editor's choice





Coming shortly after the week we’ve had, the months we’ve had, the years, a book essentially celebrating the achievements of a group of very fine women (and, yes, men) who essentially helped save the day for the Allies during the Second World War, is both timely and great. Kate Quinn’s The Rose Code does exactly that, and more.

An epic book in both physical size and scope, this is a proper historical fiction blockbuster. It’s readable, enjoyable, gripping and also factually based. This is an important part of history, yes, but also an important part of women’s history – and fiction, well-researched, well-written fiction, with dashing heroines and a cracking plot, is a great way to carry that across to a wider audience.

It’s hard to bring key swathes of history and fiction together in a credible manner, while mixing fictional characters with real-life figures like the brilliant but tragic Alan Turing, and also sustain the reader’s joy and interest in the plot, but Quinn succeeds. It’s quite seamlessly done.

The action, for the most part, unfolds in the years between 1940 and 1947, the early part of the Second World War to the early postwar period. Quinn’s protagonists, debutante Osla Kendall, East Ender Mab Churt and browbeaten local Beth Finch, are all from very different walks of life, but are brought together by the war. At Bletchley Park, the base of secret military operations, class and gender are less relevant than saving the future of the modern world. And if the background of real war, evil Nazis, Enigma and the all-important secret codebreaking that took place at Bletchley aren’t enough, Quinn’s plot is framed by the upcoming and much anticipated marriage of Princess Elizabeth (Elizabeth II) to Prince Philip of Greece. And, of course, one of the characters knows the prince rather well …

Essentially, if one were to put this book in big screen terms, this is The Crown meets Enigma meets Intelligence Game  meets The Bletchley Circle, done in a way which is very accessible and highly addictive, so much so I read this book in less than a day. Osla, Mab and Beth are engaging, well-drawn characters, estranged friends brought together to help save the day once more, and there are enough plot strands and historical detail to make The Rose Code a very good read indeed. It would make a great series or film in itself.

So, suffice it to say, I very much liked the The Rose Code. It’s a page turner and comes highly recommended. Read it. It’s  worth it.


The Rose Code | Kate Quinn | HarperCollins | 18 March

| hardback | ebook | audio |

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Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the publisher virtual book tour. Many thanks to lovely Anne Cater for arranging it and to the publisher for sending a book proof and the above jacket image. All views expressed are our own. All rights reserved. Please check out the other great reviewers on the tour.

See also: Damian Barr’s slice of South Africa’; ‘Nora Roberts’ Sanctuary: an Old Familiar’; By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Remembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

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