I Can’t Begin to Tell You by Elizabeth Buchan

I Can’t Begin to Tell You by Elizabeth Buchan

Originally published: September 2014

Author: Elizabeth Buchan

Published by: Penguin Books

Genre: Historical

Page count: 504

Reading dates: 12-17 August 2018

Star Rating: 3/5

This book tells the story of the German occupation of Denmark during World War 2 and looks at the role of British Intelligence during that time, including the code breakers who were working in London and the resistance fighters on the ground in Denmark.

The story centres around Kay, a middle aged British woman living in Denmark. When the Nazis invade Denmark she is shocked that her husband of 25 years, collaborates with the enemy to preserve the legacy of the family home.

Dänemark, Panzer II und I
The German’s invading Denmark

Kay is soon lured into a covert world of resistance putting both her life and the lives of her husband and grown up children in danger. Soon she is working with an Special Operations Executive (SOE) operative known as Felix, helping him send and receive messages to the code breakers in London.

As well as Kay we get to know some of the code breakers in London including Mary whose job it is to record the Morse code messages that arrive and send out new ones and Ruby whose job as a cipher clerk means she has to encrypt and decode the messages.

Code breakers during World War 2

I was intrigued by this book as I do enjoy books set in World War 2, especially those told from different perspectives. This one primarily is very female led and the women featured are brave and intelligent.

I did enjoy it for the most part but wasn’t that keen on the writing style – it didn’t flow for me and I didn’t feel emotionally invested in the characters. I was trying to think why, and I think it’s because the author was trying to focus on the lives of too many characters. I also think it maybe could have been a little shorter which would have kept the pacing better. However, I did enjoy learning more about the special operatives who operated as part of the resistance and the code breakers – it was made me want to read more around the subject.

Many thanks to the author for sending me a copy of this book.

About the author:

Elizabeth Buchan

Elizabeth spent her childhood moving home every three years – including living for brief periods in Egypt and Nigeria before moving to Guildford, York and Edinburgh.
After graduating from the University of Kent at Canterbury with a double honours degree in English and History, she began her career as a blurb writer at Penguin Books. Later, after having married and had children, she moved on to become a fiction editor at Random House before leaving to write full time which was something she had always planned to do since childhood.
Elizabeth Buchan’s short stories are broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in magazines. She reviews for the Sunday Times (UK) and has chaired the Betty Trask and Desmond Elliott literary prizes, and also been a judge for the Whitbread (now Costa) awards. She is a patron of the Guildford Book Festival and a past Chairman of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Some other World War 2 books I’ve enjoyed:

The Woolgrowers Companion by Joy Rhoades
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Can anyone recommend any others I should read?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s