Book Reviews

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn – Book Review

Book Cover of The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

Warning – possible spoilers! (Tiny ones, though, and I’ll try to avoid even those; I swear I’ll give my best not to ruin it for you… :-))

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn – Book Details

TITLE – The Rose Code

AUTHOR – Kate Quinn

GENREhistorical fiction, World War II, mystery



MY RATING – 4 of 5


What It Is About

Three girls during a war. Once the best of friends. Until D-Day, the fatal day, when they had splintered apart and become two girls who couldn’t stand the sight of each other, and one who had disappeared into a madhouse.

In 1940, three very different girls find themselves in Bletchley Park, surrounded by some of the greatest minds trying to break German codes and help end the war. But a traitor among them and the crushing reality of war will put an end to what might have developed into a lifetime friendship.

In 1947, one of the girls is married, a mother and is trying to forget she was ever working at Bletchley Park. One is trying to avoid the media’s attention due to the wedding of her ex love, Prince Philip of Greece himself. The third girl is in an asylum, awaiting a fate that would forever stop her from figuring out who the traitor was.

But now the three get once again reunited. And they have one last code to crack…

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn – My Review

“Hitler really would pitch an absolute screamer if he knew a lot of girls scratching pencils in Bletchley are turning his war inside out.”

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn was in my 2021 most anticipated releases. Ever since I heard that the story follows three fascinating female code breakers that dedicated years of their lives to help shorten the war – I mean, how do you say no to that?

But, I’m gonna just say right away I was struggling with this book a lot and couldn’t get into the story for the longest time. And I have no idea why. Because The Rose Code was actually pretty awesome.

First of all – the history. The fact that a lot of it was real – the Bletchley Park, and the Enigma, and so many well-known historical figures and events. From how the machines worked (which I’m not gonna even pretend I understood) to a visit from Winston Churchill…

I didn’t expect all that entering this book. It gave the whole thing weight and depth it couldn’t get any other way.

“Verse can be handy in our line of work. I’ve broken more than one key that was picked out of a line of Goethe. Operators are supposed to choose random letters, but they don’t. It’s not in human nature to be random.”

Kate Quinn is such a good author. She brought the hidden history of Bletchley Park to life, mixing historical facts with partially and completely fictionalized storytelling. The result is a novel that seeps with humanity and life and feels like an ode to the real code breakers that used to work at BP during WWII.

There was so much work, effort and attention to detail put into this book. You can feel it page after page – from the descriptions of settings to little everyday dilemmas – everything just felt real and relatable.

If I had to choose one thing I loved the most about this book, it would be the way Quinn showed that life changes but doesn’t stop in time of war. From surviving the day to what to wear. From family issues to secrets from the past. And we even got a few beautiful love stories… It all got nicely entwined with code breaking, espionage and horrors of war.

Bomb away, Krauts—the boffins and debs of BP will still flood into London every night off and dance defiant in the rubble. There’s a war on, after all, and tomorrow we might be dead!

In this book, we follow two timelines and three perspectives, but they were very distinctive and surprisingly easy to switch between.

Osla, Mab, and Beth worked in different areas at BP. All three equally important and fascinating to follow, as they had quite different backgrounds and often completely different perspectives on war, life and Bletchley Park.

Osla is a wealthy girl, with charm, looks and social status many would envy. She even got the attention of Prince Philip and has been dating him for years, in breaks of using her perfect German to help her country fight off the Germans.

Yet her biggest fear is being seen as nothing more than a silly deb.

It was the dawn of 1940, and she had danced in the New Year in a boiler suit and satin sandals with a prince. She wondered what else the year would bring.

Mab comes from east-end London poverty. Her goal is finding security in a marriage with a man not necessarily wealthy or loving, but capable of providing for his family.

But marriage ends up being way more complex and delicate an affair than she anticipated.

Get drunk too quickly and she’d end up weeping into her glass; too slow, and she wouldn’t get as numb as she needed in order to sleep. Two quick, one slow—repeat for four hours, until it came time to sway dizzily toward the transport bus. She was fine. It was all fine.

And Beth, a local spinster whom even her own family doesn’t see as bright or important. But this spinster has an uncanny inclination to solving crosswords and puzzles – a feature Bletchley Park more than appreciates.

But getting into a rose code sometimes means spiraling deeper and deeper in, without a way of coming back out.

“I want you coming to it fresh and inventive, not with every instinct and impulse trained out of you. Imagination, that’s the name of the game.”

This book also did a great job of portraying the extraordinary tension the codebreakers were working under. The importance of what they were doing. The need for extreme secrecy, even amongst themselves.

Though necessary, not only did it add to everyday stress, but it also created opportunities for manipulation. I loved how even that aspect of their lives has been worked into the plot.

Impossible decisions. Devastating consequences. Regret to last you a lifetime. And just one last chance to redeem at least some of it all.

She lived in a house of the mad, where truth became madness and madness, truth.

There was so much to love about this book. Which is why it pains me to say I didn’t enjoy The Rose Code as much as I thought I would. I guess it just wasn’t exactly my thing. But that is literally the only bad thing I have to say about it.

The writing was great. The characters were great. Pacing – it was a bit slow for me, but not to the point where that was actually a problem.

And the story – I wasn’t even thinking about DNF-ing because I just had to see how it ends.

But because it wasn’t my cup of tea, I struggled a lot to get through over 600 pages of this book. It took me way longer than I planned and I wished so many times I hadn’t even started reading it.

I can’t quite pinpoint why I couldn’t fully click with The Rose Code. Historic and war stories are not exactly my preference, but there were several I liked very much. And the quality of the book was also definitely not the issue.

Honestly, I might have even unconsciously blocked some of the things going on in the book. Purposefully made myself not care, because I knew it would be too painful to take it all in. It got some very emotional moments, made me upset and at the edge of tears a few times.

“Duty, honor, oaths—they are not just for soldiers. Not just for men.”

But ultimately, I guess it was just one of those things where you either connect with the story or you don’t. If I were basing my review purely on my enjoyment while reading, I would probably give it 2 or 3 stars.

All I’m saying is – take my experience with this book with a grain of salt. I maybe didn’t have the best time with it, but I would wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone who even remotely enjoys this type of story.

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