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Codebreaker Girls (Hardback)

A Secret Life at Bletchley Park

WWII Women of History Military

By Jan Slimming, Foreword by Sir Dermot Turing
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 352
Illustrations: 50 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526784117
Published: 22nd January 2021


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“What would it be like to keep a secret for fifty years? Never telling your parents, your children, or even your husband?”

Codebreaker Girls: A Secret Life at Bletchley Park tells the true story of Daisy Lawrence. Following extensive research, the author uses snippets of information, unpublished photographs and her own recollections to describe scenes from her mother’s poor, but happy, upbringing in London, and the disruptions caused by the outbreak of the Second World War to a young woman in the prime of her life.

The author asks why, and how, Daisy was chosen to work at the Government war station, as well as the clandestine operation she experienced with others, deep in the British countryside, during a time when the effects of the war were felt by everyone. In addition, the author examines her mother's personal emotions and relationships as she searches for her young fiancée, who was missing in action overseas. The three years at Bletchley Park were Daisy's university, but having closed the door in 1945 on her hidden role of national importance — dealing with Germany, Italy and Japan — this significant period in her life was camouflaged for decades in the filing cabinet of her mind. Now her story comes alive with descriptions, original letters, documents, newspaper cuttings and unique photographs, together with a rare and powerful account of what happened to her after the war.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a well-written memoir about the intricacies of the author's mother's life during WWII and the impact on her mental health from the strain of keeping secrets for a lifetime. The narrative explores the pain her mother experienced forevermore despite her attempts to cope with the secret memories of her work in the aftermath of the war and life at Bletchley Park. Unfortunately, for all who worked under intense stress in mostly poor conditions to help the Allies win the war, the threat of prison, or worse, loomed over them for the rest of their lives as a direct consequence of uttering any information about their work, discussion between coworkers was even forbidden because the civilian workers had all signed agreements of absolute secrecy as a requirement of the Official Secrets Act in Great Britain. The work at Bletchley Park, undertaken mostly by young civilian women, was so very segregated by specialized activities that roommates were not even aware of the specific duties performed by each other. The legacy of the codebreaker girls at Bletchley Park should be studied and recognized by all future generations for its historic impact on the outcome of the Second World War.

NetGalley, Brenda Yeager

Article: 'New book relates women’s secret work at Bletchley Park' as featured by

Click here for the full article

Inside Croydon, 31st January 2021

“We rubbed shoulders with brilliance, and we did our bit to win the war, but who would believe you?”

Slimming tells the story of her mother, Daisy Lawrence, who worked at Bletchley Park as part of its codebreaking operations during WWII. Unlike most books I’ve read on this subject, this one focuses on the consequences of the Official Secrets Act. Once the war ended, Lawrence was unable to tell anyone how much of a contribution she had made. While everyone thought she had worked as a clerk, she had in fact done much more important work.

The mental health effects of keeping such a large secret are hardly examined in the literature, but Slimming pays a lot of attention to this aspect of her mother’s life. I really appreciated this fresh perspective. Would recommend for anyone else who loves books about female espionage.

NetGalley, Émilie Weidl

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book very interesting showing the workings of the Betchley code breakers and how they kept their silence about the work they had done during war time.

NetGalley, Anne Wheeler

Codebreaker Girls is a historical true story of a young lady’s work at a secret facility in England. An interesting and informative read, the book follows the life of Daisy Lawrence pre-WWII and beyond.
I was intrigued reading of how her fiancee, Stan, goes off to war, yet she proudly offers her service to help at home. Daisy had to leave her family home, unable to let them know where or what she was doing. Her life during the war remained a secret for the rest of her life, and sadly hiding it made her suffer.
The book is about more than just this strong woman’s life, but a walk through the historical WWII era life. Packed with history and emotion, this book was hard to put down, especially knowing that it was true.

NetGalley, Karen McGuire

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I enjoyed the 9.5+ hours I spent reading this 352-page WWII history. I have read and listened to podcasts about Bletchley Park. This book gave more everyday details than the other sources. I like the selected cover art. I give this book a 5 out of 5.

