The Rose Code Book Club Questions and Discussion Guide

Reading The Rose Code for book club will give your group a great number of things to chat about. This historical fiction is told in a double timeline centered around WWII. It features three very different and unique women, each searching for a purpose. They take on a secret code breaking operation at Bletchley Park in England, eventually solving an unbreakable cipher.

This mystery novel is full of intrigue, love, courage, friendship, and even betrayal entwined with code breaking, espionage, and the horrors and tragedies of war. Be prepared for an in-depth conversation using these The Rose Code book club questions. The discussion guide features a book synopsis, questions, selected reviews, and some suggestions for some books similar to The Rose Code.

The Rose Code book club questions, Kate Quinn, book cover.

The Rose Code Synopsis

(We always chose to provide the publisher synopsis because we feel that it’s worthwhile to discuss whether the official book description actually squared with your experience of the book.)

The Rose Code, Kate Quinn

1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband.

Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart.

1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter–the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger–and their true enemy–closer…

10 Prompts: The Rose Code Book Club Questions

These questions have been tailored to this book’s specific reading experience, but if you want more ideas, we also have an article with 101 generic book club questions.

  1. In the author’s notes, she explains some of what was fact and what was fiction in the book. Did any part of these revelations surprise you? Did you know anything about Bletchley Park prior to reading this book?
  1. Why do you think the author decided to tell the story in two different timelines with three different perspectives? Did you find it difficult to follow when it switched back and forth between 1940 and 1947 timelines?
  1. Did your opinion of the novel change as you read it? Did your opinion change about any of the characters as the story progressed? Which of the characters did you find the most interesting?
  1. “Duty, honor, oaths – they are not just for soldiers. Not just for men.” Females have been on the front lines of war for a long time, though they are often overlooked and uncelebrated. Why do you think women are often overlooked and underestimated? 
  1. Discuss how WWII, despite being a horrific event in history, provided opportunities for women. How did the war affect women’s lives both positively and negatively?
  1. How does the author explore the theme of betrayal? Did you feel Beth was deserving of what happened to her after her betrayal of the other two women? What other themes are explored in the story?
  1. During the novel, it was revealed there was a traitor at Bletchley Park, did you know who it was or were you surprised to find that it was Giles? How did you feel after finding out that Olsa was engaged to Giles?
  1. “People suspect women of hanky-panky. But they never suspect women of espionage. No one thinks women can keep secrets.” Do you think this gives women any advantages in certain aspects of life? 
  1.  How do the relationships between the three main female characters change over the course of the novel, between the two timelines? 
  1. “Hitler really would pitch an absolute screamer if he knew a lot of girls scratching pencils in Bletchley are turning his war inside out.” Do you think you could be a code breaking espionage woman during WWII solving German ciphers? Why or why not?
  1. Bonus Question: If you were a film director, and made a film based on this novel, who would you cast as the main characters of Mab, Olsa, and Beth? Also, who would you cast as Giles the betrayer?

Selected Reviews for The Rose Code

“An interesting read that was well researched! I hadn’t read about this exact topic before. The novel had a good mix of history, romance, and mystery. I liked the three main female protagonists and their unique stories! I thought that the two timelines were equally interesting and progressively intertwined […]” 

“This could have been such a good book but the author decided to include things that are a turn off to me, just so often throughout the book. Secondly, I was more interested in the codes and Blechley Park, but this was more a commentary on society and the romantic/lustful relationships. There are so many other books about women and code-breaking out there now that are more worthwhile.”

“I absolutely loved reading “The Rose Code”. A wonderful combination of historical fiction and betrayals. We are taken on a journey of three fascinating women working at Bletchley Park during World War ll and sworn to secrecy regarding the work they are doing. Once again Kate Quinn has done an incredible job of research and writing this must read book.”

“What a disappointing mess! From the moment I heard that Kate Quinn had a new book coming out, I was eager to read it because I had enjoyed her previous book, The Huntress. But from almost the first sentences of The Rose Code, I knew it was a fluffy book, not serious historical fiction […] I think Quinn did a disservice to the women of Bletchley Park by writing a novel that feels forced, artificial and fluffy […]”

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Books Like The Rose Code

We’re listing a few pics below, but if you want more, we’ve got a whole article suggesting 10 books like The Rose Code, which key in on the time period, setting, character arc or themes. And if you really like Kate Quinn, we’ve also got a discussion guide for The Diamond Eye.

If you’re mad for historical fiction with war themes, we also have discussion guides for Pip Williams’ The Dictionary of Lost Words, Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko, Heather Morris’ The Tattooist of Auschwitz, and Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale. And also this whole list of books like All the Light We Cannot See.

The Princess Spy, Larry Loftis 

Based on a true story, this spy thriller is about a young American woman named Aline Griffith who wants to help out in WWII and joins the OSS. The OSS was forerunner of the CIA, and Aline becoming one of their most daring WWII spies in history. Full of adventure and danger, Aline engages in deep-cover espionage to counter Nazi tactics in Madrid, eventually marrying European royalty and becoming the Countess of the Romanones. 


Lilac Girls (#1 Woolsey-Ferriday), Martha Hall Kelly

This historical fiction tells a intertwined story of three different women whose lives intersect during WWII. Kasia, a Polish teenager, was sent to Nazi concentration camp, Herta a German doctor who works in a camp, and Caroline, a French consultant and NY socialite. These women’s lives intersect and they help save thirty-five Polish women from Nazi concentration camps.

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