The Codebreakers by Alli Sinclair

Title: The Codebreakers
Author: Alli Sinclair
Published: March 2021
Publisher: Harlequin Australia
Readership: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: ★★★★

I received a copy of The Codebreakers from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

They will dedicate their lives to their country, but no one will ever know…

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?

I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, and when I do, it’s usually set during World War II. The Codebreakers was intriguing to me because it’s set in Australia during WWII and follows a woman working as a codebreaker.

Ellie O’Sullivan is working as an engineer for Qantas in 1943 when she is approached with an offer from Central Bureau to serve her country by working alongside England’s Bletchley Park codebreakers to aide the war effort. By agreeing, Ellie ties herself to a lifetime of secrecy, unable to speak about her work to her family and friends. In her new life she makes new friends, has to negotiate pre-exisiting relationships and a romantic relationship that demands some level of truth.

I’ll admit it that it took me a while to warm up to the story – any kind of historical fiction is a leap of faith for me because it’s not one of my favourite genres to read. But every now and then there’s a book that has a premise that catches my attention and I was really interested in reading a book that incorporated the efforts of women in Australia during wartime.

Ellie begins the book as a very practical and pragmatic woman doing her best during a difficult time in the world. When she’s offered a job working for Central Bureau decoding ciphers it’s something she’s not sure she wants – it means hiding her work from the people she calls family. It has a long-term impact of the people she’s closest, too, which places a huge burden on her that she has to learn to adapt to. It forces her to develop relationships with the women she works with, which was fascinating, because they’re such a different group of people, but it also brings them closer during the time they’re working together.

Alongside these female friendships, Ellie’s trying to navigate a romantic relationship that’s complicated by her inability to talk about what she does on a daily basis. It’s hard and messy and felt very real while reading.

There’s also a bit of mystery for Ellie to solve – one of the women she works with could be a traitor, and it’s up to Ellie to figure out who it is and why it might have happened before the blame is place firmly on her.

It was great to read an Australian story set during this time period and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for future releases from Alli Sinclair.

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