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 code-breaking 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...
--I use Goodreads to track and rate my current reading. Most of my reads are 4 stars, meaning I enjoyed it hugely and would absolutely recommend. 5 stars is blew-my-socks-off; reserved for rare reads. 3 stars is "enjoyed it, but something fell a bit short." I very rarely rate lower because I DNF books I'm not enjoying, and don't rate books I don't finish.--
Kate Quinn is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction. A native of southern California, she attended Boston University where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. She has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with “The Alice Network”, “The Huntress,” “The Rose Code,” and "The Diamond Eye." All have been translated into multiple languages. Kate and her husband now live in San Diego with three rescue dogs.
***IF YOU READ ONE HISTORICAL FICTION THIS YEAR, THIS SHOULD BE IT, IN PAPERBACK NOW***
I absolutely love Kate Quinn, I have been waiting for a new book from her ever since her last novel “The Huntress”. I love her novels about women spies. The Rose Code is something a bit different. This novel focuses on three very different women who come together to help the British solve the codes that the Germans have been sending back and forth to their troops, leaders, etc.
This novel isn’t short, at 656 pages, it’s not a quick read. I savored it, let myself get lost in it and allowed myself time for all of the imagery, information and wonderful characters to sink in. I became lost in the story almost immediately.
The time frame is 1940 through 1947. We begin with the introductions of characters and how they all meet up at Bletchley Circle.
Mab lived a life of poverty and was determined to find a man to marry, someone of some means to help her rise to a level where she didn’t have to worry every day about how she would get by. She ends up being adept at fixing the machines that the codebreakers use.
Osla has come from a family of wealth. She has been dating Phillip for years and they have a friendship/love relationship for many years. She wants to help in the war effort and not just making bandages!! She wants to show that a “deb” can be more than just a showpiece. She is fluent in German and is ultimately used as a translator, essential to the codebreaking process.
Beth is a quiet, timid young woman who has lived with her parents and has always been put down by her mother. Taught that she had no value, wasn’t good at anything, not even allowed to finish school. But she has a gift for mathematics and puzzle solving and at Bletchley Circle she finds her niche. She becomes one of the top cryptanalysts and is heads above everyone else she works with. She will find her wings here.
Besides all of the intricacies of Bletchley park, all of the secrets that these people are sworn to keep, there is a resounding story of friendship, love and humor. All of those that work here, many for 24 hours straight, find their ways to have fun. They sing, they laugh, they find love and acceptance, all combined in the effort to help win the war for the Allies.
This is a bare outline of the characters but there is lots of interaction between these three women, they become best friends, until tragedy strikes. They then are split apart for many years.’
We flash ahead to 1947 and Beth is locked away in an asylum, thought to have “had a breakdown”. In reality she has been unjustly accused and knows a terrible secret -- there was a traitor at Bletchley park and she knows who it is. This is the one who put her here, and there are only two people whom she trusts can help her escape the asylum -- Mab and Osla!!
These three indomitable women will come together once again to capture the spy who traded their security, the future of the war effort and love of country, for money. I’ll leave you to discover who the traitor was and how the story unfolds, just like looking down at the spirals inside a rose!!
This is by far the best historical fiction I have read in a very long time!
The last sections of the book are tense, action packed and will have you reading with all of your senses on high alert!
The Rose Code: A Novel by Kate Quinn (Author), Saskia Maarleveld (Narrator)
This is my second audio historical novel in a row and both of them were riveting. I can't help wondering if I'd feel differently about an audiobook if I had read it instead. Sometimes the narrators are so good, it's hard to imagine not hearing all those character voices, if I had read the book.
The Rose Code deals with two time periods, the first starting in 1940 and the second taking place in November 1947. In 1940 three women come together and become the closest of friends because of their work and because they board in the same house/room. These three women are recruited to work as female codebreakers at Bletchley Park and the women are tied together by the secrecy of their work, knowing the Official Secrets Act of 1939 prevents them from speaking to anyone of what they do. A 1942 security warning emphasized the importance of discretion even within Bletchley itself: "Do not talk at meals. Do not talk in the transport. Do not talk travelling. Do not talk in the billet. Do not talk by your own fireside. Be careful even in your hut." The very need for such secrecy throws these three women into friendship as nothing else could do.
Wealthy debutante Osla is seriously flirting with Prince Philip of Greece, hard, bold Mab has pulled herself up by her bootstraps to give herself an education and the ability to support herself, her mother, and her little sister, and then there is brilliant but shy, cowed Beth, whose mother has demeaned her so much that she thinks she is dumb and worthless. These women are each doing jobs that are part of the entire network that decodes enemy messages, messages that can change the tide of the war, mean saving the lives of thousands, heading off more disastrous losses, and determining if our side has managed to mislead the enemy from the inside.
Personal disaster tears these women apart several years after they meet and they would never speak to each other again except that one of the women gets a message to the other two women that there was and still is a spy in their former codebreaking group. Against almost impossible odds, the women need to get back together to break one last code. The tension was high during their codebreaking days, in an exhausting, tedious, mind numbing way and now they will have to condense their years of work into days or their chance to stop a spy will be gone.
I'd known about this work from seeing The Imitation Game and from research I'd done on Bletchley Park and I'm glad I had that background because I know it helped me to enjoy this book better than I might if I'd come in with no understanding of the work. I was wrapped up in this long audiobook, interested in not only Osla, Mab, and Beth but the secondary characters, too. This story has me wanting to learn even more about this work and this time and I'm going to have a hard time letting go of the characters.
Pub: March 9th 2021
Thank you to Harper Audio and NetGalley for this ARC.
I'm a bit surprised at myself for giving this one 5-stars... When a book gets a perfect rating from me, it's usually easy to pinpoint why, and that reason is, almost always, there is one exceptional thing working out for the book. But with Rose Code, it's everything from complex, mysterious, thrilling nature of the plot, beautiful writing to fascinating characters. This is one the most complete books I've read recently. Typically, I wouldn't've preferred for such a book to be this lengthy, but Rose Code kept me going quite easily till the end.
