The Rose Code by Kate Quinn is a triumph. A wonderful historical fiction with a little bit of everything – history, humor, romance, and mystery. The pages come alive with a mix of great fictional characters, alongside real historical figures. The plot centers around Bletchley Park during World War II, where mostly women worked as codebreakers trying to crack the German and Italian codes. Today we know that their work was critical to the allied victory, but back then their work was strictly classified and nobody knew what went on at Bletchley Park.
The plot revolves around three very different women – Beth who needs to escape from her abusive mother, Osla who wants to shed her debutante label, and Mab who dreams of climbing the social ladder. The three live together and become unlikely friends. Their characters are well defined with great back stories, and you really feel their pain and joy. They each grow tremendously over the course of the novel.
The book switches back and forth between the war days, beginning in 1940, and the week leading up to Princess Elizabeth’s wedding in 1947. There is a big mystery set up right from the start, somebody inside at Bletchley Park might have been a traitor during the war, and they need to figure out who it was.
I enjoyed Kate Quinn’s other novels, The Alice Network and The Huntress, but I think this one is the best of them. It is long, over 600 pages, but it doesn’t feel long while you are reading it. I frequently say I am so done with World War II historical fiction, but then a gem like this comes around and changes my mind.