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Mr. Churchill's Secretary: A Novel…

Mr. Churchill's Secretary: A Novel (Maggie Hope) (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Susan Elia MacNeal

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68710013,880 (3.53)118
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Mr. Churchill's secretary, in this speedily paced, well-researched story, is Maggie Hope. Maggie's a mathematician who postpones post-graduate studies at MIT to return to London at the dawn of WWII to sell her grandmother's family home. She develops an affinity for her re-adopted country and is enlisted, not in her chosen profession, but as a typist and stenographer to Winston Churchill.

Adventures ensue, and Maggie proves she's worth far more than a dime-a-dozen typist by helping defuse assassination and bombing plots, while at the same time, discovering secrets about her own past. This is a treat to read, made more so by the authentic and accurate period detail. No further spoilers, but there is plenty of room--it's early in the war--for more of Maggie Hope.

My only criticism is that the language, personal habits and proclivities of some of the secondary characters rate a PG-13 for those of you who care about content. Those segments and situations detract from an otherwise outstanding story. Close one eye, skip that stuff, and enjoy the rest. ( )
  gmathis | Feb 15, 2012 |
English (101)  Piratical (1)  All languages (102)
Showing 1-25 of 101 (next | show all)
More accurately about a 3.75 for me. The beginning was tough to get through but then it became very interesting, with insider views of Churchill's doings and speeches. Fun WWII spy novel, with IRA thrown in (who knew). Some very inspirational Churchill moments: KPO (Keep plodding on), and that he painted when things just got too dark for him. How fantastic is that! ( )
  sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
London 1940. Margaret “Maggie” Hope wants to work for the British intelligence, but as she is a woman she ends up being a typist at No. 10 Downing Street. But she has a knack for code breaking and soon she does a lot more den typing for the prime minister.

This book was OK, not fantastic to read, but enjoyable since I love historical mystery books. Maggie Hope is a good character and there were a lot of likable characters around her. I can't say that I really liked her relationship with John. For some reasons, their relationship didn't click for me. The plot in this book was interesting, there is a plot to kill Winston Churchill and it doesn't take much brain work to figure at that one person around Maggie isn't who she is saying she is the question is who? There wasn't really any real twist to the story, no real aha moments. Everything unfurled nicely along the way and that was the problem, I wanted the story to be a bit more problematic, more nerve chilling, but alas, it was not to be. Still I will continue with the series. I liked the book enough to feel that I want to read more and I especially liked Winston Churchill in this book.

( )
  MaraBlaise | Feb 9, 2016 |
An interesting mix between fact and fiction. Mr Churchill's secretary follows Maggie Hope who just became Churchill secretary during WW II. It depicts what must have been life in London during that hard time.The story is fun and entertaining. ( )
  ct.bergeron | Feb 8, 2016 |
The book had a bit of a slow start, but was easy to get into. I would say this is a light read, not excellent but readable. 3.5 to 4 stars ( )
  crazeedi73 | Jan 30, 2016 |
The book had a bit of a slow start, but was easy to get into. I would say this is a light read, not excellent but readable. 3.5 to 4 stars ( )
  crazeedi73 | Jan 30, 2016 |
The book had a bit of a slow start, but was easy to get into. I would say this is a light read, not excellent but readable. 3.5 to 4 stars ( )
  crazeedi73 | Jan 30, 2016 |
The book had a bit of a slow start, but was easy to get into. I would say this is a light read, not excellent but readable. 3.5 to 4 stars ( )
  crazeedi73 | Jan 30, 2016 |
This was pretty well written and somewhat interesting... it just seemed to move too slowly for me. ( )
  trayceetee | Jan 26, 2016 |
British citizen Maggie Hope was raised in America, but when circumstances force her to return to England on the eve of World War II, she finds herself unable to leave until she can find someone to buy her grandmother's old Victorian house. She was taken to America as a baby by her Aunt Edith following the death of her parents in a car crash. Back in Boston, her aunt pleads with her to return and pursue her doctorate in mathematics at MIT. Instead, Maggie is persuaded to take a job as a secretary for Britain's new prime minister, Winston Churchill, when first secretary is murdered in what appears to be a random mugging. That seemingly random mugging is part of a plot to kill Churchill, engineered by a group of Nazis and IRA agents. Ireland is neutral in the war, but given their history with Britain, many Irish were hoping Germany would win the war. While these Irish-German agents are definitely the villains, the author gives us enough background to understand why the Irish had reason to hate the British.

Mr Churchill’s Secretary intrigued me from the first few pages. The author has obviously done a lot of research and the book is well-written. I was a little confused because there were so many characters, but I did enjoy the unexpected twists and clever aspects in the story. I thought it was a captivating, post-feminist picture of 1940s England. The book also presents a charming, personal look at Churchill, who comes to admire Maggie in spite of the fact that he firmly believes it was a mistake to give women the vote or any real responsibilities. Mr Churchill's Secretary is the first in a series of books and I look forward to reading the rest.
( )
  Olivermagnus | Jan 17, 2016 |
After a very slow start everything happens in the last third of the book so don't give up! The story is worth it but you must persevere. I think this series will be worth reading.
  cygnet81 | Jan 17, 2016 |
Abandoned! I wanted to like this book. Instead, it was unbearable and promised to continue like that. Many American mystery writers have trouble placing their novels in England. To try for another era, especially one that is well-known, was disastrous. ( )
  VivienneR | Dec 1, 2015 |
yay! More female spy novels ( )
  saradiann | May 19, 2015 |
(I made notes on this book as I was reading, so let me try and turn it into a legible review.)

