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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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6129115,926 (3.55)115
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 (92)  Piratical (1)  All languages (93)
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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 | May 29, 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 |
I've long been a fan of Winston Churchill, so couldn't resist this one. It's the first of the Maggie Hope mystery series, about a young woman in London at the start of World War II. A mathematician, Maggie hopes to do more for the war effort than type, but takes a job as a secretary in the Prime Minister's office. She has no idea that she is of interest to the authorities because of her parentage, of which she knows very little, having been raised in the US by her aunt. The likable characters, exciting plot and a great sense of time and place make this a marvelous read. ( )
  flightsafancy | Feb 2, 2014 |
Great book, I look forward to the sequel. Maggie Hope is great new character. ( )
  velopunk | Jan 4, 2014 |
The first book in a series, author Susan Elia MacNeal seems to be aiming for a Maisie Dobbs-like character in her novels. Her heroine, Maggie Hope, is a British citizen who was raised in the United States by her aunt after her parents were killed in a car accident when she was a very young child. She is a graduate of Wellesley college with a summa in mathematics who has put off her entrance in a pH.D program at MIT in order to settle her grandmother's estate in London, of which she is the sole heir. In the meantime World War II begins and Winston Churchill needs a new typist (one of his having bee inconveniently murdered). Maggie, who apparently also learned excellent secretarial skills (not unknown in those unliberated days), is recruited for the job by a friend who works for Mr. Churchill as one of his private secretaries.

Maggie reluctantly takes the job, but is resentful that with her excellent qualifications, she is not considered for a private secretary position, and with her skills at code breaking and problem solving, she starts to show the powers that be that they may have underestimated her when they initially denied her such a position.

The plot twists and the plot turns right up to the final pages of the book. Maggie hope is no Maisie Dobbs and Susan Elia MacNeal is no Jacqueline Winspear, but the period atmosphere in this book is excellent and the story keeps the reader tuning the pages. This was a fun read for the week between Christmas & New Year's. ( )
  etxgardener | Dec 26, 2013 |
Interesting setting and time with a promising character, Maggie Hope, although the circuitous plot is a bit tiresome and had this reader's mind clinking out a few times. The supposed "German code" deciphered by Maggie is actually unintelligible; should Germans have used it, there wouldn't have been any need to encode it - it's complete gibberish. Maggie's German language expertise is supposed to be one of her major abilities- as a reader I expect some competence in this area. ( )
  DerBuecherwurm | Dec 15, 2013 |
A spirited American girl becomes Winston Churchill's secretary though she would rather be cracking ciphers. Bit of an old-fasioned "girl's own" adventure flavor to this story.
  bfister | Aug 31, 2013 |
AUTHOR: MacNeal, Susan Elia
TITLE: Mr. Churchill's Secretary

Date Read: 08/11/13
RATING: 4.5/B+
GENRE/PUB DATE/PUBLISHER/# OF PGS: Mystery/2012/Bantam Books/349 pgs
SERIES/STAND ALONE: 1st in Maggie Hope series

TIME/PLACE: 1940/London
CHARACTERS: Maggie Hope born in UK but raised in US by her aunt, now living & working in London for Winston Churchill

FIRST LINES: I would say to the House, as I've said to those who have joined this Government, I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears & sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle & suffering," intoned Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill to the House of Commons & the British nation in his first speech as the new Prime Minister.

COMMENTS: Maggie Hope is a brilliant young woman w/ a degree in Math and plans to continue on w/ her education. She was born in the UK but her parents both died in an accident when she was an infant & her aunt brought her to Massachusetts and raised her. Maggie's grandmother passes & leaves her London home to her. She goes over to London to settle the estate delays her plans for her school. She gets a job in the office of Mr. Winston Churchill, she feels she has been slighted since she is not offered a higher position where her education could be used. Nevertheless, she is not one to be idle and uses her codebreaking skills to assist the government office. Will be looking for more in this series. ( )
  pammykn | Aug 16, 2013 |
Heard about this book from Deanna Raybourn. She wrote about it on her blog.
  jlapac | Aug 14, 2013 |
Margaret (Maggie) Hope is a British-born, American-raised woman who has returned to London to sell her late grandmother's house, but as the house remained unsold and the Second World War loomed ever closer, she stayed on and grew to love the city. She works as a typist for the Prime Minister, even though her university degree in mathematics would be better served as a private secretary (alas, those positions are filled by men). However, soon her chance comes to foil a plot that strikes at the very heart of British government -- and discover some more personal secrets along the way.

This book pretty much met my expectations. It was light, set during WW2 in London and featured a plucky female protagonist. I did, however, think that Maggie had one or two too many impassioned speeches striking out against sexism -- not that the content was bad, just that they seemed a bit contrived for the situations in which they arose. (The Eleventh Doctor's companion, Clara, came to mind at those points -- so if you like Clara you may get along well with this protagonist.) I did like the cameo appearances by Winston Churchill, especially when his wife, Clementine, was there too, and the atmosphere of the Cabinet War Rooms is captured very well. The dialogue afforded plenty of smiles, I was able to guess enough of the plot to feel smart but still managed to be kept in suspense at one or two points (or at least had to know how my guesses turned out), and the ending worked well to suit both those who want to read more about Maggie's adventures and those who are satisfied with this installment.

If you're in the mood for a WW2 mystery that's light on gore and you like clever female protagonists, this may be the ticket. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Jun 19, 2013 |

If I could I would have given this a 4.5. Loved this spunky smart-as-hell heroine and very much look forward to more from this series!

for more, please go here: http://stitchingmystressaway.com/blog/?p=852 ( )
  knittinkitties | Jun 11, 2013 |
The two World Wars and the decades between them have long been my favorite period of history, whether treated in fiction or non-fiction. So I was predisposed to like Mr. Churchill's Secretary. The setting of London during the Blitz never fails to inspire (as awful as it must have been to live through). But practically everyone who has done a bit of research can write that description well. Where McNeill shines is in her characters and the surprising plot twists she comes up with. Melodramatic? Sure. With Nazi bombs overhead and IRA bombs in the very Tube stations where Londoners went to escape the aerial bombing, melodrama was a part of daily life. I was thrilled to find the next in the series, Princess Elizabeth's Spy, at the first library book sale of the season. I listened to Mr. Churchill's Secretary on Audible, but I think it would be equally enjoyable in print or e-format. Highly recommended. ( )
  auntieknickers | May 17, 2013 |
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An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

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