"Three girls and a book - that was how it all began."
This is the first time I'm reading a book by Kate Quinn, and if this is any indication as to how she usually writes her characters, she is going to easily become one of my favorite authors. The three protagonists are some of the fascinating main characters I've come across in a modern book, and the author develops them in a seemingly effortless manner. They are a very realistic trio, each with distinct positive and negative attributes, making all the interactions colorful. The plot is a unique, mysterious storyline about a WW-II military intelligence camp, with plenty of twists to keep the reader captivated throughout the book. But like I said before, it's not just a single thing that is remarkable about this book. It's a concoction of so many great things.
"You had to respect a woman who could yawn with her mouth closed."
Quinn users two timelines for the majority of the book, present and some years back during WW-II. The present timeline is being used to establish a unique flow to the story, while the latter narrates the entire backstory, from the point where out main characters get acquainted for the first time. There's just something about the author's story telling which makes the flow of story very natural. The immersiveness starts from the very first page, and you will not have any peace until you make it to the finish. Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction.
This book should have been at least 200 pages shorter. Slow buildup and not as much suspense as I had hoped for. Lost my attention several times and by the time I got to the crux of the matter (more than halfway through) I wasn’t that invested in the story anymore. The Prince Philip love story was entirely unnecessary as well as few other soap opera moments. Alan Turing’s character randomly popped on the pages as if from another book. The friendship between the three main characters felt underdeveloped and dubious. The ending felt rushed and crammed with action that was lacking for the majority of the book.
Kate Quinn once again enthralls with her latest piece of historical fiction, a mystery set in WW2 and the famous code breaking site of Bletchley Park, focusing on the close friendship between three extraordinary young women from hugely different backgrounds, determined to more than do their bit to fight the enemy. Wealthy heiress and debutante Osla Kendall has returned from Canada, and as a fluent German speaker translates the codes, she catches the eye of Prince Philip and falls head over heels for him. The flinty, hard as nails, impoverished East End Londoner, the tall Mab Churt, aka Queen Mab, sees to the machines that help break the codes, set on improving herself, reading the 100 top literary reads to ensnare herself a wealthy husband and provide for her younger sister, Lucy. The downtrodden, shy and timid Beth Finch has a hideous and emotionally abusive mother who has her believing she is good for nothing, but she turns out to be the star code breaker working for Dilly Knox who believes in her.
It is 1947 in London and the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth to Prince Philip is approaching, and Tatler writer, Osla, is struggling to handle this, and for convenience sake has acquired a fiance of her own to ensure that she is not a object of pity. Out of the blue, she gets a message from Beth, incarcerated in Clockwell Sanatorium, asking for her and Mab's help and to identify a traitor from their Bletchley Park days. Is Beth crazy or could she possibly be telling the truth? The friendship between the 3 women had broken apart on D-day with betrayal and recriminations. Osla knows it is going to take a lot of persuasion to get Mab, now married with 2 young children, to join forces and meet Beth to find out if there really is a traitor at large. In a narrative that goes back and forth in time, we become acquainted with the spirit of adventure and excitement in the women's lives, along with the passion, joy, love, loss, terror, fear, rage, despair, tragedies, and grief in their time as codebreakers, can they come back together one last time to crack the Rose code?
Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland is a running motif in Quinn's novel, the time in Bletchley Park is referred to as falling down the rabbit hole, the literary club are named The Mad Hatters, and desperate Beth herself is known as Alice Liddell in Clockwell, wanting to avoid the upcoming lobotomy planned for her. From being a gifted cryptographer, she is unjustly framed and has to spend three and a half years amidst the horrors and torture of a regime that punished and drugged her, believing her to be insane. It is incredible that she managed to survive and found a way of getting in touch with her old friends, her resilience and memories of what she achieved provides her with a strength of spirit that would have defeated so many others. This is a thrilling historical read, engaging, entertaining and riveting, loaded with the class distinctions and social norms and attitudes of the time when it comes to women and race. Highly recommended. Many thanks to HarperCollins for an ARC.
Well, I am now convinced who the queen of WWII historical fiction is and that’s Kate Quinn! This lady can tell a story. The only reason The Rose Code doesn’t get a solid 5-star rating from me is that even though it is a brilliant read, I liked The Huntress better. So, Ms. Quinn, I’m sorry, but I have you competing with yourself!
The Rose Code is just terrific. It starts a bit slow as the characters are introduced. There are essentially 3 protagonists so setting the scene takes a bit of extra time. It is all worth it though. I learned so much from this novel. Ms. Quinn does a dynamite job with her research giving us a wonderfully detailed picture of the happenings at Bletchley Park where German military codes are broken and our characters work. Mab, Osla, and Beth could not be more different. Despite that, their work binds them for life, through thick and thin, through multiple betrayals and tragedies.
The characterization here is top-notch. My favorites are Francis Gray in his small role and Beth, a shy introverted code breaker. The setting is portrayed beautifully. I kept having flashes back to the movie Imitation Games, which also does a masterful job with the setting. That movie, BTW, stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing who makes a cameo appearance in The Rose Code. There are a number of storylines in this novel, all intertwined and contributing to a good pace once the book takes off. Even though there are over 650 pages, I don’t really see much I would cut out. There is plentiful suspense in the second half of the novel, which I really enjoyed. I also liked the fact that there is little actual war action, which is a nice change, and allows more time with the code-breaking process and the other sources of intrigue.
We are treated to a short but welcome epilogue where we learn how much of the story is based in truth and get some follow up with our characters and Bletchley Park.
Overall, this novel is a “can’t miss” in the now glutted field of WWII historical fiction. It offers a great immersive experience with wonderful characters based in truth, a strong learning opportunity, and a suspenseful story evolving around friendship, betrayal, loss, hope, and redemption. I highly recommend The Rose Code for all lovers of historical fiction.
Many thanks to Net Galley, William Morrow, and Ms. Kate Quinn for an ARC of this book. Opinions expressed are mine alone and are not biased in any way.
