Robert Harris

Robert Harris studied English at Cambridge University before joining the BBC as a television correspondent. His career in the media included writing as a columnist for the London Sunday Times and Daily Telegraph and Political Editor of The Observer before he became a full-time writer.

Since his debut novel Fatherland which was published in 1992, Robert Harris has used fiction to re-write the history of the present. From the outset he has invited serious consideration of contemporary politics in a well-crafted package that entertains and rewards his readers. The success of Fatherland, which imagines in world in which Hitler was triumphant, allowed Harris to make the transition to full-time writer.

Enigma, which was released as a film in 2001 starring Kate Winslet, takes its inspiration from the brilliant individuals who worked to crack the German U-boat code at Bletchley Park during the second world war.

His third novel, Archangel, is set in contemporary Moscow and features Fluke Kelso a historian on the hunt for Joseph Stalin’s secret papers. The book, which was made into a mini-series, starring Daniel Craig, by the BBC takes the young scholar to the remote sea port of Archangel in search of the Soviet dictator’s final secret.

Pompeii (2003) was the first of Harris’ novels to be set in ancient times but draws direct comparisons between the Roman Empire and the United States. His portrait of local corruption makes for such compelling reading that the ‘finale’ is almost a surprise.

Following the publication of Pompeii Harris returned to the Roman era to write Imperium, this first of his trilogy about Cicero – the great statesman and orator. Taking the form of biographies, written by Tiro – Cicero’s assistant and confidante, the books map out Cicero’s attempts to win control of Ancient Rome.

Alongside his novels Harris has also written several well-researched non-fiction titles including Selling Hitler: The Story of the Hitler Diaries (1986), which documented the fiasco following the sudden appearance of the so called ‘Hitler diaries’ in 1983.

Visit our online catalogue for the entire Robert Harris collection, or see displays in your local library.

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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