Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Nonfiction November: Fiction/Nonfiction Book Pairing

This week's topic is hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, and it is a topic near and dear to my heart: books that go together. 

One of my favorite nonfiction books this year was A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II, by Sonia Purnell, and one of my favorite novels of 2020 was Code Name Hélène, by Ariel Lawhon. Both books were about female spies during WWII who helped the French Resistance. Both were absolutely riveting. While Code Name Hélène was a novel, it was based on the life of a real person.

Here's what I wrote about A Woman of No Importance back in August: 

This is one of the best books of 2021. Could not put it down. Virginia Hall was incredible--brave, passionate, capable. She persisted. Despite a prosthetic leg. Despite the old boys network. Despite the Gestapo, betrayals, and red tape, she really, truly helped liberate France and end WWII. This is non-fiction at its finest. I started out listening to an audio version but switched to print because there are a lot of names and locations and organizations to keep track of, but a truly marvelous read. 

And here's my blurb about Code Name Helene:

I read a few reviews from other bloggers and felt this would be good. WWII, set in Marseille and the Dordogne region of France, French resistance - premise great! To be honest, during the first half I was not sure I would love it--the main character, Nancy, was a bit too perfect (beautiful, brilliant, brave, etc) but I was totally engrossed in the second half and couldn't put it down. Then, I read the afterword and learned that it was based on a real person who did all these extraordinary things.

Another nice matchup is the nonfiction book, Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win World War II, by Liza Mundy and The Rose Code, by Kate Quinn. The nonfiction is about Americans and The Rose Code is about their English counterparts working at Bletchley Park, but these two books go very nicely together and help to put the role women played in winning the war into much sharper focus. 

Side note - I loved The Rose Code so much that I listened to it a second time on a road trip. And there's a TV series under development based on the book!

Here's what I wrote about The Rose Code last spring: 

I loved the characters of The Rose Code, from socialite Osla who dated the future Duke of Edinburgh and who was based on the real-life Osla Benning to working girl Mab from London's East End to mousey Beth, and how they grew and developed and matured. The Bletchley Park setting was fascinating (now on my must-visit list) as was the process of code breaking. I loved reading about how the various departments contributed to the whole, mostly without the cogs in the machinery having an understanding of what role their cog played. Final note--the best part of the book is the last third. Reads like a thriller!

I do tend to read about a subject, whether that be code breaking and spies during WWII, or War of the Roses and Tudor history, or Italy, or Northumberland, or whatever else strikes a chord, so the matchups are usually not hard for me to make!

Hope you are all enjoying Nonfiction November.



  1. I enjoyed Code Girls and will check out the Rose Code. Thanks for the pairing!

  2. I love the idea of pairing A Woman of No Importance and Code Name Hélène... both are on my to read list. I was hoping to pair Code Girls and The Rose Code for my post this week, but I haven't managed to get that post written. It's been one of those weeks!

  3. The Rose Code and Code Girls is such a natural, perfect pairing!

  4. Excellent choices. I too loved Code Name Helene. Thanks for sharing

  5. Ooh, what a great pairing! I loved A Woman of No Importance and I've enjoyed some other books by Kate Quinn, so I'd definitely like to get to The Rose Code.

  6. What a great book pairing!

  7. Nice pairing, several friends have recommended this nonfiction. Another awesome novel on the theme is this one by Cara Black: https://wordsandpeace.com/2020/06/16/book-review-three-hours-in-paris/

    Here is my post: https://wordsandpeace.com/2021/11/08/nonfiction-november-2021-book-pairings/

  8. I thought about Woman of No Importance and Code Name Helene as a perfect pairing! Code Name Helene was close to reading nonfiction, it was based so much on the real person, and I found her fascinating. I haven't read Rose Code but I did love Code Girls, and I visited Bletchley Park a few years ago, I definitely recommend it. I didn't love Quinn's The Alice Network as much as most people did, but I'll check out this one.

    1. How cool that you have visited Bletchley Park. I would love to see the landscape and I trust the exhibits would have some Enigma machines and Bombe machines, and we could see the mechanics of WWII code breaking.

      For some reason, The Alice Network never got on my tbr list, not sure why not...

  9. Wow these books seem to dovetail nicely. I need still to get to these. I love these spy kinds of books. I'm glad to hear you liked The Rose Code ... I will put it back on my list!

  10. Ooh, love this pairing. I really enjoyed A Woman of No Importance and some Kate Quinn's earlier books, so The Rose Code seems like the perfect read for me.