This is one of the times I didn’t want to let go of the characters. My attachment to them was tangible.
After spending days listening to these three women, I just didn't want to leave and never hear from them again.
Meet the women:
Osla, A Canadian-born debutant, the smart and pretty socialite who wants more in life. In 1939, her friend introduces her to a young Navy officer, Phillip of Greece and she becomes his girlfriend.
Mab, "Queen Mab", who has fought for an education and wants to find a man who can provide for her and her sister Lucy.
Then, there is Beth. She's already considered a spinster. Her mother treats her poorly and she uses the Bible as a physical punishment. Her self-esteem is non-existent.
All three will work at Bletchley Park, the mansion used as the center of the allied code-breaking during the Second World War. Osla will find a place as a linguist. Mab working with fixing the machines used for code-breaking and Beth as a cryptanalyst.
Sworn to secrecy by the Official Secrets Act of 1939, these three women will become fast friends until there is a betrayal. A betrayal that will leave Beth at Clockwell's sanitarium.
Then in 1947, the year that Phillip marries a Queen, a coded message will be delivered to Osla and Mab asking for help. It is a message that neither woman can dismiss before a third one loses her mind for good.
Kate Quinn does a fantastic job at describing these women, their timelines, and their stories. I was wholeheartedly invested in them. I felt their happiness, their sorrows, and their pain.
The secondary characters were excellent too. Mr. Grey, Harry, Boots, all a great addition to the story.
As I get near the end of my review, I can forget to mention the amazing job that Saskia Maarleveld did as a narrator. She was fantastic. I think this book was perfect as an audiobook. 5 stars to her.
One last thing, and just for those curious minds. Osla Benning was a real person. She was fluent in German and she did work at BP.
First of all, I would be remiss without thanking Brandon Sanderson for his Five Tips for Writing Your First Novel whose influence greatly shaped this review.
If you follow my reviews, you will know that I don’t particularly care for character-based books but greatly prefer plot-based books. The Rose Code is heavily plot-based, and Quinn knows how to properly benchmark the plot so we feel like we are making progress.
In The Rose Code, we have two shifting timeliness: 1947 and another timeline starting around 1939. In 1947, we find Osla preparing for the royal wedding between Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth. In the other timeline, we meet three women, Beth, Osla, and Mab, who meet at Bletchley Park and work as codebreakers during World War II.
Although The Rose Code is set in World War II, Quinn did an excellent job of only including details which moved the plot forward which kept the book incredibly interesting. The author didn't get lost in world building.
Beth, Osla, and Mab are imperfect characters, and Quinn writes them so that they develop over time. In addition, they have interesting family stories to give them some nice backstory.
One of the themes throughout The Rose Code is that many of the women really enjoy codebreaking and contemplate their future in the workforce after the war is over. Recently, I heard someone talking about how women are now equal in the workforce and can perform any job. However, I wonder how true this is. When I was applying for jobs in the recession, I was told by employers that I didn’t need a job because “my father would take care of me.” At another job, my employer told me that they wouldn’t hire another female. That was in 2014, less than 10 years ago.
*A big thanks to the Baldwin Public Library located in Birmingham, Michigan and the Emmelene Hornac Endowment for a free copy of this book.
Three ‘gals’, one war, once best friends until D-Day when events splintered their tight knit secret world of Bletchley Park after which one ends up in Clockwell Sanatorium in Yorkshire. Fast forward to 1947 and the wedding of the century of Princess Elizabeth to Prince Philip of Greece ( regarded as a ‘dish’) but the prospect of the wedding is putting former deb Osla Kendall in a funk. What unfolds in the dual timeline will get your unmentionables into a bit of a swither in this bally marvellous novel.
Glued. Transfixed. Enthralled. I could go on but suffice it to say this is an exceptional story. It’s a novel of how three women from very different backgrounds helped in the Enigma codebreaking which in itself is an absorbing story. The characters are terrific, there’s wealthy Canadian debutante and later Tatler journalist Osla Kendall who is utterly spiffing, there’s (Queen) Mab Church from the East End who is a literary filly with plenty of gumption and a dark secret and Beth Finch, dubbed hopeless by her odious mother but who is in fact a whizz at seeing patterns in codebreaking. We rub shoulders with the ‘great and good’ - enter Philip, his uncle Dickie Mountbatten and our leader Winnie makes an appearance, there’s Alan Turing and Dilly Knox, there’s a traitorous cad and a wonderful but very damaged WW1 war poet. Fabulous. The book captures the times in the use of language, sadly there’s awful racism with some words that make your toes curl and there’s ever present sexism because why on earth would women possibly have brains, what? It’s also a mystery as it’s about betrayal of your country, it’s about how the codebreakers help turn the tide of war and keep that knowledge to their cost. The war imposes hugely on the characters lives and brings tragedy to some with some vivid, terrifying panic stricken descriptions in places such as Coventry and London. The cryptography element is absolutely fascinating and you marvel at the tenacity with accompanying hours and hours of eye straining effort especially on Beth as she eats, sleeps and breathes it. At times it’s so tense and gripping you hardly dare to breathe. The parts that take place at Clockwell shock you to the core and it’s the ‘Rose Code’ that leads to this place of horrors. The ending builds extremely well as it becomes a tense and exciting race against time to unmask the traitor and this nail baiter takes place against the backdrop of the royal wedding.
Overall, I think it’s apparent I love this book! You can’t read it in a jiffy or a tick, it’s one to savour and reread in the future and it will stay with me for a long time. It’s spiffing, top notch, tip top etc etc!!! This one is a must read and is highly recommended.
With thanks to NetGalley and especially to Harper Collins for the much appreciated arc and to Kate Quinn for writing it.
