When her mother is killed in the Blitz, Louisa Adair feels she has lost everything. The country she has called home since her family left Jamaica is not a friendly place for an orphaned girl with brown skin. She finds work looking after an old lady at a pub near an airfield in Scotland. There she meets Ellen, a drive for the RAF, and Jamie, a pilot – two other young people just as exhausted by the war and just as desperate to fight back.
Then the impossible happens. A German defector lands at the airfield carrying a precious package, and Louisa, Jamie and Ellen find themselves hiding a code-breaking machine that could alter the course of the war. But there are powerful people hunting for the machine, and soon Louisa and her friends are playing a deadly game that threatens everything they hold dear.
Title: The Enigma Game
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Genre: YA Historical
Publication Date: 14th May 2020
Page Count: 424
Hello and welcome to my stop on the blog tour, discussing the wonderful book that is ‘The Enigma Game’ by Elizabeth Wein. Before I get into the review and start telling you how wonderful this book is, I would just like to point out a few trigger warnings as this book deals with issues surrounding the war, racism, death, WW2 and a hint at suicide.
I must confess, I’m not usually one for historical fiction, unless it involves witches, medieval or the Greek gods, but reading this has definitely opened my eyes to a new genre that I love reading. Throughout we follow three protagonists: Ellen, Jamie and Louisa as we see the world through their eyes and how each one experiences and is affected by different aspects of the war. Despite all being from varying backgrounds: Louisa being brought up in Jamaica, Jamie from a wealthy ‘posh’ family and Ellen a traveller, all three characters create a bond that is untouchable, through life-threatening secrets, trauma and respect. I loved each one of these characters equally, and would protect any one of them as if they were my child.
I loved that although we got the point of view from each of the characters, information was left out about each persons situation to be revealed later by another one of the protagonists, which really helped the flow of the book and progressed it whilst still keeping it interesting. I never longed to reach another characters POV, something that rarely happens with a book that has multiple protagonists.
Although this book is categorised as a YA novel it deals with such traumatic and unthinkable things that you almost forget how young the characters are. I liked how Louisa was thrust into such a terrible situation as it showed how many young people, during the war, were forced to grow up way before their time and experience the most horrific things. Despite this, Louisa still came across as a 15 year old girl. It is common for YA novels to give a character an age but never let them act like it. Louisa wasn’t just scared about the war, she was excited by it – eager to get involved and help anyway she can. Her excitement arose from both the big things and the small and much like Ellen and Jamie, although all three are incredibly strong characters they all have their vulnerabilities that remind you how young they actually are. Neither of them have the luxury to act their appropriate age, but each still maintain some of their childish charm (some more than others) such as curiosity and adventure.
I was very much surprised at the lack of romance in this novel and was thrilled when it failed to show up. A common trope of YA novels, despite their attaching genre, is a romance of some sort and god forbid, a love triangle. Romance was touched upon ever so lightly, but it came and then it went because it was not needed. The story and the characters knew what was the most important thing and that the discovery of the Enigma Machine, brought by a rogue German to intercept the oppositions messages. This isn’t to say that romance didn’t play a major role in the war, because it did, love brought a lot of people home and kept them going even in their final moments, but for this story is wasn’t necessary. However, a particular characters love for their dogs was beautiful.
It was refreshing to read a book where the protagonists are all young and attractive and not have one of the main storylines following the premise of the usual ‘will they or won’t they’ scenario.
Much like the war, things seemed to happen quite quickly in this book. One second everything is fine and the next, without any warning, all hell has broken loose and there’s no stopping it. You feel helpless and want to help the characters you love but all you can do is read on and hope that everything resolves itself. It really did encapsulate the chaos of war and how literally anything can happen.
I truly enjoyed and cherished this book and I can’t wait to read more historical fiction and novels by Elizabeth Wein.