My Rating: 4/5 stars
Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
In the tradition of Hidden Figures and The Girls of Atomic City, Code Girls is the astonishing, untold story of the young American women who cracked key Axis codes, helping to secure Allied victory and revolutionizing the field of cryptanalysis. Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers during World War II. While their brothers and boyfriends took up arms, these women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code-breaking. Their efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to them. A strict vow of secrecy nearly erased their efforts from history; now, through dazzling research and interviews with surviving code girls, bestselling author Liza Mundy brings to life this riveting and vital story of American courage, service, and scientific accomplishment.
Code Girls did a lot of things really well. Liza Mundy took on the tremendous task of explaining complex codes and the techniques required to break them. I’m not saying I could be a code breaker, but through Mundy’s descriptions I did follow along quite nicely. This book also captures shifting sentiments about the war and a woman’s place in it. I found myself simultaneously fascinated and disappointed when reading that women were only allowed to be code breakers because it wasn’t considered a real job, nor a difficult one. It’s hard to remember that sexism was alive and well during wartime.
Mundy also did a fantastic job of capturing these women’s voices. In her use of direct quotes, letters, and diary entries, Mundy ensured that these women told their stories. As a reader, I learned about more than their secret work for the government, but also about their families, love interests, and friendships. These women led varied and fulfilling lives and found their work to be of the utmost importance. It was an honor to read their stories.
For me, though, this book did little more than touch on the ways in which race and class affected these women’s lives. The majority of the women hired by the Army and Navy were recruited from colleges, which obviously required a specific level of intelligence and financial background. Additionally, these women were predominantly white. Ultimately, Code Girls is about well-off, well-educated, white women and how they shaped the war effort. This is all well and good but I find it difficult to believe there weren’t more women of color working in the code breaking department, too. Where are their stories? They deserve more than the one or two paragraphs featured in this book.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book! It did take me awhile to read it, but that was more due to life than any book issues. I found this book to be incredibly informative and I think it should be required reading in any course that covers America’s involvement in WWII. This book is great for history buffs and those who enjoy puzzles.
This book is…
Publisher: Hachette Books
Page Count: 640
Available here from Book Depository.
Have you read Code Girls? What’s your favorite non-fiction read?