Kate Quinn turns her head once again to WWII, this time to the women of Bletchley Park. The story follows three women, Osla, a debutante, working class Mab and local village spinster, Beth, from 1940 through 1947, the year that Elizabeth marries Prince Philip of Greece. Turns out, Osla had dated Philip for the first few years of the war. Something has happened to turn the three friends into enemies. The story is told from the viewpoints of all three women. I was enchanted by each of them and wild to find out what turned them against each other and how Beth ended up confined to a sanitarium. The underlying mystery concerns a traitor in their midst and which of their many coworkers it might be. This was a story that grabbed me and never let me go. Other things went by the wayside as I tried to listen to this spare minute. I was well aware of Bletchley Park, between The Imitation Game and the PBS show The Bletchley Circle. This book added to my knowledge of that time and the work done there. It was very atmospheric, grappling with everything from the rations to the death of loved ones. And not just the time at BP, but also while Beth is trapped at Clockwell, the sanitarium. It’s got a great, suspenseful ending that totally satisfies. Brava to Ms. Quinn for providing me another five star historical novel to sink my teeth into. She has yet to disappoint. I was also totally impressed by Saskia Maarleveld as the narrator. She did an amazing job distinguishing the different accents and characters and added to my overall enjoyment of the story. My thanks to netgalley and Harper Audio for an advance copy of this audiobook.
Imitation Game meets the Crown with PBS Bletchley Circle series vibes; three unique women’s stories intercepted in two time lines: 1940’s England, preparing to fight against Germany and 1947’s England where Claire Foy’s Elizabeth ( sorry not sorry for visualizing that brilliant actress as young queen and also the best queen of the Crown series) marrying with Prince Philip.
When the author is queen of historical thrillers: Kate Quinn on the board, I’m sold! I’m already ready to give at least four stars after reading the blurb and knowing the creator of this intriguing concept!
Let’s meet with Olsa,Beth and Mabs. Olsa, striking beauty, high society’s shining star, courted by Prince Philip of Greece, but their love story is doomed to last! Because Olsa is ambitious and destined to achieve big things. When the war is approaching, she has to use her proficient German skills for the benefits of her country.
Poor Beth is so exhausted to live under strict rules of her mother, wasting her potential. She’s secret genius hiding under local spinster image who can solve a puzzle in record time.
Mabs, courting a wealthy husband, finds herself working with code breaking machines, keeping a big secret from her past. Her path crosses with genius Beth while she is renting a room from her parents. As they spend more time together, gathering at book club meetings, she realizes her talent at solving enigmatic codes, she introduces Beth to her colleagues.
We observe how three women’s fates intercepted, how their friendship blooms and when a decoded message reveals treason and the sensitive information is shared with the wrong people, they find themselves locked in the asylum, waiting for truth’s coming out.
It was so riveting experience to read how Bletchley circle system works: how those brilliant women try to break the codes, solving their small piece of puzzle as their country is bombarded by Nazis.
As the circle closes, mystery keeps you drawn into the story, you keep sit on the edge of your seat, squirming nervously, biting your nails, turning the pages faster to find out what happens in the end!
The wrapping up is heart pounding and so much exciting as well!
No more words! This is the best historical thriller of the year! Giving my Second World War, espionage, brilliant mind of women empowerment, spies, page turner, I couldn’t put it down, I’m so hooked five stars!
I gave into the hype. I'm been going back and forth on WW2 books, there are just so many and when you've read so many, you want something different. Read a lot of reviews on this one, saw the longest line at my library, so I figured let me check it out. Finally, after a long wait the audio arrived and off I went.
The Rose Code tells the story of female code breakers at Bletchley Park and their top secret jobs that they had. The story revolves around three characters - Osla, Mab, and Beth. You learn about each one, how they meet, their backgrounds, and how they become the best of friends....and eventually enemies. You see, there is a spy at Bletchley Park and eventually Beth, who is the smartest of the all, figures it out. But she doesn't quite know who it is and she is eventually pinned for it, put away in an asylum and she sees out Osla and Mab for help. Can they do it? With all that has happened in the past between them?
Hmmm....this one was unique. I thought it was OK, thought there was a lot of fluff and drama added in and probably could have been trimmed down. A perfectly decent story, but one I will probably not remember. The audio was good but I found myself more wanting to listen to finish the story before it was due back to the library then to hear what happened next. I liked the aspect that it was tied into real history of the female code breakers, liked they had a not to Turing in it and an appearance, loved the literary Mad Hatters club they had and mentioning of books. But I just felt it was OK palate cleanser. I'm probably tough on WW2 books and maybe I should stay away for a bit.
Now Available!! You should read it!! The Rose Code by New York Times best-selling author Kate Quinn is a fascinating look at the dedication and brilliance of the British Code Breakers during World War II. The Bletchley Park mansion housed the top-secret Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) whose employees were able to break the German Enigma codes, as well as several other code types. These employees endured six-day-a week rotating schedules that were often grueling. The novel offers insight into the interworkings of this operation.
The story focuses on three unlikely friends who work at Bletchley Park. First, there is the socialite Osla, who happens to be dating Prince Philip. Next, there is Mab, a hardworking commoner who is looking for a husband and also hiding a secret. Finally, there is Beth, a socially inept but highly intelligent young woman.
The story starts in 1947, shortly before the wedding of Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth. Osla and Mab each receive a coded message from Beth demanding their help. Beth was forcefully put into an insane asylum three years earlier after she was able to decode part of a message known as The Rose Code. Beth knows there was a traitor at Bletchley Park, but doesn’t know who it was. The three women had stopped being friends after a tragic incident, and now need to decide if they will come together to solve the mystery.
The story travels back and forth between the women’s time at Bletchley Park beginning in 1940 to the days leading up to the Royal Wedding. The back-stories of the three main characters are interwoven with both real and other fictional characters who worked in the war effort. The ending of the book is pure Hollywood with a heart-stopping chase scene that takes place among the throngs of people who have lined the streets for the wedding festivities. I loved it!
Kate Quinn is one of my favorite authors. She really shines with this story that has well-researched history blended seamlessly with romance, friendship, and intrigue.
