Book club questions for The Rose Code by Kate Quinn takes a closer look at this historical fiction novel about female codebreakers. There will spoilers so for more context about the book, check out my spoiler-free review first.
I read The Rose Code several days ago and I’m still thinking about this novel! While I thought it was too long, it’s definitely an impactful story. I’m curious if you all thought the story was too lengthy—let me know! But beyond the length, I loved all the historical details about life as a codebreaker. And Osla’s romance with Prince Phillip was entertaining as well.
So in exciting news, The Rose Code will be made into a TV series! I think it will work super well in that format.
1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart.
1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter–the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger–and their true enemy–closer…
Book Club Questions for The Rose Code
- Did you know much about the codebreakers at Bletchley Park prior to reading the novel?
- Why was working as a codebreaker the right path for Osla, Mab and Beth? What did each woman hope to achieve at Bletchley Park?
- Could you have worked as a codebreaker back then? Why or why not?
- We see the trio become good friends but in 1947—they are enemies. Why do you think the author decided to tell the story in the two timelines? Did it impact how you read about the friendship in the early ’40s?
- Each woman experiences a romance during their time at Bletchley Park. For Osla, it’s a romance with Prince Phillip. Do you think it would have lasted longer if Osla could have told him about her work? Or were they always fated just to be friends?
- Mab’s romance with Francis is sweet but then tragic. The author spends a lot of time talking about Francis’ PTSD from fighting in WW1—why was it important for the author to include those sections about the harsh realities of war?
- And Beth begins a relationship with the married Harry. What drew them together?
- We eventually learn the true nature of the betrayal. Both Francis and Mab’s daughter is tragically killed in a bomb strike. Mab blames Osla for not holding more tightly to her daughter and eventually they all find out that Beth knew that attack would happen. Let’s talk in detail about this betrayal.
- Beth believes she made the right call because she couldn’t sacrifice her oath. Do you believe she was in the wrong? What would you have done if you were Beth?
- Throughout the novel, we know there was a traitor at Bletchley Park. Who did you originally think it was? Were you surprised it was Giles?
- What did you think about the ending?
- The Rose Code will be made in a TV series. Who do you think should play the main parts? What do you hope is included in the show and also expanded upon?
Hope you enjoyed book club questions for The Rose Code! Here are some more recommendations and links to book club questions.
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.
1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.
Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.
The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
For a story that looks at the aftermath of WWII, check out The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner.
Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.
One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people―a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others―could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.
A powerful and moving novel that explores the tragedies and triumphs of life, both large and small, and the universal humanity in us all, Natalie Jenner’s The Jane Austen Society is destined to resonate with readers for years to come.