Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Secret Life of Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay

I picked this book up as soon as I saw it in the bookshop because I watched The Bletchley Circle (which you should definitely watch if you haven’t already) and wanted to read about Bletchley Park, which actually existed.

If you’re like me and only know the very basic stuff about World War II, Bletchley Park is basically this top-secret place that broke the German Enigma code during the war. This means that the British had information about German activities, which helped them make better decisions about what to do.

The Secret Life of Bletchley Park is very loosely chronologically organised, starting from the formation of the park to the aftermath and its restoration. I use the word loosely because the book doesn’t mind meandering away from the chronological narrative to discuss things like recruitment, cultural activities available, the food, romances, etc. I really liked this form because I got a sense of how things progressed and life at the park as a whole.

The book also features several of the people who worked at Bletchley, quoting their recollections. I thought it made the book a lot friendlier than if it was just a summary of the official documents. People featured in this book include Sheila and Oliver Lawn, who met and fell in love at the park, the Honourable Sarah Baring, and many more. It also talks about the people at the top, like Alan Turing and Dilly Knox (and people’s recollections of them).

By the way, I’m totally not sure if I’m just imagining it, but several of the characters in The Bletchley Circle have the same names of a few people who worked at the park. I wonder if it’s a sort of homage?

And this is unrelated, but I saw a reference to Heath Robinson and was really pleased that I got it! Guess it was a good idea to read Heath Robinson’s Home Front first.

If you’re interested in history, I think you’ll enjoy this book. It’s a well-written book about Bletchley Park and the people who lived and work there. If you’re like me and didn’t know about the place, I think this would be a good introduction to it.


  1. Ooo! I want to read this! I have read a little about Bletchley Park before, and it pops up in the fiction I read now and then. I think I might like this.

    1. If you like historical fiction, I think you would like this! And you should watch The Bletchley Circle as well (I found it on Netflix) - it's a great mini-drama!


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