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The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine who Outwitted America's Enemies
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August 2018: Espionage > The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone—5 stars + ♥

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Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine who Outwitted America's Enemies by Jason Fagone
5 stars + ♥

I literally just finished listening to this and I want to rush out and tell everyone I know about how freaking amazing Elizebeth Smith Friedman was. I want everyone to read this book and just marvel at how she was a superhero of her day, and yet few of us have heard of her. Because, you know, woman in the first half of the 1900s.

There are no words to sum up the feats of code-breaking that this woman—this PERSON—achieved. She broke codes during WWI, using her pen and paper to make other counties' efforts to conceal their secrets look like chump change. Then, while working for the US Coast Guard when it was housed in Treasury, broke smuggler codes during prohibition and make national headlines when the "lady" testified in court. Against booze smuggling cartels! But, the real pièce de résistance, was during WWII when she suddenly left the public eye because she was breaking freaking Nazi codes. BY HAND. Oh yeah, you know that machine that Alan Turing invented to break Nazi codes produced by their famous Enigma machine? She broke them. BY HAND. (It bore repeating).

Elizebeth basically prevented the Nazis from getting a foothold in South America through Argentina. Which I totally didn't even know was even a thing! And, even more amazing, her husband was also a famous cryptoanalyst whose WWII Naval unit that he formed was the precursor to the NSA. So, while she was focused on South America, her husband was busting codes from Japan it created on their machine Purple. And, they each did their incredibly high stress, massively important, top secret jobs, then came home to their two children and fell asleep in the same bed and did not ever once talk about their work. For over 25 years.

Can y'all hear the excitement in my typing?!?!

The writing of the book was not as strong as some of my other favorite narrative nonfictions, and sometimes it slid into some eye-glazing descriptions of codes and solving them, but I could not care less. It was engaging, comprehensive, straight-forward and very much a story that needed to be told. I would rate it a 3.5 or 4 stars based on the writing in isolation. But, the shear enjoyment I got out of reading about this woman I had never heard of vastly overshadows any minor nitpicks I have with the writing.

I love books like this. Women are awesome. Elizebeth deserved to have her story told.

I also heard that it has been optioned for a TV show. I am a little bummed because I think it would make a better movie, but you bet your ass I will be watching it if it ever makes it to any screen.


message 2: by Booknblues (new)

Booknblues | 6844 comments You have had some good reading recently!


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments Yes, I have! I am on a little streak!


message 4: by Booknblues (new)

Booknblues | 6844 comments I love when that happens!


Joy D | 4596 comments Thanks for the recommendation, Nicole. I had noticed this book and initially was unsure if I should read it or not, but based on your review, I have added it.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

I love you review and how much you loved this book!! What a great review! I love even more that this story is about a woman. Women have played such great roles in espionage because people don't even see them coming.


message 7: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 6381 comments Adding to the TBR! Thanks for this enthusiastic review ...


Barbara M (barbara-m) | 2297 comments "Can y'all hear the excitement in my typing?!?!" Yes, I can! And you have me hooked. I'm putting it on my TBR.


message 9: by Hebah (new) - added it

Hebah (quietdissident) | 675 comments Oh wow. This sounds amazing!


message 10: by LibraryCin (last edited Aug 14, 2018 04:40PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

LibraryCin | 9052 comments Wow! This sounds amazing! (As does she!) See all those exclamation points!? Your enthusiasm is catching! LOL!


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments So glad other people are going to read about this awesome woman 😀

For those of you who are audio fans, I recommend reading this one. The audio was good but I get the impression there were several pictures and examples of ciphers that I missed out on.


message 12: by Karin (new) - added it

Karin | 7458 comments Okay, wow! Perhaps I ought to go for the audiobook when I get to this!


message 13: by Joanne (new) - added it

Joanne (joabroda1) | 8406 comments This has been on my TBR list-hoping to get to it soon


Christine (myrtilla) | 3 comments Your review inspired me to check out this book. I'm reading it and loving it!


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments So good to hear! I will definitely look for your review when you are done. Aren’t you amazed by how amazing she was?!?


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