BRC Book Group Discussion, Wednesday, April 18
The next Bellevue Rotary Book Group discussion will be Wednesday, April 18, from 7:00‑9:00PM. Thanks to Elaine Heller for offering to host this meeting. The next book for discussion will be “The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies,” by Jason Fagone.
If you have an ODD numbered birth year, please bring a bottle of wine to share.
If you (your partner) plan on participating, please RSVP to Margaret Doman.
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NATIONAL BESTSELLER, NPR Best Book of 2017
From the Back Cover
In 1916, a young Quaker schoolteacher and poetry scholar named Elizebeth Smith was hired by an eccentric tycoon to find the secret messages he believed were embedded in Shakespeare’s plays. She moved to the tycoon’s lavish estate outside of Chicago expecting to spend her days poring through old books. But the rich man’s close ties to the U.S. Government, and the urgencies of war, quickly transformed Elizebeth’s mission. She soon learned to apply her skills to an exciting new venture: codebreaking — the solving of secret messages without knowledge of the key. Working alongside her on the estate was William Friedman, a Jewish scientist who would become her husband and lifelong codebreaking partner. Elizebeth and William were in many ways the Adam and Eve of the National Security Agency, the U.S. institution that monitors and intercepts foreign communications to glean intelligence.
In The Woman Who Smashed Codes, Jason Fagone chronicles the life of this extraordinary woman who played an integral role in our nation’s history — from the Great War to the Cold War. He traces Elizebeth’s developing career through World War I, Prohibition, and the struggle against fascism. She helped catch gangsters and smugglers, exposed a Nazi spy ring in South America, and fought a clandestine battle of wits against Hitler’s Reich, cracking multiple versions of the Enigma machine used by German operatives to conceal their communications. And through it all, she served as muse to her husband, a master of puzzles, who astonished friends and foes alike. Inside an army vault in Washington, he worked furiously to break Purple, the Japanese version of Enigma — and eventually succeeded, at a terrible cost to his personal life.
Fagone unveils for the first time America’s codebreaking history through the prism of one remarkable woman’s life, bringing into focus the unforgettable events and colorful personalities that shaped the modern intelligence community. Rich in detail, The Woman Who Smashed Codes pays tribute to an unsung hero whose story belongs alongside those of other great female technologists, like Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper, and whose oft‑hidden contributions altered the course of the century.
A Sampling of Reviews:
“The Woman Who Smashed Codes … has drawn comparisons to Hidden Figures, though we think this one is better. In journalist Jason Fagone’s deft hands, we not only learn about a lost national treasure, but also get new insight into the history of our country at war.” (New York Post)
“This is the best work of nonfiction I’ve ever read — no hyperbole … Fagone has painstakingly worked backward to piece together a truth that has been buried for too long. In the process, he has helped Friedman gain recognition as the American hero she was.” (MIT Technology Review)
“In The Woman Who Smashed Codes, journalist Jason Fagone recreates a world and a cast of characters so utterly fascinating they will inhabit the psyches of its readers long after the book has been read.” (Associated Press)
“One of the year’s best reads, it is both deeply researched and beautifully told.” (The Philadelphia Inquirer)