Friday, August 5, 2011

Review: Enigma by Robert Harris

Title: Enigma
Author: Robert Harris
Publisher: Arrow
Pages: 464
Rating: 3/5 Stars

I found Enigma a compelling page turner. I was able to spend large chunks of time reading which is a plus. Harris weaves a very intriguing mystery into the greater struggle of breaking the Enigma machine. Like Jericho and Hester I really wanted to know what happened to Claire - even if I didn't like her much. I'll never understand the appeal and loyalty these bitchy, self-centered characters demand, but that's another story. I really did want to know not only where she disappeared to, but why and because of whom. Like Jericho, as soon as that mystery was solved I felt a sense of release and was able to move on. I didn't need to know more.

I gave the novel three stars because Harris' writing style felt a little...dry. That's not quite the right word, but will suffice. Also - and this is my fault, not his - my brain is not wired to comprehend code breaking and math on the level required of these cryptanalysts. The sections that dealt heavily with exactly how the Enigma machine worked and how codes were broken did little for me and I think my eyes glazed over a bit until I arrived at the punchline.

I think this book's biggest strength is the picture it paints of every day life in England during the war. This isn't about the devastation of the Blitz or the trauma of serviving an attack. This is the toil of surviving, every day, under the strain of the black outs, the food rationing, the lack of basically everything. What I took away most from this book is what I always take away from anything having to deal with WWII - the people who lived it and fought in it are fascinating and inspirational.

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