I came about this book for a strange reason. The author Jill Mansell was asking on Twitter how she could request it on Net Galley as she was desperate to read it – so I hopped on to check it was a normal request and did that – a few weeks later it popped into my Net Galley account! Thankfully it would appear Jill also managed to get a copy – as her comments about it are mentioned on Amazon
‘Immersive, thrilling and packed with wonderful characters…I absolutely loved every page of this incredible book’ Jill Mansell, bestselling author of Maybe This Time
Here’s the blurb (which actually probably wouldn’t have prompted me to request it, as I’m not a historical novel fan. In fact I’m not a historical TV programme watcher either (although I did make an exception for Bridgerton, obvs!)):
“1940, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire.
Three very different women are recruited to the mysterious Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes.
Vivacious debutante Osla has the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses – but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, working to translate decoded enemy secrets. Self-made Mab masters the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and the poverty of her East-End London upbringing. And shy local girl Beth is the outsider who trains as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts.
Seven years after they first meet, on the eve of the royal wedding between Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, disaster threatens. Osla, Mab and Beth are estranged, their friendship torn apart by secrets and betrayal. Yet now they must race against the clock to crack one final code together, before it’s too late, for them and for their country.”
The two timelines run concurrently through the book – initially with Osla and Mab being recruited by Bletchley Park – and then the run up to the Royal Wedding 7 years later. You know that the friends have become estranged – but you don’t know why – and this was really intriguing.
The intertwining of fact and fiction was incredibly clever – from the Royal family itself, to the codebreakers at Bletchley (including the current Duchess of Cambridge’s Grandmother and her twin sister!) and more famous codebreakers like Alan Turing and Dilly Knox. Bletchley Park itself has a starring role which was more exciting for me than it would have been a few months ago, as our construction company is currently doing some work there (not the museum bit – but the other ‘huts’ that have been sold off over the years). I also need to admit to being a bit of a maths geek – so the code breaking itself was also really interesting.
Osla is desperate to prove she’s not ‘just a deb’, whilst Mab wants to better herself and marry well having escaped her East End home. Their friendship and various relationships inside and outside Bletchley Park (BP) are brilliantly explored. The girls take Beth – the daughter of their horrible landlady – under their wing, and despite not being traditionally academic, she’s brilliant at crosswords, and soon she’s working at BP too. Beth has lead a totally sheltered life up until that point – so it’s a real eye opener to her – but she’s a natural.
There is intrigue and mystery in both timelines – and I couldn’t put it down – I really am pleased I got to read this, even if it was for a strange reason. The main characters are all likeable in their own ways, and I was rooting for all 3 girls and lots of the supporting cast.
It twists and turns loads – and the run up to the end is brilliant – some real ‘gasp’ moments that I won’t give away, and didn’t see coming. (I hate book reviews that contain huge spoilers).
I’m now even more keen to go and see the museum at Bletchley Park – and have spent far too much time on the BP website in the last few hours trying to work out which characters in the book were real and which were fiction. And I’ll never quite look at Prince Philip in the same light again either!
A huge thank you to the author and Harper Collins for my advance review copy of this fantastic book.