking tension of the decoding rooms and the smoke-drifting horror of the blitzed in London. A glittering and ash covered rendering of a thrilling and horrific era, the wonderful closeness of Bletchley Park residents, a real community, shows you the comforts and refuges found at home, which could sometimes be just as terrifying as the trenches.
One minute you're beaming with happiness for Osla, Mab and Beth, feeling you're squished into their tiny attic room alongside them sharing stories and cigarettes, and the next you’re sobbing your heart out alongside them as their lives are crushed and restarted again and again and again with each new tragedy that war brings. And even though you know the history and you know how it turns out, you're hoping against hope that history will rewrite itself for these three vivacious, witty and vital women.
We watch as the war slowly breaks them down, even from afar, as the life and hope drain from them, their secrets tearing them apart and their desire for more ends up giving them more than they had ever bargained for.
Quinn expertly paints this untold story of the real Bletchley Park, colouring the past with romance, intrigue, heartbreak and an utterly compelling slap-dash family of necessity with great heart and finesse, never straying into heavy-handed territory. Definitely one for my summer must-read list!
Buy 'The Rose Code' here!