If you like solving things – yet, even if you don’t – it may soon dawn on you that you can read the title of the entry when you use your most basic substitution code. Yes, 1=A, 2=B, 3=C…
Feel free to stop and “read” it or skip right below the picturs for an instant translation. Either way works.
So why is this “Half A Book Review”? Let’s start with the book above, CODE GIRLS: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy. (Note: it’s adult non-fiction.) I read this in 2019 when long summer vacations with airline flights and multiple cities in fun locations were still a thing. This enthralling account, just as the title indicates, relates how the U.S. government found, recruited, and used the skills of brilliant women to help shorten the war and save lives. Think of it as another true “Hidden Figures” story, one of those books where you want to turn to the person next to you and say, “Listen to this!” The story is that amazing.
Some time after I read CODE GIRLS, I caught a PBS episode in their American Experience series: THE CODEBREAKER: Wife. Mother. Secret American Hero. I wanted dto hear more about one particular woman who was especially important to the effort. So, I’m watching, and suddenly the scene cuts to an historian giving a piece of information. “Amy?” Yes, it was Amy Butler Greenfield, someone I’ve “known” through online groups and social media for years.
That’s when her new YA came onto my radar: THE WOMAN ALL SPIES FEAR: Code Breaker Elizebeth Smith Friedman and Her Hidden Life. This book instantly went onto my TBR list, but it’s had to take a back seat to looming deadlines and other life stuff. Just because I’ve needed to delay my reading, doesn’t mean you need to. Or will want to. This is the type of true story that’ll read like fiction. And in Amy’s capable hands…well, I can’t wait to start poring through the pages. I just know it’ll have me turning to the person next to me and saying, “Listen to this!”
NOTE: Instead of a real review, I’ll leave you with this official description.
In the summer of 1916, a young English major set out to solve a mystery about Shakespeare. It involved a rare book, a strange millionaire, and the secret world of codes and ciphers. Within a year, she transformed herself into one of America’s top code breakers — and that was only the beginning of her brilliant career.
During World War I, Elizebeth Smith Friedman cracked thousands of messages and trained Army officers in cryptology. In the 1920s, she foiled the plans of mobsters and confronted them in court. By the late 1930s, she was one of the most famous code breakers in the world. In World War II, she hunted Nazi spies.
A woman of many secrets, she was later pushed into the shadows. To discover her full story, you must delve deep, the way a code breaker would, searching for the truth that lies just out of sight.
In this biography, acclaimed historian Amy Butler Greenfield tells the riveting tale of this overlooked American heroine — a real-life adventure, mystery, and love story.
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