This is a LONG book. I listened to the audio which was 15 hours and 40 minutes long. The hardback is 656 pages. While I am not typically a fan of big books, I enjoyed every minute of this one. The audio is read by Saskia Maarleveld who also narrated Kate’s Quinn’s The Huntress and The Alice Network.
5-plus stars. Book Club recommended. This novel will be released on March 9, 2021. Thank you to NetGalley and HarperAudio for my Advance copy of this fabulous book.
I wish to express my thanks to NetGalley and Harper Audio for this compelling historical novel in audiobook format. Kate Quinn has written a vivid and gripping account set in wartime London. She uses her great storytelling talent and research to describe what the experience must have been like working under wartime secrecy in Bletchley Park where German codes were broken and translated. It has been estimated that the Enigma codebreakers shortened WW2 by as much as two years using early computers and the formidable skills of an inspiring group of people.
I listened to The Rose Code by the audiobook version. It was enhanced by the superb narration of Saskia Maarleveld who voiced the conversations of all the characters. This was a lengthy audiobook of over 16 hours. I felt more time was required than reading the print version.
The story revolves around three remarkable and different women during their employment at Bletchley Park during WW2. Three diverse personalities were brought together. They developed a close friendship which was shattered by the end of the war. It describes the causes of their broken friendship. It involves their family backgrounds, romantic loves gained or lost, deaths, betrayal, treachery, and a traitor in their midst. The women gained great satisfaction from their undercover role in defeating the Nazis. After the war ended their friendship was in tatters. One was unjustly punished by being locked up in an insane asylum.
The leading characters were; 1. Mab, with an impoverished working-class background. She hides a personal secret and her goal is to marry a man who would raise her out of poverty and give her some social standing. She became highly skilled in working the codebreaking machines.
2. Osla, who was a beautiful debutante with wealthy family connections which gave her a place in high society. She is being courted by Prince Philip but knows it must end due to her role in the war effort. She uses her fluent German to translate the decoded Nazi secrets.
3. These two women meet Beth, a shy, introverted spinster. She has little formal education, lacks self-esteem and confidence in social situations. She has been isolated under the domination of a cruel and deranged mother. Her skill with puzzles brings her to the notice of those in command at Bletchley Park. She soon asserts herself as one of the few female cryptanalysts. We also get glimpses of real-life characters, such as Prince Philip, Princess Margaret, Alan Turing, and Winston Churchill.
Two of the former friends reluctantly meet again in 1947 when the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip is approaching. They both have received a coded message from the woman confined in the mental institution begging for their help. She has been there for over three years and is desperate. She has learned she has been scheduled for a lobotomy. They must hurry to put aside their anger and suspicions and decode a difficult message with the purpose of determining who was a paid spy in their midst who passed on military secrets to the Germans and now the Russians. The conclusion is an exciting and frantic chase through the crowds lined up to witness the Royal Wedding procession.
Recommended to readers who enjoy historical novels set in London during the war and are interested in the codebreaking that helped to end the war. The characters are well developed and intriguing.
I thought this was great, but ironically 'the rose code' storyline was for me the least interesting part of the whole book. Also, as a twist of fate, I happened to be reading this book when I was in Washington D.C. and visiting the International Spy Museum (which is actually a thing). Part of the museum had a display completely devoted to Bletchley Park and breaking "Enigma", both of which are prominent things in this book - so that was a fun coincidence for me.
But getting back to the book, it took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that "Prince Philip" in the book was supposed to be a fictional representation of the real-life Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh (and consort to Queen Elizabeth II). I apparently did not read the book blurb very closely. Whoops. I also want to mention that this was my first historical fiction book set in WWII that did NOT focus on the Holocaust. That is something I prefer, as I think the Holocaust does not need fictionalization, so I enjoyed this book all the more for having avoided that.
If you have read this book and enjoyed it, I also want to recommend another book by this author, The Huntress. This author is definitely talented at historical fiction.
This one was a 5+ star read for me and checked all my great book boxes. Fascinating characters, rich history, great storytelling, and historical details!
Bletchley Park is a fascinating place and only recently have we been getting details about what happened there. One theory is that the work done here saved 2 years of warfare and countless lives. This book did a deep dive with 3 women that worked in different areas at BP.
Osla, Mab, and Beth make up an odd trio with different backgrounds, but all three are whip smart and work to code break various war messages. Their friendship develops as they live together and head to work together. The story is also sprinkled with some real people from this time -- Alan Turing for one -- and a visit from Winston Churchill.
There's a mystery to solve in the later part of the book and that kept me intrigued. The timeline really starts with the early days of the war and ends a few years after the war. The historical chapters are alternated with chapters about the 1947 royal wedding of Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth. It was fascinating to be reading this during Philip's funeral.
These characters were richly developed and kept me turning the pages. This was a long book, 600+ pages, but I savored the time I spent reading it. Highly recommended if you are a fan of historical fiction, especially WWII fiction. I have enjoyed two other books by this author and I want to read the rest!
Thanks so much for my local library for the copy to read.
‘Bletchley Park’s walls have been renovated. If only they could speak . . . But some codes will never be broken.’ ― Kate Quinn, The Rose Code
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ brilliantly bright stars!
Kate Quinn has risen to the challenge of writing a better novel than The Huntress. The characters, even the secondary characters, were so well developed that I was sad to leave them at the end of the novel. The writing is so well done that I truly feel like they are my friends and I’m really going to miss them. I, also, really loved the Alice In Wonderland’ references throughout. It was a perfect motif in relaying how the work and environment felt at Bletchley Park during the war. Remarkable what all of those involved accomplished and visiting there is now on my ‘bucket-list’.
This is historical fiction at its finest... 600+ pages & I didn’t want it to end. I, literally, had tears in my eyes reading the epilogue. I can not recommend a novel more. I literally want to go into book stores (Target 😂) and shove this into peoples hands and say ‘You’ve got to read this book’... honestly, it’s that good!
The Rose Code follows three young women who worked at England's Bletchley Park, a country estate converted to a code-breaking facility during World War II.
