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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Review: The Codebreakers

The Codebreakers
Author: Alli Sinclair

Publisher: 3rd March 2021 by Harlequin Australia & MIRA

Pages: 454 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: historical fiction, world war II

My Rating: 4.5 crowns


A compelling story about tenacity and friendship, inspired by the real codebreaking women of Australia's top-secret Central Bureau in WWII. For readers who love Judy Nunn and Kate Quinn.

1943, Brisbane: The war continues to devastate and the battle for the Pacific threatens Australian shores. For Ellie O'Sullivan, helping the war effort means utilising her engineering skills for Qantas as they evacuate civilians and deliver supplies to armed forces overseas. Her exceptional logic and integrity attract the attention of the Central Bureau-an intelligence organisation working with England's Bletchley Park codebreakers. But joining the Central Bureau means signing a lifetime secrecy contract. Breaking it is treason.

With her country's freedom at risk, Ellie works with a group of elite women who enter a world of volatile secrets; deciphering enemy communications to change the course of the war. Working under immense pressure, they form a close bond-yet there could be a traitor in their midst. Can the women uncover the culprit before it's too late?

As Ellie struggles with the magnitude of the promise she's made to her country, a wedge grows between her and those she holds dear. When the man she loves asks questions she's forbidden to answer, how will she prevent the double life she's leading from unravelling?

My Thoughts

I have read all Alli's books and I think she just keeps getting better. The Codebreakers is a fabulous fictional tale based on extensive research. It provides a realistic portrayal of being female whilst living and serving in Australia during the Second World War. Reading about the Australian equivalent of Bletchley Park and the codebreaking that occurred at the Central Bureau was indeed a revelation to me. 

‘We can’t control things bigger than us.  What we can control, however, is our appreciation for what we have because it can change in the blink of an eye.’

Alli has done a fantastic job of putting a human face to a very factual tale. Her leading character Ellie - and indeed many of the secondary characters - come to life in this story of what life may have been like for young women who left their homes and took on roles many had never heard of before. Add to that the tragic realities of war - fear of Japanese invasion, loss of loved ones, rationing etc - and you really begin to get a feel for the stress and angst that must have filled the lives of many during this period. Throughout all of this Alli highlights the strength of female friendships  - loyalty, courage, inspiration - all in the line of duty for these young Australian women. 

The new and exciting component that makes this tale step up from other wartime stories is its continuation after armistice. How do you leave it all behind once the last shot is fired or message decoded? How hard it must have been to have the expectation of motherhood and being tied to the kitchen thrust back at you after all you had experienced. To have lost that female solidarity and being unable to share details with anyone, must surely have compounded their feelings of loss. I think Alli truly captured this desolate sense of isolation wonderfully well. For Alli to then continue the journey through highlighting the rights of women through Ellie’s flying journey and the RFDS truly added to what was already a well rounded tale. 

‘An array of emotions battled within---nostalgia for the friends she missed, the honour of being chosen to do such important and difficult work, and pride knowing she’d made a difference to many lives. It was all in the past, though. How long would she cling to it before it stopped her reaching for the future?’

With themes ranging from danger and stress, to fulfilment and friendship, Alli invites her readers to experience a well researched and fascinating part of Australia’s wartime history that very few knew about until recently (her Author Notes at the conclusion are most enlightening). I would love for Alli to consider continuing Ellie’s tale as she truly epitomised the life of many females of this era well beyond the war years. 

‘So, if you have the chance to do something you want, take it and don’t be apologetic. Women spend too much time bowing to society’s expectations instead of allowing ourselves to be who we truly are.’ 

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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