Check it out! Women and coding

Welcome to Check It Out! CALS Collection Development staff will periodically post information about titles in the collection that we hope you will find useful and want to check out. We’ll probably focus less on blockbusters and bestsellers and more on publicizing titles that you might overlook.

So, let’s get to it.

In recent years there has been a trend of nonfiction books written about the important but previously unheralded work done by women. Examples include Nathalia Holt’s Rise of the Rocket Girls and Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures.  Two new nonfiction books that focus on the contributions of previously unknown women in the field of cryptography in World War II are Liza Mundy’s Code Girls and Jason Fagone’s The Woman Who Smashed Codes. I wouldn’t be surprised if one or both of these books become the basis for movies.

Code Girls

Code Girls tells the story of the more than 10,000 female codebreakers in the U. S. Army & Navy during WWII. While keeping a vow of secrecy about their jobs these women performed work vital to the war effort that shortened the war and saved lives. Library Journal says that it is “indispensable and highly recommended”.

The Woman Who Smashed Codes

The Woman Who Smashed Codes focuses on the life of one code-breaker, Elizebeth Smith Friedman, who used her cryptographical skills to break codes in both World Wars. Between the wars she broke codes of gangsters and rumrunners during Prohibition. William F. Friedman, Elizebeth’s husband and fellow codebreaker, who is considered the father of the National Security Agency, is also prominently featured. Booklist says that it “reads more like a thriller than nonfiction”.

If you like code breaking and cryptography but prefer fiction two new books that you might want to try are Lucy Ribchester’s The Amber Shadows and Rhys Bowen’s In Farleigh Field.

The Amber Shadows

The Amber Shadows relates the story of Honey Deschamps, who while working as a transcriber of decoded German messages at Britain’s Bletchley Park, begins receiving packages with coded messages. Meanwhile her brother is in mortal danger, and her friend and co-worker disappears. Are the messages from a family member? The Nazis? Or, is her loyalty being tested by the authorities at Bletchley?

In Farleigh Field

In Rhys Bowen’s In Farleigh Field WWII arrives at the ancestral home of Lord Westerham and his five daughters when a soldier with a failed parachute falls to this death. Family friend Ben Cresswell, MI5 agent & vicar’s son, (with the help of middle daughter, Lady Pamela Sutton, a codebreaker at Bletchley Park) is tasked with determining if the dead soldier was a spy. Did I mention that Ben is secretly in love with Lady Pamela? Or that older daughter Lady Margot has been arrested by the Gestapo? Booklist calls it “Downtown Abbey meets World War II”.