NetGalley, John Purvis

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It is hard to believe that this book isn’t fictional! It reads as good as any novel yet is mesmerizing due to the fact that it tells the story of the real Codebreakers girls! Very personal and well researched, definite read for any history buff. Glad to see writers shining the light on females who broke down barriers in difficult times and helped the nation strive! Loved the picture of the girls holding a beer!

NetGalley, Kamila Bouvier

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Can a book about Bletchley be anything other than fascinating?? A recommended purchase for general nonfiction collections and some HS collections.

NetGalley, Mischa Thrace

Super interesting book about the women who worked at Bletchley Park during WW2.
There are many other books on this topic, but this is told from a totally unique point of view.
A must read for anyone interested in this group of heroes and how they served in this unique role.

NetGalley, Sarah Ferguson

I am very interested in the role played by women in the IIWW, and I had read some about Bletchley Park, so I was super excited when I got this book. It lived up to my expectations for sure!!
The book explains how Daisy got selected for the job as a codebreaker in Bletchley, and not only focuses in the historical facts and the role this women played in the war, but also on their day to day lives: the living quarters, clothes, food... There are several pictures, letters, newspaper clippings, funny anecdotes...added to the narrative that make it even more interesting.
The story about Daisy's fiancée got me hooked until the end.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in WWII, and I'm very grateful to NetGalley and the publisher for letting me read it.

NetGalley, Mluisa Flores

An interesting history.. Always great to read about women who were Trail Blazers before their time and who had the guts to do what they believed in.

NetGalley, Joellen Sommer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Codebreaker Girls: A secret life at Bletchley Park is one of those rare gems that if you're lucky, you will stumble upon and give it a read. It's a bit intense and filled with so much information about the early days of computers and the men and women who saved thousands of lives by using their wits to decode the enemies of Britain and the Allies during WWII. I was familiar with some of the names... but, the vast majority of these heroes will quietly slip from memory unless someone like the author takes a stand, digs deep into historical records, and interviewing those who were there or were somehow connected to those working at Bletchley Park. A very enjoyable read! Lots of tidbits to absorb. A must-have novel for those who have an interest in WWII as no library will be complete unless it has novels such as this, to get a full account of the very real history of those who fought with only their brains and aptitude to see patterns!

NetGalley, Cherei McCarter

Codebreaker Girls: A Secret Life at Bletchley Park is a fantastic blend of history and personal experience. Slimming combines the experiences of her mother, Daisy Lawrence, with enough historical information to give her mother's story the needed context. The photographs and documents help bring Daisy Lawrence's life story to life.

For those who enjoy the history of World War II, Codebreaker Girls give a personal insight into Bletchley Park and the critical events that transpired during the war. Being familiar with Bletchley Park, I was fascinated with the personal details of how Daisy come to work there, her years there, and the effect it had on her personal life following the war. The secrecy of Daisy's work at Bletchley Park in combination with Slimming's father, a Japanese prisoner of war, is compelling as they marry, raise a family, and navigate life. Codebreaker Girls shares a little told story of the hope, hardship, and postwar reality through the life story of Daisy Lawrence.

NetGalley, Shawna Lloyd

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Words cannot express how fascinating this book is! I clung to every word from the first sentence to the last and learned a great deal about WWII, one of my favourite topics and eras. And who isn't mesmerized by ciphering and code breaking? Sometimes you find that book, that perfect book which seems to be written for you personally. Well, this is one of those books for me. It took my breath away. What appealed first and foremost was that this depicts a real person, the author's mother, Daisy Lawrence...the photographs, advertisements and illustrations are touching and laden with meaning. I also enjoyed reading about actual strips of codes and equipment used and the importance of enciphering. The work Daisy did, which she downplayed, may have been tedious but crucial.

As a young woman in England Daisy wanted to make a difference in the war efforts and found herself at the infamous Bletchley Park for three years. Not only did she keep her work secret during the war but for many decades after and learned to deflect questions. Her fiance and later husband didn't even know specifics, even after many years of marriage. Swearing secrecy and honour were very important but came at a price.

"The work of Bletchley Park and its satellite stations was said to be the best-kept secret of the Second World War, after the atom bomb." Wow. So much to learn here. How sobering to realize the average age of an allied pilot was only twenty and that many, many codebooks were discovered on seabeds! Daisy kept loads of newspaper clippings, thankfully, so we are privy to this type of information.

