Book Review — The Rose Code

Kate Quinn’s latest novel The Rose Code brings the history of Bletchley Park to life with memorable characters, and secrets waiting to be unfurled. Historical fiction lovers, this one is for you!

What is The Rose Code about?

On the cusp of World War Two, Bletchley Park, 1940. Three very different women answer the call to serve their country. Upon arrival at the mysterious country estate, the women learn they’ll be helping to crack Germany’s military codes — and be bound by the strict secrets act. They can tell no one what they do behind the gates of Bletchley Park.

Mab, a down to earth London East-ender hopes to heal her old wounds, and perhaps find a suitable husband among her new male co-workers. Osla, hates her reputation as a ‘dizzy deb’ wants to prove she can be useful for more than just society calls. And Beth, the quiet village girl spotted by Osla and Mab, with an uncanny knack for crosswords.

1947 – Post war Britain is wild with excitement for the royal wedding of Prince Phillip and Elizabeth. But in the midst of this wedding fever, an encrypted letter arrives to reunite the now enemies; Mab, Osla and Beth. The women must reunite to solve the last mystery of Bletchley park, and catch a traitor in their midst.

What I liked about The Rose Code?

I listened to this title on Anyplayfm (thanks Anyplay!) and Saskia Maarleveld’s performance is excellent, as always. She narrates The Alice Network, also by Kate Quinn and has a knack for drawing you deeper into what is already an excellent book. I’m keeping my eyes (and ears) out for what other audiobooks Maarleveld has worked on!

The Rose Code is a page turner. Told across two time periods, past and present slowly draw closer together as the central mystery becomes clearer.

The friendship, love and loss between the three women is beautiful and entertaining. These characters are easy to root for, and you find yourself longing for each to attain their goals. Mab, Osla and Beth are all different from one another, which keeps plenty of variation in the story. It also offers insight into the different challenges women of the era might have faced depending on their class, personality and personal history.

Quinn has a knack for making historical settings and events come to life. She’s a master storyteller.

What I didn’t like about The Rose Code?

Overall, The Rose Code is an excellent read! But readers should be aware that this book is fairly long. It’s a book to be savoured, rather than devoured as Quinn takes her time in establishing characters and then surprising us with their transformations over the course of the book. The process is a satisfying one.

Readers should also be aware that there are some topics within the book that may be distressing. I’ve listed the trigger warnings below:

  • Description of wartime deaths & injuries
  • Sexual Assault
  • Description of historical treatments for mental illness (lobotomy)

These topics are not written in a way that is gratuitous.

Who should read The Rose Code?

If you’re a fan of Kate Quinn’s previous books, or you’re a fan of historical fiction this book is definitely worth picking up. I know it’s one I’ll be thinking about for a while!

Have you read any of Kate Quinn’s books? What did you think of The Rose Code? Tell me in the comments.

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