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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. Plenty has been written about the boffins, and the code breaking, fictional and non-fiction.
Sinclair McKay’s book is the first history for the general listener of life at Bletchley Park, and an amazing compendium of memories from people now in their 80s - of skating on the frozen lake in the grounds, of a youthful Roy Jenkins, useless at code breaking, of the hijinks 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.
Yes, I vaguely knew what they did there, and perhaps even a bit about how they did it, but what astonished me were the names of the politicians involved, and how they filtered the decoded messages, and even how people I knew at university and my next-door neighbour were involved at various levels. Every chapter showed me a new aspect and how the politicians acted very strongly (perhaps wisely, or not) on the information. What it did not cover were the technicalities of Enigma which may have gone over my head, or personalities such as Turing and his input. It's one of those books that stay with you so you can chat over dinners and score points about what you know. Absolutely fascinating. Definitely not a light read but not heavy going at all. I could pick it up and start again after a long break.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
What disappointed you about The Secret Life of Bletchley Park?
Plodding style detracts totally from a Fascinating subject
What did you like best about this story?
Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Gordon Griffin?
Needed rewriting, not a change of narrator
If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Secret Life of Bletchley Park?
The endless repeats of facts about people that had already been disclosed
Any additional comments?
Read like a degree thesis or a serialisation stuck together without editing
6 of 7 people found this review helpful
Enjoyable story of life at Bletchley Park. This tells the story of the people who worked there. How could so many people work in one location and keep it a secret.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
This is an amazing insight into a very important place. Totally underestimated at the time of its working, this book highlights the many ordinary men and women who took on the role as code breakers and managed to shorten the Second World War by 2 years.
Would highly recommend this book to anyone and feel a definite listen to teenager brought up it a world where there are so many computers. This book gives a great insight into the start of our computer world. The narration is brilliant, exceptionally well read, clear and easy to understand.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Utterly brilliant subject matter revealed by no doubt excellent research, but in my view worthy of a more analytical, less gossipy style. Narrator is OK, but often gets the emphasis wrong.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
Interesting to hear more personal account of Bletchley beyond just about Alan Turing. An eye opening regarding the integrity of the people who worked there and unique insight into how he affected the war. A must read.
As a result of reading this, I am planning to go to BP imminently but with prior knowledge.
I don't know a whole lot about about World War 2, so I can't attest to how accurate or unbiased the book is, but to me, it sounded very reasonable and well researched to me. I found the whole thing significantly more interesting than I expected to, with a brilliant insight to every aspect of living, working or otherwise involved with the park.
It handles the more sensitive subjects, such as the nature of The Official Secrets Act and the post-war treatment of Turing, very well. Detailing them extensively and fairly.
The narrator of the audiobook was very done - Gordon Griffin did a great job presenting it, providing a good voice, and distinguished voices for the people he was reading from.
Where does The Secret Life of Bletchley Park rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
One of the most interesting.
Any additional comments?
Sinclair McKay restricts himself to the human experience of Bletchley Park - in the knowledge that he would have sold very few copies of his book had he tried to explain the maths behind it all.
0 of 2 people found this review helpful