I just finished The Woman Who Smashed Codes a little while ago for my book club. It was a good read. I would recommend it to those who enjoy biographies about strong women, WWI to WWII era, spies, and code-breaking.
Here’s what I liked…
- Elizebeth Friedman is a seriously cool person. She is smart, independent, and pioneered code-breaking in the United States. She held her ground in a field dominated by men and saved countless lives by breaking crucial codes during both world wars. Plus she spent a lot of time catching Nazi spies, which is so cool. She was a true hero.
- The subject matter of the book is fascinating. I know nothing about code-breaking and it was so interesting to read about such a mysterious and often romanticized field.
- I learned about South America’s situation during WWII. I had never learned about what South America did during WWII and had kind of wondered why they weren’t helping out! Turns out they had plenty of things going on. I find it curious that this piece of history was never covered in any of my history classes…
Here’s what I didn’t like…
- The writing style has some serious issues. Fagone would repeatedly build scenes up to a climax only to either leave it unresolved or give a resolution that was super underwhelming. After a few instances, this tactic became extremely annoying. I suspect this technique was used to try and jazz up otherwise unexciting historical accounts, but it only served to annoy me.
- This book is way too long. I listened to the audiobook, which is thirteen and a half hours, and I had a really hard time staying interested through the whole thing. My guess is that Fagone had so much raw material to parse through that it was challenging trimming it down. In any case, I lost interest several times. It actually took me about two months to listen to the whole thing because I kept giving up.
- This might be a petty criticism, but it reads too much like a biography and not enough like fiction. I saw reviews that raved about how incredible this story is and because of this, it is a page-turner that reads like fiction. This is a lie! It is an incredible story, but this does not mean that it reads like fiction. I often struggle with nonfiction because I get bored. I got bored a lot with this book, despite Elizebeth’s story being incredible.
3 out of 5 stars
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See more of my reviews at http://goodtalesediting.com/blog.