I first read Code Girls by Liza Mundy in April 2018, and this review was originally posted on my Goodreads account then. Some edits and expansions have been made to this review.
This book was a great look at a less known part of WWII history, focusing on the experiences of women recruited by the US Navy and Army to work on codebreaking units, seeking to decode Japanese and German messages. Mundy follows certain women more than others, delving into their training, work, home lives, and the overall experience during wartime. It’s detailed, thoughtful, and quite well-written.
Some passages about the actual code-breaking work are a little dry and technical, but also pretty interesting. However, Mundy intersperses these more difficult sections with context, explaining what was going on in the war, some of the political and social mechanisms that enabled these women to even be in these positions, and the results of their efforts. So despite the complex descriptions of encoding and decoding information, I found most everything about this book fascinating.
But the best bits of this book are, without a doubt, about the women’s lives, and how the war enabled them to — at least for a while — have a professional, meaningful work experience that allowed women to excel in science/math areas in a way they had never done so before. It is an inspiring story and I’m glad at how Mundy treated these intelligent women with respect and thoughtfulness. The code-breakers are just normal people, in the end, not some sort of supernaturally intelligent band of geniuses. And I really enjoyed getting to know each of them.
Overall rating: 8.5/10
Let me know your thoughts on Code Girls, or share what the best book about WWII is for you!