Employees at Bletchley Park deciphered encrypted Nazi communications, providing vital information to the Allies.
The story alternates back and forth between the war years 1940 to 1945 - when England was imperiled, and the postwar year 1947 - when Britain was agog over the upcoming marriage of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
The main characters are Osla Kendall, a beautiful wealthy socialite with ties to the royal family;
Mab Church, a go-getter who grew up poor, but means to better herself;
and Beth Finch, an unsophisticated country girl who's bullied by a selfish mother.
In 1940, Osla and Mab meet on the train to Bletchley Park, which has recruited them for war work. After accepting their positions and signing the Official Secrets Act, the girls are billeted at the Finch family home, where they meet Beth. Though Beth is almost pathologically reclusive, Osla and Mab note her facility with puzzles, and Beth is soon working at Bletchley Park as well.
Each of the girls is assigned to a different unit. Osla's fluency in German eventually lands her a translation job; Mab maintains the Bombe machines used to decipher messages encoded with German Enigma devices;
and Beth is a gifted cryptanalyst with an almost preternatural ability to decode covert transmissions.
Working and living together fosters close friendships among Osla, Mab, and Beth.
This camaraderie is important because the ladies are forbidden to talk about their jobs to outsiders, and must tell family and friends they're file clerks. The women can be more honest amongst themselves, but are nevertheless prohibited from revealing classified information even to each other.
The work at Bletchley Park is difficult and stressful, and England is being bombed by the luftwaffe....
..... but the girls still manage to have some fun and search for romance. Mab meets a war poet, Beth gets involved with a fellow cryptanalyst, and Osla dates Prince Philip, who's an eligible bachelor in the early 1940s.
Skip to 1947, and Osla, Mab, and Beth are angry, estranged, and haven't spoken since the end of the war. Beth is a mental patient in Clockwell Sanatorium;
Mab has a husband and children;
and Osla is preparing to attend the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
Osla is hurt by Philip's engagement to another woman, but knows she must present a brave face and carefree attitude.
Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip
As the royal nuptials approach, Osla and Mab each get a letter from Beth. Beth claims she discovered a traitor at Bletchley Park, who - fearing exposure - got her committed to Clockwell asylum. Beth writes that Osla and Mab 'owe her', and asks them to get her out so she can expose the Judas.
The book contains fascinating details about England breaking Nazi codes, leading to the discovery of German plans. The Brits then have to use the information in way that doesn't alert the enemy to the exposure of their secrets.
There are also appearances by real historical figures, including naval admiral Lord Mountbatten, codebreaker Dilly Knox, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, computer scientist Alan Turing, Princess Elizabeth, Princess Margaret, and others.
This compelling and suspenseful historical novel is an excellent example of the genre. Highly recommended.
Thanks to Netgalley, Kate Quinn, and William Morrow Publishers for a copy of the book.
Awarded 1.5 Stars ^ to 2.0 Stars It was a bit more than "OK", but I didn't really "Like It" The Rose Code by Kate Quinn - Narrated by Saskia Maarleveld - Audiobook - 15:39 Hours
Extracts from my Reading Progress: An interesting beginning ... — Apr 24, 2021
I hate to say it, but I am struggling a little with "The Rose Code". At the moment there is, for my particular taste, a bit too much "romance" and not enough "code breaking". Call me on it if you will, but them's my feelin's at 40% in. — April 30, 2021
I am very disappointed because a number of GR friends, whose reviews I respect highly, gave this book all the stars! 55% done and I think I'm done too! This will probably be a dnf, but I haven't made the final decision yet. - March 01, 2021
Well, the final decision has been made and The Rose Code is officially a DNF! I am a fan of books written about “The Enigma Code” and the goings on at Bletchley Park where untold numbers of people initially broke the Enigma Code, helped by Alan Turing no less. Eventually Great Britain, and its then new ally, the USA, were almost fully aware of everything that the Germans planned for the persecution prosecution (edit) of the war and the invasion of their country.
It is pretty obvious from my Reading Progress extracts above, that it was the ‘romance’ aspects of the story that turned me off. All the female/male relationships failed to appeal to me, particularly the improbable situation between Prince Phillip and his girlfriend, Osla.
Nor did I like the switching back and forth using dual time frames – the first set early in WW II from 1940 on and the second in 1947, the year of the Royal Wedding. Readers of a genre like, say “Romance, plus WW II Intrigue”, are more likely to enjoy The Rose Code than I did.
But there is a saving grace for me. I hunted my back-ups of recorded audiobooks and found one that I had obtained in 2014, set it up to be heard in 2018 and, for the usual reasons (don’t ask – I mislaid the original!), I didn’t listen to it. The book is “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges. First written in 1983 and used as the basis of the Academy Award-winning film, “The Imitation Game”. This audiobook is back on my “Reading Now” shelf and I will start listening to it … eventually!
The Rose Code is an interesting book. I liked how this book is a mix of a historical fiction novel and mystery. World War II is my favorite time period to read about and the aspect of trying to figure out who is responsible for one of them entering an asylum. I was intrigued by the dual time line between past and present. In the past, the women are developing a friendship and learning how to break codes. In the present, the women have to work together and put their personal differences aside. They each have to decide if the one in the asylum belongs there and what happened in the years they didn’t talk. The Rose Code kept me thinking throughout the book. All of the characters are interesting and use their different talents towards the same goal. Osla, Mab, and Beth are very unique characters but easily develop a friendship.
Thank you Harper Audio, William Morrow, and NetGalley for The Rose Code.
CWs: sexual harassment, racism, physical abuse, sexual abuse, forced institutionalisation, forced drug use
Galley provided by publisher
The Rose Code, perhaps aptly, provides a somewhat rose-tinted view of World War II and Bletchley Park. That’s not to say it needed to be grittier or darker than it was (it is, after all, set during a war, and there are on-page deaths), but the way it presented that war — particularly the way it presented some of the major players (Churchill, namely) — gave it that sort of naive feel.
