The Rose Code by Kate Quinn is a marvellous historical novel that blends fact and fiction. It consumed me from the start.
The action alternates between November 1947 just before the Royal Wedding and the war years, mainly at Bletchley Park. The reader learns that there has been a severe miscarriage of justice, as the novel progresses we see the roads that led there.
Bletchley Park was a place of secrets. The people who worked there had to learn to lie about their work or be guilty under the official secrets. It is against this background that three young women from differing walks of life meet and form a friendship. Bletchley Park was a unique place to work. Pockets of friendship groups sprung up supporting each other. It was a closed community and strong bonds were formed. These bonds would remain long after the war ended. If one of their own was in trouble, others dropped everything to offer support.
War is hard for all. Some are facing the enemy for the second time. The nightmares from World War I still loom large in a life. “I haven’t seen the world in full colour since I was sixteen years old and buried in mud at the front.” The battle scars never leave as the memories play on.
For some war is an escape from a severe home life where religion is used as a punishment. “[She] didn’t think God was nearly as severe as her mother made Him out to be.” People should never misrepresent God. God is love in contrast with those who used religious rules to scold and punish.
The reader witnesses the awful effects of the Blitz up and down the country. Loss cuts a character to the core. “Why did no one tell her how to keep living?” The loss is tangible. So heavily invested in the lives of the characters was I that I must admit I gasped out loud and was shocked by events. I, too, felt the loss.
A sanatorium is a terrible place to be. It was a place not just for the ill but a place where perfectly sane women could be locked up under the instructions of men, forever. We see a life abandoned because of the threat posed to criminal minds.
The Rose Code was an all-consuming read. It had a very familiar feel to it as there were real life names and situations. It was a powerful read that I could not put down.
I received this book for free. A favourable review was not required and all views expressed are my own.