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Publication Date: March 9th, 2021
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Historical Fiction
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...
Do you ever put off reading a book because you know you will love it and you don’t want it to end?
Well, that’s what I did with The Rose Code. I picked it up immediately when it released and had it sitting on my shelves for months. Some books I just know will be a 5-star read and I was totally right with this one.
The Rose Code has so many of my buzzwords in the synopsis and I would say that it delivered on everything and more. The one aspect that I was not 100% on board with was the two time lines. I normally shy away from them because I find I get more invested in one time line and then it’s a slog to read the one I don’t enjoy as much. That was not the case with this one though. The years that this book follows are so close and deal with the same characters lives which made it the perfect mix for me.
Admittedly, this is my first Kate Quinn book as I have been worried about the hype of her previous releases but I don’t think I have anything to worry about. I will definitely have to pick up her backlist because if her other works are as well written and researched as this one, I know I am in for a treat. That is one of the other aspects that I loved about this book though, the research.
It was clear that Quinn put in immense time and energy into researching for the book. Her notes that were provided at the end were also an extremely interesting read and gave me goosebumps seeing how she tied in certain real-life aspects to the characters of her story. I have always been interested in the Bletchley Park code breakers and found immense insight through this blend of fiction meeting non-fiction.
The characters themselves were perfection. Our three leads came from such different backgrounds with different personalities that made each of them stand out but their connection to each other still seemed natural and well-balanced. Their lives were as intriguing apart as they were together and the issue of lack of communication which causes conflict made absolutely perfect sense within the context of this book.
I found myself surprised at being completely invested in each of the leads because I do normally look forward to at least one character when given multiple POVs. If I had to pick my favourite though, I would say it is Osla but only by a very slim margin. She is also the character that is based the closest to the real-life inspiration for her. Her story, like the others, was fascinating but Osla just hit a little differently knowing who she was based on as opposed to being an amalgamation of multiple people.
Being in Bletchley Park, within the huts, on the grounds, and hearing about what those working behind the walls did in their spare time, furthered my need to visit it in person. I feel that this book could almost be the next best thing though. I could hear the noise of the machines running, I could sense the pressure of breaking a code after months of failed attempts, I felt the small moments of levity but also the heartbreak. The pages of this book transported me Bletchley in a way I did fully expect.
I honestly could not recommend this book enough. There’s a bit of mystery added with the dual time lines, there is heartbreak (such heartbreak!), there is love, friendship, moments that made me gasp, cry, laugh, and basically just gave me all the feels. This is a novel that I won’t soon forget.