But let me shelve that particular point for a moment and start from the beginning. I knew, having read The Huntress, that Kate Quinn’s brand of historical fiction is very detailed and very slow-moving. Whereas I wasn’t prepared for that in the previous book and thus got somewhat bored, I was here. I set myself up ready to take a few days over reading it, to not rush it or expect it to move faster than it did.
And then it turned out I actually wasn’t ready.
Because what I expected of this book involved a lot more mystery and a lot more investigation than what I got. The copy I read was 640 pages. It is not until page 523 (the number is stuck in my mind for this very rant) that the flashbacks end. And then two or three pages later, the culprit shows up and says “hey, I’m behind it all!”.
Perhaps the blame can be put squarely on me here, expecting a historical mystery rather than something more… dramatic (in the sense of like a drama), I suppose. Instead, that’s what I got. The book seemed intent on detailing every single bit of drama from when the three main characters meet, up to the point where it falls apart. Which wouldn’t be a problem, except it moved so slowly — there was, it turns out, a heck of a lot of drama to get through. I think one way that could have been fixed was to have the present day interludes move faster. Instead of faffing about thinking about whether they would help Beth escape the asylum where the traitor put her, they could have got her out earlier and then spent more time perhaps investigating the mystery.
Because that’s my second point in relation to this. You’ve spent over 500 pages explaining the backstory to the mystery, but now you have no time to develop the mystery. Which makes it all the more disappointing when the culprit just reveals themselves for no apparent reason. Did they need to go to the asylum to see Beth? I can’t see why, except for revealing who did it in the most dissatisfying fashion possible. Especially when you still then have 120 pages to go and what on earth are they going to do that makes that worth reading?
If that had been my only problem, perhaps I would have given the book 3 stars instead of 2 (for a lot of it, I was thinking of rating it that). But then.
I mentioned up top about the rose-tintedness of this book and I think there are two things in particular which illustrate this. The first happens about halfway through the book. For what seems to be solely to include Churchill at some point in the narrative, the man himself shows up to inspect Bletchley Park (I would argue the use of Alan Turing later on in the book is for a similar reason). And Mab, whose POV it is at this point, spends a paragraph wishing she could mother him. It opens with the line: “As Churchill thanked them, she felt an almost violent urge to nurture”. And “wasn’t anyone looking after him while he looked after the whole nation?” She “had to clasp her hands to stop from doing up his overcoat as he turned to leave”. I don’t know how to explain the way I physically recoiled at this part. But if you thought this was bad, just wait til you hear what’s next!
In all honesty, if I had known that this book featured Prince Philip — yes, the real life Prince Philip — as a prominent love interest, I would not have touched it with a 7-mile long bargepole. I skipped entire chapters because they were the romance scenes between Osla and Prince Philip. Having real life individuals feature in books is not something I enjoy — I am not opposed to it completely, but I do not often enjoy it (it often only works for me if everyone is taken from real life). Here, it made me shrivel up inside. It’s like — I don’t know how best to put this — a Prince Philip x OC romance before Prince Philip x Elizabeth II endgame. And that’s a sentence I wish I had never had to write. It’s some kind of wish fulfillment, like you see in RPF fics. And I truly hated it.
This, then, is the reason I couldn’t rate it over 2 stars. For all that Kate Quinn is a clearly accomplished writer, she completely lost me with the combination of Prince Philip as a love interest and a mystery that wasn’t.
But if you are a fan of hers, then you’ll probably enjoy this. For me, though, this is a sign I should stop trying.
4.5 rounded to 5 stars. I love some good goosebumps.
Just a tip for potential readers: if you are looking for historical accuracy you should not read a fiction book (I’m just venting because of some reviewers).
There are a few things that I expect from a fiction book, and if I have to name just two, I would say plausibility and entertainment. And I got it with this one. If there is a word that I rarely use to describe a book, that word is riveting. And that word fits this book perfectly (in my opinion).
I was captivated from the very beginning, and mostly because of the author’s writing style. It was gripping. She made everything so vivid, so believable. The characters are amazing and the dialogues were excellent. Ah… the characters! I fell in love with Osla. I loved Mab and I wished that I could comfort her. I sympathized with and cared for Beth and I wanted to slap her mother, who was an hypocritical religious person and a very selfish one. This is a great drama that I read as if I were watching a TV series or a soap opera. It has all the right ingredients. The structure, the storyline line and its development is superb. But the author’s talent of telling a story is what really makes this book so great. Having read her previous books I can say that her talent has exceeded my expectations. What else can I say? Read it and see (feel) it for yourself.
When it comes to Historical Fiction what better backdrop could you have for the retelling of World War II’s greatest stories, than the breaking of the enigma code at Bletchley Park, an expansive estate which housed the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS).
However, the book is not just about the code breakers, but it is also a story of three women who become close during the war attempting to break the enigma code, and who promise a lifelong friendship only to see this shattered by feelings of betrayal, loss, and disappointments, and this is how we get to this point.
In 1940, Osla, Beth and Mab, each from very different backgrounds, are assembled along with the greatest mathematicians and scientists, at Bletchley Park, to break the enigma code. Olsa is a Canadian who sounds like a German and lives in England and believes, “If your country is in danger and you’re of age to stand and defend it, you do so,”. Meanwhile Beth who isn’t keen on the normal “female” duties knows how to finish the Sunday crossword in eight minutes flat without a single mistake, and along with Mab a housewife who could speak German, join Bletchley Park, and complete this fascinating trio. In the next few years, they work dutifully to near exhaustion to crack the enigma code and as such are able to decipher the encrypted codes destined for the front line.
In 1947, Osla a Canadian debutante is painstakingly trying to avoid the glare of the press as her former boyfriend Prince Philipp of Greece, marries Princess Elizabeth (Now Queen Elizabeth II). Mab (Mabel) is trying desperately to sever all contacts and bury all the memories of those days in Hut 6. Beth, the most intelligent of the three is locked up in an asylum for trying to out a traitor within this highly regarded British establishment. However, with relationships frayed, Osla, Beth and Mab must resurrect their old friendship and crack one last code as a team.
