Secrets at Bletchley Park

Written by Margaret Dickinson
Review by Karen Warren

Secrets at Bletchley Park follows the lives of two very different women from the 1930s to the Second World War. Mattie, living in Sheffield during the Depression, is brought up by a feckless father and an alcoholic mother. She struggles, against the odds, to stay at school and get an education. Whereas Victoria – who has everything in terms of money, education and social position – has a cold and distant mother and never knew her father.

Mattie and Victoria meet at the beginning of the War when they are sent to work at the top-secret Bletchley Park code-breaking centre. Apart from their troubled backgrounds, what they have in common is a fierce intelligence and a desire to succeed. As they start to develop a firm friendship, we realise that they are both adept at keeping secrets, an ability that will be tested in their personal and professional lives.

Unlike many other novels about Bletchley Park, intelligence-gathering is mostly just a backdrop to this novel, and in fact most of the action takes place prior to the war. This is a classic saga, with characters fighting early setbacks, forging their way in the world, and finding love. If I have a criticism, it is that the story is at times slightly predictable, and that I would have expected more wartime tragedy. I also have my doubts as to whether the war broke down social barriers to quite the extent that the author would have us believe. However, it is an easy and enjoyable read, a page-turning story.