Wednesday 27 October 2021

A Discovering Diamonds review of Secrets at Bletchley Park by Margaret Dickinson

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Fictional drama
1940s / WWII

"Two young women from very different backgrounds meet in the Second World War and are plunged into a life where security and discretion are paramount. But both have secrets of their own to hide . . . In 1929, life for ten-year-old Mattie Price, born and raised in the back streets of Sheffield, is tough. With a petty thief for a father and a mother who turns to the bottle to cope with her husband’s brutish ways, it is left to the young girl and her brother, Joe, to feed and care for their three younger siblings. But Mattie has others rooting for her too. The Spencer family, who live at the top of the same street, and Mattie’s teachers recognize that the girl is clever beyond her years and they, and Joe, are determined that she shall have the opportunity in life she deserves. Victoria Hamilton, living in the opulence of London’s Kensington, has all the material possessions that a young girl could want. But her mother, Grace, a widow from the Great War, is cold and distant, making no secret of the fact that she never wanted a child. Grace lives her life in the social whirl of upper-class society, leaving Victoria in the care of her governess and the servants. At eleven years old, Victoria is sent to boarding school where, for the first time in her young life, she is able to make friends of her own age. Mattie and Victoria are both set on a path that will bring them together at Bletchley Park in May 1940. An unlikely friendship between the two young women is born and together they will face the rest of the war keeping the nation’s secrets and helping to win the fight. They can tell no one, not even their families, about their work or even where they are. But keeping secrets is second nature to both of them . . ."

Mattie and Victoria, two young ladies very different in character, upbringing and class, yet they discover they have much in common with each other. Mattie has had a hard life with difficult parents, Victoria has had everything she ever wanted that money could provide - except a loving mother.

Bletchley Park, the centre for intelligence and code breaking during World War Two, throws the two women together and their friendship grows. Only those of high intelligence,or expert capabilities were seconded to Bletchley, so we know from the start that there is something particularly special abut our two heroines. 

The majority of the story, however, is set in the pre-war years, where the two girls fight the challenges of daily life to survive.

They are worthwhile characters, you want to root for them both, one criticism, however is would girls from such highly different class levels become such close friends? On the other hand, Bletchley (and the war) threw many diverse people together, so why not? Some of the story was a little predicatble, but that is the nature of this type of genre -- it isn't a mystery or surprising adventure story, so we'll not criticise the author for that.

A pleasant read, nicely written with characters to enjoy.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Mary Chapple
 e-version reviewed

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