Maggie Hope, an American, comes to London to wind up her grandmother's affairs and in spite of her reluctance, and the misgivings of those in the prime minister's office, is taken on as a wartime secretary for Mr. Churchill (the only security clearance necessary being her British ancestry). She shares her house with a group of girl friends, and they become embroiled in a plot against the government.

This one started off quite impressively; it was fast paced and initially I felt it conveyed the feel of the period - maybe it was all the descriptions of the hats.

I was quite pleased that part of the story was set in the War Rooms, which are now a museum because I've been to the War Rooms! MacNeal's description reminded me of the place exactly, down to the 'age darkened walls' and the 'worn linoleum ' (which puzzled me since the rooms were commissioned in 1938, two years before the story occurred).

I did find it a bit odd that the main characters in the book, who are middle class working folk, always seem to end up at a party or down the pub, drinking champagne or vodka. Surely those luxury items above all others would have been rationed down to nothing. Other things like food are scarce (everyone has victory gardens to grow their own vegetables) and coffee is horrible because it's so watered down. It feels to me (though I'm no history expert) more like the hectic atmosphere of American prohibition than the dogged determination to carry on regardless of Londoners at the beginning of the blitz, given the constant partying.

And there were a few other anachronisms scattered around that also seemed more American than British.

There were a few deus ex machina moments and one or two plot holes, but all in all, an entertaining story.

( )
  humouress | Apr 4, 2015 |
It was a good read, but something regarding the plot/story line and history just didn't quite gel for me. ( )
  AntT | Jan 24, 2015 |
It was a good read, but something regarding the plot/story line and history just didn't quite gel for me. ( )
  AntT | Jan 24, 2015 |
I really enjoyed this book set during World War II. If Bruce Willis was female and about 20 years younger I could see him in the role of Maggie Hope. The story is certainly action-packed.

Maggie Hope was raised in the US but she is a British citizen so she could be hired as a typist at No. 10 Downing Street. She came back to London to sell her grandmother's house but the rambling house needed lots of repairs and then war broke out. So Maggie is staying in London and helping out with the war effort despite her aunt's urgings to return to safety in the USA. Maggie is a brilliant mathematician but as a woman it is her skills with a typewriter and a stenographic pad that are in demand. In addition to the Germans bombing England the IRA is also planting bombs. There is some mystery about Maggie's background but Maggie knows nothing about it but she seems to be linked to the IRA somehow. As she pieces clues together she come closer to danger. However she is also a young, beautiful woman and she manages to go out drinking and dancing often.

I can hardly wait to read the next Maggie Hope adventure. ( )
  gypsysmom | Jul 28, 2014 |
Took forever to get to the story, about a young girl in London, who goes to work for Churchill. Lots of fluff about young people in London during the early days of the war. Some question about her father being dead, and an aunt back in the US, unwilling to provide her with much background on what really happened. Mixing in the war, Bletchley, and Churchill felt really forced. Doubt I'll read another in this series. ( )
  Pmaurer | Jun 24, 2014 |
If you love your history with a bit of fiction, and your fiction with a bit of history, you will enjoy this book.
  MarianneGalati | May 8, 2014 |
Totally sucked me into the series! ( )
  ewillse | Mar 23, 2014 |
The next book in this series is now released. (Princess Elizabeth's Spy)
Saw it in the library and will be picking it up soon.
Easy reading, spy story, female lead, and the addition of some interesting historical background. ( )
  CasaBooks | Mar 14, 2014 |
Totally sucked me into the series! ( )
  PatienceFortitude | Mar 6, 2014 |
Totally sucked me into the series! ( )
  PatienceFortitude | Mar 6, 2014 |
Totally sucked me into the series! ( )
  PatienceFortitude | Mar 6, 2014 |
Whenever I first start reading a book, I always wonder if the first few chapters are going to be good enough to hold my interest. I can definitely say that this book had me at the first chapter. The writing flows well, and the plot twists really keep you on your toes. I particularly liked the way the author used italics to differentiate private thoughts from the rest of the text. It really helped develop a deeper understanding of the characters. I highly recommend this book for those who are fond of period pieces. There are plenty of accurate historical references as well. And the way the real historical figures are fleshed out is very believable. There were times when I could picture in my mind's eye Churchill actually puffing on one of his cigars. This is one of those books that you have to keep reading until you finish it. It is going on my bookshelf at home with others that I want to keep and reread over and over again. ( )
  geckosrule | Feb 26, 2014 |
I enjoyed this book. I liked the characters and atmosphere. More heart-stopping moments than I have found with Maisie Dobbs and Bess Crawford. It did remind me a bit of Foyle's war. I liked that Ms MacNeal included notes at the back of the book to explain some of her research. I'm afraid that some of the major incidents towards the end of the book I found completely unbelievable. I will try another of the series because I liked that characters so much. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
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