THE SUNDAY REVIEW | MR. CHURCHILL’S SECRETARY – SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL

Mr. Churchill's Secretary - Susan Elia MacNeal

London, 1940. Winston Churchill has just been sworn in, war rages across the Channel, and the threat of a Blitz looms larger by the day. But none of this deters Maggie Hope. She graduated at the top of her college class and possesses all the skills of the finest minds in British intelligence, but her gender qualifies her only to be the newest typist at No. 10 Downing Street. Her indefatigable spirit and remarkable gifts for codebreaking, though, rival those of even the highest men in government, and Maggie finds that working for the prime minister affords her a level of clearance she could never have imagined—and opportunities she will not let pass. In troubled, deadly times, with air-raid sirens sending multitudes underground, access to the War Rooms also exposes Maggie to the machinations of a menacing faction determined to do whatever it takes to change the course of history.

Ensnared in a web of spies, murder, and intrigue, Maggie must work quickly to balance her duty to King and Country with her chances for survival. And when she unravels a mystery that points toward her own family’s hidden secrets, she’ll discover that her quick wits are all that stand between an assassin’s murderous plan and Churchill himself.

In this daring debut, Susan Elia MacNeal blends meticulous research on the era, psychological insight into Winston Churchill, and the creation of a riveting main character,  Maggie Hope, into a spectacularly crafted novel. – Goodreads

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I am a huge fan of a show by the name of The Bletchley Circle. Unfortunately some idiot the powers that be decided to cancel it, so I’ve been trying to find something to fill the void ever since.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about The Bletchley Circle was a brilliant British show set in the years directly after the second world war. The show follows a group of female friends who worked at Bletchley Park – a code-breaking division who were secretly decrypting German intelligence during the war. Of course, once the war was over, these women’s brilliant minds were put in storage as they were expected to return to the more traditional (read: limited and boring) roles of wife and mother.

Needless to say, this transition did not always go smoothly. The show sees the group of women re-united, and despite their efforts to assimilate, they can’t help but see more going on in the world around them – including mysteries that need solving. They can’t help but be brilliant.

This book appealed to me because it was set in the same era (though earlier – this first book took place just as the Blitz began), and also featured a strong female lead who chafes against traditional gender roles, yearning to prove that she has more than what it takes to work alongside the men.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The setting is intriguing to me (I recently found out that my grandmother became a reader after passing man long hours reading in shelters during the Blitz) and stepping into WWII London was at once familiar and jarringly foreign. Both the time-period and the context were flawlessly evoked, and I had no trouble imagining it as I read.

The story itself didn’t lag, brought just the right amount of character development and dark suspense to ensure that putting the book down was next to impossible. It’s a relatively quick read, but an entertaining and enjoyable one – I’ll be rationing out the remaining books in the series (there are 4 in total so far) and saving them for times when I just need a book I know I won’t have any trouble getting into.

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Book Title: Mr. Churchill’s Secretary
Author: Susan Elia MacNeal
Series: Maggie Hope #1
Edition: Paperback
Published By: Bantam Books
Released: 2012
Genre: Historical Fiction, WWII, Suspense
Pages: 349

Date Read: October 11-19, 2014
Rating: 8/10

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