Book Review: The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

The year is 1939, and three girls who would’ve never met one another normally become friends at Bletchley Park, where Great Britain’s top minds work to decipher secret codes that will help the Allies win World War II. The three friends couldn’t be more different: self-made and imposing East End Londoner Mab Churt, Canadian and German-speaking socialite Olsa Kendall (also the girlfriend of Prince Phillip of Greece), and the local sheltered, shy, yet brilliant Beth Finch who discovers she’s a natural cryptanalyst. Each woman takes their oath to their country and their work seriously—and no one is allowed to talk about anything they do inside Bletchley Park to anyone, inside or out.

Despite the war, life goes on, and each woman grows and reaches for the things they want: Practical Mab is on the lookout for a well-off husband in order to escape her past and secure her future; Olsa wants to be taken seriously, since all her life people have looked down on her as a dimwitted debutante; and Beth settles into an unconventional life where she can be self-reliant (just her and her dog Boots) and keep busy solving mental puzzles.

Yet codebreaking inevitably reveals dangerous secrets—especially when Beth pulls apart an elusive code dubbed ‘The Rose’ that reveals a traitor living and working right amongst them at Bletchley Park. As if that weren’t enough, something happens that turns Mab, Olsa, and Beth—once the best of friends—into bitter enemies.

Alternating between war time and the eve of the royal wedding six years later, The Rose Code is a wonderful historical novel. Quinn has engaged in a breathtaking amount of research, looking into Bletchley Park and its workers as well as what it was like being in London during the Blitz. Of particular note, Quinn lays out the particulars of the enigma machine and the British bombe machine, as well as other technical details (including pictures in the back of the book!) a person actually working at Bletchley would likely encounter. Effortlessly weaving historical details and persons with fictional characters, Quinn creates a believable and well-told story with protagonists for whom you love to root, even though each of them has their unique flaws.


A must-read for the historical fiction lover! 

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn 5/5