• Barb Siegman

Book Review: "The Woman Who Smashed Codes" by Jason Fagone


I wanted to select a book that had to do with something local. And, did I find one! This is one of my favorites that I read with one of my many (five, folks, five) book clubs that I am a member of.

"The Woman Who Smashed Codes" by Jason Fagone is a book about wartime in the 1900’s. How many books have you read about WWI or WWII? It is an extremely popular time period that few of us were around to talk about. Okay, I thought, here we go with another war time book.


But what is the name of the very first chapter? FABYAN

I am not kidding you!


So, on I read….


This magnificent woman, Elizebeth Smith, was recruited by Colonel Fabyan (yes, the very one to whom the street by my house is named after) at the Newberry Library in Chicago.


And, not to spoil everything for you, dear reader, but Elizebeth, (on page 5) gets recruited by Colonel George Fabyan and they take a train ride to….… Geneva Illinois to the Riverbank Laboratories where Elizebeth is hired as a code decipherer and meets her husband, William!


The story goes on to what their work was in Geneva, how the couple falls in love and lives their lives as code breakers. Together, they invented code breaking and helped the United States win WWII over Germany and Japan.


The story is intriguing and even goes into great description about the Fabyan Estate on Route 31. If you ever have an opportunity to tour the house on the river, please do. The book talks about the different rooms, the grounds with the animals he kept, and how eccentric the Colonel was.


Elizebeth’s husband does get a lot of credit for their work as husbands did in those times. But, the story about Elizebeth is compelling and a page turner. The two of them together were the world’s leading figures in cryptology. And, there were no computers…everything was done with pencil and paper and brainpower. Her true story is incredible!

Visit the Geneva, St. Charles, or Batavia Public Libraries to check out a copy of "The Woman Who Smashed Codes" in print or as an e-book, or visit Town House Books or Harvey's Tales to #SupportLocal. The Geneva Public Library has multiple copies of this book and it is part of their Book Club Bundles especially designed for book clubs to read and discuss.




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