The Rose Code [Book Review]

April 9, 2021

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn (cover) Image: a woman in a rose colored dress stands with her back to the camera facing a gold machine

Genre/Categories/Settings: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction, WW11, London, Code Breakers, Espionage, Mystery

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

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

Popular historical fiction author Kate Quinn brings us a thrilling story about three female code-breakers who work at Bletchley Park outside London during WW11. This is a story filled with aspirations, determination, courage, betrayal, and secrecy.

My Thoughts:

TL;DR: Another amazing, unputdownable, “must read” WW11 historical fiction title for the win!

Writing and Structure: The first thing I noticed when I picked up The Rose Code is the quality of the writing: compelling, complex, and engaging from page one! Kate Quinn has an authority about her writing that grabs me and makes me pay attention! I admire her research and love her humor! Told from three distinct points of view, the story is structured into two relatively close timelines that merge in the end. The first timeline covers the years during WW11 (beginning in (1939) and the second timeline is set a few years later (1947), features the same three characters, and involves righting a wrong and solving a mystery in the earlier timeline.

Three Unique Voices: Quinn introduces us to three young women who are quite different in their backgrounds and personalities. Mab is twenty-six, poor, and wants more from life, especially for her four-year-old sister. Mab was forced to drop out of school at fourteen to help support her mom, and in a determined attempt to better her life, Mab always works her way up at her jobs. Olsa is eighteen, attended boarding schools, is dating Prince Phillip, desires to prove herself as more than a pretty face, and has an expressive and impulsive personality. Born in Canada, she considers England home. Finally, Beth is twenty-four, lives at home with an abusive and controlling mother, and is quirky, brilliant, and skilled at crossword puzzles. She might be on the Autism spectrum. These three different girls end up with jobs at the Bletchley Park English Country House, the site of the ultra secret British and Allied code-breaking operation during WW11, and they form a bond of sorts. Mab works with the decoding machines, Osla’s skill is in translating, and Beth’s expertise is in cryptoanalysis. Their relationship is one of the most compelling parts of the story. The friendship has its ups and downs as they support each other, argue, and compete, At war’s end, their friendship appears doomed and they part as enemies. 1947 will be the ultimate test of their loyalty.

Bletchley Park Mansion in 2017

Bletchley Park Mansion in 2017 (source: Wikipedia)

Character-Driven or Plot Driven? The good news is that Quinn expertly balances these driving forces….my idea of a perfectly satisfying read! We have interesting, likable, realistic, and unpredictable characters along with daily drama, a big wrong that needs to be righted, a giant mystery to be solved, and a little romance. I can’t spoil anything, but Quinn came up with two twists that really surprised me! So fun!

Themes and Discussion Possibilities: Thoughtful and discussable themes include friendship, loyalty, betrayal, ambition, guilt over a decision made, secrecy, grief, female solidarity, and forgiveness.

Extra Bonus: Kate Quinn knows her readers and includes delightful book talk. There are Alice in Wonderland references throughout the story. Mab is a reader and is working her way through “100 Classic literary Works For the Well-Read Lady.” She starts a book club at Bletchley called Bletchley Park Literary Society later known as the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Thanks, Kate Quinn for writing a book about books that celebrates reading! (Well, admittedly, Mab was also looking for a book-loving and well-read husband!)

Highly and Enthusiastically Recommended: You won’t want to miss The Rose Code! It’s already earned a place on my best-of-the-year list. Wholeheartedly recommended for fans of Kate Quinn and her amazing storytelling, for those who are looking for their next ambitious historical fiction read, for readers who love complicated friendship drama and inspiring characters, for those who appreciate a well-written, thoughtful, and compelling story, and for book clubs (although it is a long read at 656 pages).

(***may contain spoilers***) Content consideration: emotional and physical abuse, attempted gang rape, death of loved ones, grief

My Rating:  5 Stars


The Rose Code by Kate Quinn (cover) Image: a woman in a rose colored dress stands with her back to the camera facing a gold machine

The Rose Code Information Here

Meet the Author, Kate Quinn

Author, Kate QuinnKate Quinn is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction. A native of southern California, she attended Boston University where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. She has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with “The Alice Network”, “The Huntress,” and “The Rose Code.” All have been translated into multiple languages. Kate and her husband now live in San Diego with three rescue dogs.



Is The Rose Code on your TBR or have you read it?

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

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    • I sort of skimmed over the detailed descriptions of the machines at Bletchley Park….so maybe some of that could have been cut…..but others may appreciate that kind of detail. I think she’s an author that can pull off a lengthy book because of her content and writing ability. After reading some fluffy histfic, I do appreciate a denser read! I’ve heard her speak in person and she has lots to say!

  1. I think it’s perfect when authors can balance plot driven and character driven stories. I feel like it often leans one way or the other.

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