It’s my fault and not Robert Harris’ that I haven’t been able to rate this novel more highly. I bought it a few years ago, on sale at the local bookstore, fresh from having read and enjoyed Imperium. From memory, having seen the movie adaptation a few years previously also influenced my purchase.
The premise is a good one: it’s an espionage story set in Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, which during World War II was the site of the UK’s main decryption establishment. This is where ciphers generated by the German Enigma machine were decrypted. There’s a fair bit of information about code breaking in the narrative. Unfortunately, I overestimated my ability to understand the process. Harris’ presumably simplified version of how it all worked went straight over my head, as did my husband’s even more simplified version. Mathematics and my brain are not a good combination, so what is arguably the most interesting aspect of the novel completely escaped me.
What was left was a moderately interesting story with characters I didn’t really care about. Towards the end I was skimming and just wanted it to be over so that I could move on to something more engaging. I feel a bit bad about this, because there’s nothing wrong with Harris’ writing. In fact, his writing is pretty good and I’d be more than happy to read some more of his work. This was just the wrong novel for me. That said, I’m now interested in visiting the museum at Bletchley Park at some point. Maybe if I see an Enigma machine I'll actually understand what encryption and code breaking during WWII was all about.