The Secret Life of Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay

About the book

Bletchley Park was where one of the war’s most famous – and crucial – achievements was made: the cracking of Germany’s “Enigma” code in which its most important military communications were couched. This country house in the Buckinghamshire countryside was home to Britain’s most brilliant mathematical brains, like Alan Turing, and the scene of immense advances in technology – indeed, the birth of modern computing. The military codes deciphered there were instrumental in turning both the Battle of the Atlantic and the war in North Africa.
But, though plenty has been written about the boffins, and the codebreaking, fictional and non-fiction – from Robert Harris and Ian McEwan to Andrew Hodges’ biography of Turing – what of the thousands of men and women who lived and worked there during the war? What was life like for them – an odd, secret territory between the civilian and the military?
Sinclair McKay’s book is the first history for the general reader of life at Bletchley Park, and an amazing compendium of memories from people now in their eighties – of skating on the frozen lake in the grounds (a depressed Angus Wilson, the novelist, once threw himself in) – of a youthful Roy Jenkins, useless at codebreaking, of the high jinks at nearby accommodation hostels – and of the implacable secrecy that meant girlfriend and boyfriend working in adjacent huts knew nothing about each other’s work.

Reviewed by  Shipton Bellinger WI Reading Group:

We awarded 4 stars for the content and not the writing. Some liked the conversational style others found it reminded them of a cub reporter on a local paper. We all agreed that the story of what happened at Bletchley was worth reading the book for. We all learned something new about the story of the Enigma Machine. Much discussion was generated and we were impressed by how the codes were cracked and security kept.

Rating: 4 Stars

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2 thoughts on “The Secret Life of Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay”

  1. Review by Milford on Sea Reading Group:
    We found this book fascinating because of the unusual and variety of persons involved and the fantastic secret work they accomplished. Well worth reading. A secret well kept.
    Star rating: ****

  2. Review by Andover Reading Group
    There were only 4 in the meeting but we all agreed we found the technical details hard going but liked reading about the personalities in the camp. Found it astonishing the number of people involved and the secrecy which continued for years.
    Star rating: **

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