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Showing 1-10 of 90 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 193 reviews
on July 2, 2015
Robert Harris is known for writing high quality historical/alternative history fiction. His 'Fatherland' imagined a world where Germany won WWII. This book tells the story of Tom Jericho, a fictionalized composite of the brilliant mathematicians that worked tirelessly to break the infamous Enigma code employed by the Germans. Jericho is a student of Alan Turing (the real-life father of computer science) who gets recruited to work at Bletchley Park, Britain's code-breaking center. There he stumbles into an ill-fated love affair with an enigmatic (pun intended) woman named Claire, your prototypical femme fatale.

What follows is a story of great intrigue and suspense, full of tense moments and a truly unexpected plot twist at the end. The descriptions of cold and dreary England, Jericho's descent into depression, ordinary Brits struggling to cope with the hardships of the war are all very memorable and make this book into something more than a mere thriller.
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I found out about the book because, thanks to amazon Instant Video’s malfunction, I ended up viewing the credits for the movie which of course included Robert Harris’ book. And that is how I came to read this novel. And (if like me you have only seen the movie) I highly recommend you read the book. Because the many inconsistencies in the movie are resolved here. (Just one example: Hester doesn’t transform in less than 12 hours from a glorified secretary into a world-class cryptographer.) And the book is true to the real drama surrounding Shark. The initial hints from the Poles—the only ones who truly took Enigma seriously at the start of the war, the ten months it took to break the naval codes as crucial supplies and men perished at the bottom of an Atlantic that came to be called the cruel seas, the blackout again (though the reason for the blackout is poetic license), and the break again, the American involvement—all of it really did happen though perhaps not in the way the book portrays. And the wonderful thing about the book is that it does not try to embellish that story; Harris knows that the story of the code-breaking itself is dramatic enough. All he needs to do (which he does brilliantly) is paint on this ready-made canvas a tale of intrigue sure but a tale above all of people caught up in a world war.

It makes for great reading. I recommend it.
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on March 24, 2017
Saw the movie first, and enjoyed it. Became very interested in the Bletchley Park decoders and read several biographies. Ordered this book a few years after seeing the movie, and find that I like it even more. Great detail about the Enigma machines, the bombes used for decoding, and the arcane intellectual practices required. Harris clearly did a lot of research. Liked the characters and the plot. Highly recommend this book to those who enjoy WWII fiction.
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on April 24, 2014
I'm a fan of Robert Harris' historic novels, and although this isn't his best which is in my opinion, "A Gentleman and a Spy" (on the Dreyfus case and aftermath), it is well done. The audio version is excellent, and although this book was made into a TV movie, the book is much better, different in many respects, and a good tale, based on the work of the British code breakers during WWII. I enjoyed it very much..
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on December 15, 2009
NOTE: This review contains major spoilers! Do not read the review until you have read the book.

Well-crafted, deftly constructed, persuasive mystery from Robert Harris, as usual combining his signature ability to make historical events come alive, sympathetic and richly drawn characters, skillful writing and pacing.

Hard to fault the book, whose structure, by the way, is intended to mimic the Enigma itself, with its wheels within wheels giving new meaning to strings of symbols, each wheel here being a new configuration or interpretation of some character's motivation.

Some excellent descriptions of the mental exercise of cryptanalysis, and of problem-solving generally. I recommend by the way Michael Chabon's novel "Final Solution" as well for its insight into mathematicians' psyches.

Wonderful touches on life in the English countryside during the war, and in Bletchley generally, having the ring of authenticity and the warmth of humanism and humor.

Some plot points, unfortunately, I found implausible.

(1) No very good reason was provided for Puck to have to get a gun, much less to steal one, which only increases the risk to him.

(2) No reason for Edward to have been told so much about Claire. His story contradicts himself - he would have been left out of the loop entirely, it seems to me.

(3) The purpose of Claire's supposed security status seemed very unclear to me. All she actually did was disrupt the life of Bletchley's best cryptanalyst, namely Jericho, and cause a huge security risk to Puck. Surely she could have made up to Jericho once the effect of her breakup on his psyche was clear. The plan of having a dalliance with Jericho, then breaking his heart, seems designed to minimize his effectiveness.

(4) The book argues that Puck could not killed Claire (reasoned Tom) because he was under surveillance; but if true, all the harder it would have been to have carried out the scheme he actually did.

(5) Hard to believe Tom's insight about the fourth rotor not being used at the beginning was really as amazing as presented. Seems like the first thing they'd do is try a 3-rotor solution. But here, maybe I am not fully grasping something, so I doubt this criticism is valid.

Nevertheless, the way the book evokes so powerfully a remarkable time and place, with its intersection of cultures - Victorian England and modern England; Russia and Germany; paper and computer; past and present; individualism and society; is unforgettable.
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on May 21, 2017
Robert Harris produces one fine read after another.
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on May 14, 2014
This is the first Robert Harris book I have read. I really enjoyed it as have visited the Bletchley Park museum and I am always interested in stories about the WWII period. It was a bit difficult understanding the various complexities of activities at Bletchley Park but the story really swept me along and surprises all the way, especially towards the end. Robert Harris writes so well and his descriptions of places and people are excellent. One gets quite involved in the personalities - they Stay with you after you have finished the book.

I am now about to read An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris.
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on April 6, 2016
The first 3/4 of Enigma is a good, taut novel set in Bletchley Park during World War II. The depiction of the deciphering process, and of the lives of the people there and in England generally, is solid and compelling. Then, in the last 100 pages, it tears your heart out. I can't, really say anything more than that. It is the best book I have read so far this year.
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on May 16, 2014
First, I read the book by the same name. When I found there was a movie version, I had to watch it! Of course, the book is much more serious and the storyline differs here and there but the movie was fast moving and held my interest. Kate Winslet gives a nice, solid performance and keeps her clothes on as well! Since watching "The Bletchley Circle" on PBS, I have become interested in Bletchley Park so this movie fits right in with WWII and the codebreakers.
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on September 25, 2015
Take time to understand and get familiar with the coding and decoding jargon. The book starts slowly and it is only when you have reached half of the book that the thrill takes you. The plot is OK. Overall quite a good book but perhaps not as thrilling as other books that I have read from the author.
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