The book is superbly written combining fictional and real events and fictional characters mingled with true historical figures such as Prince Philip and Churchill. In fact, Kate Middleton’s Grandmother was a code breaker during the war. Some other true elements to the book: Prince Philip did date Osla before marrying the queen, a traitor was uncovered at Bletchley Park who had passed information to the Soviet Union during the war and the chronology of the events were all near fact.
We know the story of the code breakers from history and films, but this book offered so much more. Kate Quinn went on to create life after the War as some struggled with their loss whilst others had to learn a new existence and rebuild their lives from ruin. The writing was so vivid and authentic, the fictional elements were expertly woven into the story without undermining the true historical context and the difficult aspects of real stories were dealt with so sensitively. What I disliked was the lengthy backstory of the women’s lives that did not add much to the story in my opinion, so I feel the book could have been condensed from the 644 pages. I would also liked to have seen the ill treated genius and legend who is Alan Turing brought into the story somehow. The real code breaker and a man found guilty of homosexuality who then endured chemical castration driving him to suicide. Hardly a fitting end to a man who undoubtedly saved thousands of lives.
Nevertheless, a stunning historical fiction book that focused on some of the accomplishments, bravery, and dedication of people supporting the war effort. I loved it.
A fantastic read! So honored and thrilled to provide a cover quote:
Readers: Prepare to be swept away by The Rose Code. A richly deserved tribute to the WWII codebreakers of Bletchley Park, Kate Quinn’s latest novel is a tour de force. Exhaustive research, vibrant characters, and pulse-pounding suspense combine in a riveting tale destined to be a book-club favorite. I absolutely loved it.
This terrific book (out today!) is about three women for worked at Bletchley Park during World War II and were torn apart by secrets and betrayals. After the war, they are brought back together by a mysterious letter containing a dark secret. Happy Pub Day!
An interesting read that was well researched! I hadn’t read about this exact topic before. The novel had a good mix of history, romance, and mystery. I liked the three main female protagonists and their unique stories!
I thought that the two timelines were equally interesting and progressively intertwined. There were some unexpected events, but I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t a more shocking twist at the end. I liked that the loose ends were all tied together, and how the main characters were developed throughout the book. I appreciated the inclusion of significant historical figures, but sometimes it felt a bit distracting to the story.
This was not a quick read; it’s a novel that requires patience and time to absorb! That being said, I thought that some of the story dragged on and could have been cut down in places, as it’s a super long book! Overall, I wanted to absolutely love it, and I did like it and enjoy reading it, but it didn’t quite meet my expectations.
easiest 5 stars ever. arguably one of the best audiobooks out there, too 🙌🏼
Kate Quinn is a fave of mine bc her stories are women focused and always teach me so much about the world war efforts that i never knew before. this story was so unique and SO interesting. i truly never wanted it to end.
full review to come on my IG soon! but all you need to know is… READ THIS! 🖤
The Rose Code is one of the latest historical fiction by Kate Quinn. This riveting saga tells the story of the top-secret codebreaking activities at Bletchley Park during World War II as thousands of men and women, many from Oxford and Cambridge, came together to crack what the German army believed were unbreakable Axis military codes, the Enigma codes used by the Axis powers, and all the codebreakers bound by a code of secrecy. It is said that Winston Churchill relied heavily on Bletchley Park intelligence to guide his public policy. Many historians credit the codebreakers of Bletchley Park with shortening the war by at least two years. I was struck by the Dedication "To the veterans of Bletchley Park--you changed the world."
At the heart of The Rose Code is the friendship and unbreakable, although sometimes strained, bond between three women all billeted together in Bletchley Park each coming from very different backgrounds. Beautiful Osla Kendall, a Canadian-born debutante and linked with Prince Philip of Greece in a wartime romance, first buiding Hurrican airplanes for the war effort before she was recruited to Bletchley Park as a German translator. Tall and striking Mab Churt trying to improve her lot from her impoverished childhood in Shoreditch in east London as she worked her way through her dog-eared copy of "100 Classic Literary Works for the Well-Read Lady" when she is recruited by Bletchley Park to run the legendary codebreaking machines. And then there is Beth Finch overcoming an abusive past where she becomes one of the elite cryptanalysts, working for the legendary cryptanalyst Dilly Knox where his penchant for recruiting women led to Beth being one of Dilly's Fillies. The code of secrecy upheld by all of the workers at Bletchley Park is fully as remarkable as their codebreaking achievements.
I loved the format of the book as all of London is looking forward to the Royal Wedding in November 1947. The timeline then shifts back to as early as 1940 in Bletchley Park as eventually we see the two timelines converge days before the Royal Wedding as many of the codebreakers from Bletchley Park come together once again to crack the Rose Code to determine if there has been a traitor among their midst. This is a powerful book of espionage and human drama. Kate Quinn has become my favorite writer of historical fiction. I loved everything about this magnificent book and am looking forward to reading more of her works.
So excited to get an audio ARC of Kate Quinn’s newest hf novel, THE ROSE CODE! I adore her elegant prose, beautifully plotted narratives and in-depth characters. She makes history come vividly alive, as she does here in this riveting tale of three female code breakers at Bletchley Park during and after WWII. The audio experience was mixed for me solely due to length (15 hours and 40 minutes.) I’m a visual learner and skim-read with ease. But I’ll try audio again buoyed by Kate’s magnificent tale — a must-listen for all Quinn fans and hf buffs!
5 of 5 Stars
Pub Date 09 Mar 2021 #TheRoseCode #NetGalley
Thanks to the author, Harper Audio, and NetGalley for the ARC. Opinions are mine.
I absolutely loved reading “The Rose Code”. A wonderful combination of historical fiction and betrayals. We are taken on a journey of three fascinating woman working at Bletchley Park during World War ll and sworn to secrecy regarding the work they are doing. Once again Kate Quinn has done an incredible job of research and writing this must read book.