Scoop Review of Books

Archive for July, 2015

Wartime Women

The Bletchley Girls. War, secrecy, love and loss:
The women of Bletchley Park tell their story

Tessa Dunlop (Hodder & Stoughton, $49.99)
Reviewed by Judith Nathan

Bletchley-001Coinciding as it does with the movie Imitation Game which focusses on Alan Turing breaking the Enigma code in Hut 6 at Bletchley Park (“BP”), this book is likely to attract a wide readership. It deserves to do so, as it illustrates that BP was very much more than Turing and his colleagues. The first astonishing fact I learned was the sheer scale of operations. The scope of the work was much wider than Enigma. It is estimated that 8,500 -10,000 people worked at BP during the war, 75% of them women. The workers often did not know how their work fitted in to the bigger picture and certainly did not know what went on in other parts of BP.

Tessa Dunlop, a broadcaster and historian, interviewed fifteen articulate women from amongst those who worked at BP: they had an average age of ninety. She has produced a very readable account of their varied experiences. In a decision that adds to the interest of this book, Dunlop included women (not counted in the 8,500-10,000) who worked at some of the satellite stations which fed data to Bletchley, for example one who monitored the communications of German shipping from Yorkshire.

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Māori Past and Present

Tangata Whenua: An illustrated history
by Atholl Anderson, Judith Binney and Aroha Harris
(Bridget Williams Books, $99.99)
Reviewed by Mark Derby

tangatawhenuacoverbwbwebsiteThis imposing tome seems more likely to be bought as a prestigious gift, or an adornment for the coffee table, than to become a carefully perused and frequently consulted addition to your personal book collection. In its heft, exceptional production values and omniscient tone, Tangata Whenua looms a bit like a Bentley in a downtown parking building – a distinguished and doomed reminder of a former literary age.

Even before reading the first word, its qualities are apparent in its heirloom materials, beautiful photo reproduction and classic, elegant page design. The superb production of my copy was only marred by a random and evidently unintended switch of typefaces in the middle of an essay on muttonbirding.
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