The Enigma Girls: How Ten Teenagers Broke Ciphers, Kept Secrets, and Helped Win World War II

The Enigma Girls: How Ten Teenagers Broke Ciphers, Kept Secrets, and Helped Win World War II
"You are to report to Station X at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, in four days time....That is all you need to know." This was the terse telegram hundreds of young women throughout the British Isles received in the spring of 1941, as World War II raged. As they arrived at Station X, a sprawling mansion in a state of disrepair surrounded by Spartan-looking huts with little chimneys coughing out thick smoke―these young people had no idea what kind of work they were stepping into. Who had recommended them? Why had they been chosen? Most would never learn all the answers to these questions. Bletchley Park was a well-kept secret during World War II, operating under the code name Station X. The critical work of code-cracking Nazi missives that went on behind its closed doors could determine a victory or loss against Hitler’s army. Amidst the brilliant cryptographers, flamboyant debutantes, and absent-minded professors working there, it was teenaged girls who kept Station X running. Some could do advanced math, while others spoke a second language. They ran the unwieldy bombe machines, made sense of wireless sound waves, and sorted the decoded messages. They were expected to excel in their fields and most know how to keep a secret. Candace Fleming is the award-winning and highly acclaimed author of Crash from Outer Space , The Curse of the Mummy , and many other nonfiction books for young readers. With her canny and compelling narrative voice she makes history come alive. Thick with tension and suspense, this is an extraordinary and relatively unknown story of World War II that will fascinate readers who will be thrilled to see young people playing such an important role in the wartime effort.

Editor review

1 review
A Triumphant Story of Teenage Girls’ Brilliance and Dedication
(Updated: June 01, 2024)
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I gave this book 4.5 stars.

What I Loved:
From her opening lines, Fleming set the stage for the secrets and intrigue to come. She gave justice to the “Enigma Girls” and their contributions to the Allies’ win in WWII, telling their stories in an approachable way. I have read about the experiences in London during WWII, but Fleming made me feel the sense of the unknown and fear of sending children to the countryside, not knowing if they would ever be reunited; the strong sense of duty, each person gladly contributing to the war effort what they were able; the attitudes of men believing women were only of value as mothers and wives; the exhaustion these girls felt by staying up days at a time to prevent troops being attacked.

What Left Me Wanting More:
The story—their lives. Books can’t last forever, but I would have gladly read for weeks about how this experience shaped their lives and how their family, friends, and neighbors reacted once the truth finally came out.

The Final Verdict:   Wow. Fleming wrote with deftness and sensitivity, giving us well-rounded images of these young heroes as brilliant, strong, dedicated, terrified, exhausted, and loving women. Any lover of history or champion of girls or teenagers will enjoy this book and the remarkable stories it tells.
Good Points
Excellent writing, approachable nonfiction, a book that makes you feel all the feels.
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