Tuesday, 26 May 2020

The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein

The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein
Published by Bloomsbury Children's Books on the 14th May 2020.

A More Than One Challenge read

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Windyedge Airfield, Scotland. World War II. 

Louisa Adair, newly orphaned and shunned for her mixed-race heritage, has come here to the edge of the world to look after an old lady with a dark past. Jamie Beaufort-Stuart is a flight lieutenant whose squadron is posted to the airfield over winter. Ellen McEwan is a young woman held hostage by the German pilot who lands at Windyedge one wild stormy night carrying a terrible secret.

Three young people desperate to make a difference in a war that has decimated their families, friends and country. When the means to change the course of history falls into their hands, how will they use it? And when the enemy comes looking for them, who will have the courage to strike back?

A thrilling story of wartime secrets, international intrigue and wild courage from the award-winning author of Code Name Verity, with three young heroes you'll never forget.

The Enigma Game is set slightly earlier in time than my first Elizabeth Wein novel (which I also loved!), Code Name Verity. It branches off from that book to expand upon Jamie Beaufort-Stuart's bomber pilot experiences and a brief period of the Second World War in Scotland. Most of the British-set WW2 fiction (and even nonfiction) books I have previously read seemed to focus either on London or places along the south coast of England so I was keen to learn more about the Scottish campaigns. Wein has again undertaken a lot of good research for her story which I felt had a strong sense of authenticity to it even though the central adventure is of course fictional. What particularly shone through for me were the diverse representations throughout the story. While elements of our media and politicians are currently trying to whitewash the British World War 2 narrative to fit their own narrow perspectives, The Enigma Game accurately depicts the chaotic reality of so many different people drawn together from all across the world. I can quite believe that three native languages across a single bomber crew was not unusual.

Wein's character creation for The Enigma Game really makes the story come alive and, while the book's synopsis understandably highlights the young people because of its young adult target audience, my favourite was elderly opera singer Jane Warner. Initially interred in a prison camp due to her natal German nationality, Jane is a wonderfully stubborn woman who refuses to let physical frailty stand in her way. I loved how Wein challenges preconceptions through other people's reactions to Jane, Louisa and also Ellen. Her portrayals of racism, xenophobia and sexism show how hurtful unthinking comments and attitudes can be and how easily we can all be swayed by assumptions based on a first sight.

Overall, The Enigma Game is an exciting wartime adventure story. It is told from the points of view of several narrators so there is always a very real sense of tension and I was so swept up into this tale that I almost read all of it in a single day! Although intended for a younger audience, the book's depth meant that I never felt as though I was reading a young adult novel. Instead I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in this world.

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  1. I heard a lot about Code Name Verity but never picked it up - I definitely need to. I am glad you could also love this spin off to that book here. And yes, the diversity and mix of people during the wars was quite new at those times as the world was not as international as it is now. I like that this book depicts the international element to it well.

    1. I think you'd enjoy both Code Name Verity and The Enigma Game. They're both essentially action stories, but with a lot going on under the surface narrative too