Book Review: The Codebreakers by Alli Sinclair

The Codebreakers…

About the Book:

A compelling story about tenacity and friendship, inspired by the real codebreaking women of Australia’s top-secret Central Bureau in WWII.

1943, Brisbane: The war continues to devastate and the battle for the Pacific threatens Australian shores. For Ellie O’Sullivan, helping the war effort means utilising her engineering skills for Qantas as they evacuate civilians and deliver supplies to armed forces overseas. Her exceptional logic and integrity attract the attention of Central Bureau – an intelligence organisation working with England’s Bletchley Park codebreakers. But joining Central Bureau means signing a lifetime secrecy contract. Breaking it is treason.

With her country’s freedom at risk, Ellie works with a group of elite women who enter a world of volatile secrets; deciphering enemy communications to change the course of the war. Working under immense pressure, they form a close bond – yet there could be a traitor in their midst. Can the women uncover the culprit before it’s too late?

As Ellie struggles with the magnitude of the promise she’s made to her country, a wedge grows between her and those she holds dear. When the man she loves asks questions she’s forbidden to answer, how will she prevent the double life she’s leading from unravelling?

My Thoughts:

There is a wealth of themes explored in Alli Sinclair’s latest release, The Codebreakers, a novel inspired by the women who served in secret within the Australian Central Intelligence Bureau during WWII. It’s always interesting to me, to read about the war on our own shores and when that history features the bravery and sacrifice of women and the work they dedicated themselves to, then I am all the more interested.

The Codebreakers specifically chronicles the work of the “Garage Girls”, a small team of women who were ensconced in a suburban Brisbane garage cracking codes for the war in the Pacific. It has been said that their work in intelligence took at least two years off the war, saving countless lives. The research that has gone into this novel, specifically the parts about the intelligence work and codebreaking, is entirely impressive. For me, this is where the strength of the novel lay. I was less enamoured of the characters and their melodrama, to be honest, and I’m not a big fan of war time romance either, and this novel has quite a bit of romance going on, some of which tended to dilute the more important historical aspects of the story.

I admired how Alli spotlighted the many ways in which women, who were frankly doing extremely important work across all fields, were subjected to sexism and harassment on a daily basis. On the other hand, I also liked the way she demonstrated the appreciation many men had for the skills and service women were undertaking, thanking them for their service and trying to alleviate the actions of their counterparts who were less gracious and quite often, overtly sexist. The burden of keeping the secrets of war is an area of interest, so I enjoyed the examination of this, particularly at the end of the war, when the women were moving on and going back to lives that were entirely removed from the way they had been living for several years. Ellie’s inability to adapt to civilian life seemed to me to be quite realistic, likewise, the way in which the garage girls drifted away from each other was understandable; there would come a point in every person’s life where concealment would wear you down and you would seek an end to it, even if it meant losing once vital relationships.

All in all, The Codebreakers is an interesting read that pays homage to an important part of Australia’s wartime history. It has renewed my sense of admiration for the generation of women who kept Australia ticking over and safe throughout WWII and I am pleased that for many of them, their efforts are continuing to be honoured.


Thanks is extended to HarperCollins Publishers Australia for providing me with a copy of The Codebreakers for review.

About the Author:

Alli Sinclair, an adventurer at heart, has won multiple awards for her writing. She is Australian and has lived in Argentina, Peru and Canada, and has climbed some of the world’s highest mountains, worked as a tour guide in South and Central America and has travelled the globe. She enjoys immersing herself in exotic destinations, cultures and languages but Australia has always been close to Alli’s heart. Alli hosts retreats for writers and presents writing workshops around Australia, as well as working in film on international projects. She’s a volunteer role model with Books in Homes and is an ambassador for the Fiji Book Drive. Alli’s books explore history, culture, love and grief, and relationships between family, friends and lovers. She captures the romance and thrill of discovering old and new worlds, and loves taking readers on a journey of discovery.
Alli’s website is

The Codebreakers
Published by Mira AU
Released 3rd March 2021

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