The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

The Rose Code was the COVID-19 escape I had been waiting for. Kate Quinn surely knows how to whisk a reader from today’s world to another era.

Having read Quinn’s New York Times bestselling book The Alice Network, I knew this was going to be a good one. I came across The Rose Code at Indigo the day it hit the shelves and immediately dropped it into my cart.

I like to switch up the reading I do — memoir, business, fiction, etc. in no particular order really. 
I finish a book and then grab another from my shelf, closet, backpack, office drawer, wherever I stash them really. 

There are limitations to having a book addiction in a one-bedroom apartment that I share with my boyfriend, a cat, and a dog. My boyfriend is rather fond of coats, taking up most of the front closet, and my dog has an entire drawer full of cute knitted sweaters, puffy coats, collars, and leashes. The cat is pretty low maintenance with her litter box and a few cans of tuna.

I guess I shouldn't complain since I do have an entire dresser filled with yarn staring me in the face right now. I am doing better though since there was a period last year that I could have been on TLC's Extreme Hoarder's: Yarn Edition, but we'll not get into that right now.

So, anyway, I read whatever jumps out at me depending on my mood, which fluctuates as much as the weather. Having just finished a few memoirs, business books, self-help, and other nonfiction books, I had a craving for some historical fiction, and The Rose Code was calling my name. 

The story follows Osla Kendall, Mab Churt, and Beth Finch, each with their own unique personality and background story, as they navigate life throughout World War II while working as specialized code breakers and translators at the highly classified Bletchley Park estate. 

It’s a longer read, coming in at over 600 pages. However, it didn’t seem so, as I often feel is the case with historical fiction, sensing there’s so much more to say, many words left unspoken about the tragedies of our past.

For some reason throughout this book, I had the accompanying visual of the Downton sisters while reading - Mary, Sybil, and Edith stepping into the roles of the three main characters, each moving around the grounds of Bletchley.

I have to admit, I felt ignorant to the fact that I didn't know Bletchley Park was a real place until about halfway through the novel. After looking it up, I became even more engrossed in the book. 

I then found myself on a research rampage, falling deep into a rabbit hole, learning so much about the estate and its background, becoming enthralled with the history and what went on inside those crumbling walls during the war.

The name Bletchley Park actually comes from its previous proprietor, architect Samuel Lipscomb Seckham, who owned the place sometime between 1877-1883. The property then exchanged hands a couple more times before being acquired, in May 1938, by Admiral Sir Hugh Sinclair, head of the Secret Intelligence Service. 

Codebreaking at Bletchley Park began shortly thereafter, and the first operational break into Enigma came around 23 January 1940, when the team working under Chief Cryptographer Dilly Knox, unravelled the German Army administrative key that became known as 'The Green". 

Bletchley codebreakers also managed to successfully break additional keys used by the German air force, Italian, and later Japanese systems. 

The more than 10,000 Bletchley Park organization employees were vital to Allied victory in World War II.
This research led me to a watch a film called The Imitation Game, which is based on the life of British cryptanalyst Alan Turing, who spent a great deal of time working at Bletchley during WWII. Turing is portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch, who stars alongside Kiera Knightley and Matthew Goode. 

However, as with most Hollywood style movies, there were several inaccuracies, including how Turing’s personal life was portrayed, and the relationships and personalities of other characters. 

As upsetting as some parts were, it did give a sense of what working at Bletchley Park might have looked like for Osla, Mab, and Beth.

Today, Bletchley Park is a heritage site designed to preserve the uniquely important story of the Codebreakers during WWII. 

All in all, this was an outstanding read from Kate Quinn.