Book Review: Code Girls by Liza Mundy

Book Review: Code Girls by Liza Mundy

Title: Code Girls
Author: Liza Mundy
Publisher: Hachette Books
Hardcover: 500 pages
Source: NetGalley
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers during World War II. While their brothers and boyfriends took up arms, these women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code-breaking. Their efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to them. A strict vow of secrecy nearly erased their efforts from history; now, through dazzling research and interviews with surviving code girls, bestselling author Liza Mundy brings to life this riveting and vital story of American courage, service, and scientific accomplishment.

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*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

Code Girls is far and away the BEST non-fiction I’ve read this year, if not in the past five years. Following the style of Hidden Figures in showing just how much work women have done to make our country what it is today, Liza Mundy reveals the women behind the code-breaking operation during World War II. During her research, she asked for documents to be declassified (some successfully, some not), giving us access to a whole new world of information about the lives of women during the war that they were never allowed to talk about.

What struck me most about this book is how well the author formats the narrative; she gives plenty of background information in the field of cryptanalysis, the context of what was happening during World War II at various times, and the context of just what the military was doing in order to combat the Axis nations. Within that, she follows the lives of a few women who left their normal lives to work for the government and help the war effort by joining a super secret project that broke codes for the military. Because of the way it’s written, you get both the full context of what’s happening and what the work the women are doing means, but you also get the human element of being able to relate to specific women who served as codebreakers, which is such a great balance to have in a non-fiction. It really helps it to become a page-turner and I was enthralled.

I never realized how much I didn’t know about the US World War II effort; I would poke at my husband throughout the day to share the most interesting tidbits and tell him about what I was learning; it almost made me feel like a little kid again, discovering information that fascinated and enthralled me. And, of course, it’s so great to hear the stories of women who were rock stars but never able to tell anyone about their accomplishments; it’s humbling to read about how much work they did and the sort of conditions they put up with in order to simply help us win the war.

This book is everything — heartbreaking, inspiring, emotional, and intelligently researched. I’m going to be buying copies of this for friends for Christmas this year, because this is a story that people need to know.

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