Daisy eagerly awaited news of Stan for months and months on end while working hard at her job, doing well at it. She also made close friendships. Room 40 is talked about, as are the Enigma and other machines/processes (cribs and kisses!). Daily life events such as meals, rationing (including a copy of food and clothing allowances) and sleeping quarters are detailed. Mental health problems were a very real issue, too, as the workers were not allowed to discuss any part of their work. The author describes what happened to Daisy and Stan after the war.

History buffs, you need to read this book, especially if you are intrigued by WWII and/or codebreaking. It is a very personal and rewarding experience.

NetGalley, Brenda Carleton

Every book I read tells this about the people of WWII, they all extol the virtues of a generation that fills me with continuous awe and admiration. Codebreaker Girls does not disappoint. Telling Daisey's story with dignity. Seeking no accolades except to educate about the role the code-breakers and Bletchley Park filled.

NetGalley, Lori Harris

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I am totally fascinated with Bletchley Park and I have found this book utterly amazing and so informative a truly fabulous read.

NetGalley, Jeanie Mckinlay

Author Jan Slimming tells a great story about her mother. I was impressed by Slimming’s authenticity as she neither placed anyone on a pedestal nor dragged anyone through the mud.

NetGalley, Stephen Goldberg

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wow, having visited Bletchley Park and enjoyed films about the history I salivated when I heard about this book.
It does not disappoint but is hard going in places.
I had never thought about the human cost of the work, the hours or the secrecy involved at the time and for decades after.
The background of daisy's life, romance, working at Bletchley and family life afterwards is invaluable.
This was fighting on the front line in a very different way. It also highlights the need for highly intelligent ladies and how they were treated by male counterparts.
I could not put the book down.

NetGalley, Helen Wilkinson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This beautiful history book reads as smoothly as a novel but is a true and often unknown bit of history. I've been fascinated with the codebreaker girls for a while, so when I saw this ARC available on NetGalley I immediately wished for it and was thrilled to get the email granting it to me. I started reading as soon as it hit my Kindle app and I was hooked from page one. The writing is masterful, the story is powerful, and this bit of history is a fascinating yet necessary niche that is still relatively unknown. This was an enjoyable read from which I learned a lot.

NetGalley, Jessica Fick

History fans should enjoy this book, especially if you're interested in the activities of Bletchley Park.

NetGalley, Brad Cox

I enjoy reading about ordinary people in extraordinary times, and Slimming's book is an excellent example on how to do that. The book both tells the story on Bletchly Park and the work that was conducted there over the course of the Second World War but the book also takes in a personal portrait of one of the young women who did work with the war effort, Daisy Lawrence. Much of the material used for the book is taken from the personal archieve of Lawrence and that makes the whole book warmer, in a sense, as she was an ordinary young woman doing very important work.

Nice in-cooperation of pictures and pictures of documents. Made it more easy to visualise.

NetGalley, Sarah Matsson-Klingzell

An interesting read on a very secretive part of the war. The development of the story of the main character was well done and you genuinely cared about the person. It is an engrossing story and one you want to follow. A great read.

NetGalley, Ron Baumer

I loved this book, especially Daisy. Its so nice to finally see women recognized for doing their part in the wars. Girls can do anything they want, be anything they want to be.

NetGalley, Sheila Treacy

About Jan Slimming

Jan Slimming is a publishing professional with a former career in London’s educational and international publishing industry before moving to America with her husband and young family. This is her first book. As Director of three companies, she has also chaired committees and fund-raising initiatives in aid of children’s education, before delving into historical research. Jan was six when she first heard of Bletchley Park, but it was decades later that she was compelled to research and write about this little-known part of her mother’s life. Jan is a member of the Atlanta Writers Club (Established 1914), and an active member of her community both in local events and WWII matters, with her twin sister, with whom she also writes. Jan has first-class qualifications from the Royal Society of Arts in English, Business and Publishing from Wimbledon College and the University of the Arts London (formerly London College of Printing and Graphic Arts). She lives in Atlanta with her husband and growing family.

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