Review of The Enigma Game

The Enigma Game
by Elizabeth Wein
Middle School, High School    Little, Brown    426 pp.    g
5/20    978-1-368-01258-4    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-368-01651-3    $9.99

In this companion novel to Code Name Verity (rev. 5/12) and its prequel The Pearl Thief (rev. 5/17), and featuring characters from both, Wein takes her turn at spinning a thriller around Germany’s famous World War II code-maker/code-breaker, the Enigma machine. Louisa, fifteen and orphaned by the war, has arrived in a tiny Scottish village to work as companion to Jane, an elderly German-born ex-detainee. Louisa is impressed by her fellow tenant at the pub, Ellen, who is a volunteer driver for the local Royal Air Force base, and by Jamie Beaufort-Stuart, an RAF flight leader stationed nearby. She longs to do something to help win the war, too. In a strange turn of events, a pilot working for the German resistance leaves her a key that leads to an Enigma machine and its code settings. Between them, Louisa, Ellen, Jamie, and Jane gain access to information that changes the war for Jamie’s squadron, but draws German fire to their village. Told in the three young people’s voices, this cleverly plotted drama starts out slowly but escalates thrillingly. Thematically, the novel explores hidden and visible diversity through Louisa, whose mother was British and father was Jamaican; Ellen, a Traveller who censors her own voice and vocabulary in order to “pass”; and Jane, whose German origin, if widely known, would draw suspicion and ire. In sum, it is a rich work of historical fiction, wearing its period accuracy lightly (from the practical aspects of hot-water rationing to the features of military planes) and offering an unusual perspective on the war.

From the May/June 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Deirdre Baker
Deirdre Baker
Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the past tense.

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