“Few know what happened to those Polish codebreakers … in the sunny département of the Gard, out of sight … where the grapes, lavender, and sunflowers grow. It’s in the sunflower field that Caroline takes up the story …”
– Sir Dermot Turing
Seven years before the start of WWII three young Polish mathematicians were tasked with the impossible. They became bound together by a secret. A secret that would help save the world, they had cracked the Enigma code.
As an ominous cloud of evil descended over Europe, forced to abandon all they held most dear, these code breakers became part of an allied cryptology unit working in hiding deep within Vichy France. In constant fear of discovery, they persevered tirelessly with few resources or equipment. Putting their trust in local Resistance members they faced their greatest challenge yet, evading the Nazis as they fled war-torn France.
History has largely forgotten these wartime heroes until now. The Sunflower Field is based on their story. Interwoven with a fictitious mystery, seventy years later, Sophie follows the trail of a family heirloom to southern France where the cryptologists had hidden. The past and present collide. Painful memories and hidden scars become exposed and Sophie learns the astonishing story of the Polish cryptologists.
Gripping and illuminating, The Sunflower Field reveals the origins of one of the most monumental contributions to World War II. A story of daring and resilience from an unprecedented time when ordinary people became extraordinary. A novel for all who love compelling mysteries, for all who love historical fiction and for all who value the truth.
Meet some of the characters
“The things that seemed difficult to others were never so to me. Numbers spread throughout rows of complicated equations were like the notes of a song, you just needed to play them to hear what they were saying.”
Quiet and contemplative one could be forgiven for not immediately realizing Marian’s genius. For Marian was not just clever he was brilliant. Quick and analytical he was destined to achieve the un- thinkable, at the age of 27 in just 2 months, with 158 trillion combinations he broke the code considered unbreakable, ENIGMA.
Forced to abandon all those he held most dear his wife and two small children he was spurred on by love of country and a deep sense of duty.
“I never sought adventure, but it found me anyway. All I wanted was an ordinary life.”
But 1932 were not ordinary times and Marian was not called upon to do the ordinary. Never seeking recognition or thinking he’d done anything much at all, his incredible achievements paved the way to help others save the world.
“My mother had always warned me that my curious mind and lust for adventure would lead me into trouble.
‘You’re too clever for your own good!’ She would scold.
How could anyone be too clever I’d wondered? It was true, learning came easy and there was so much to learn, so much to explore, and so much fun to have along the way. Blessed with a quick brain and good looks I’d breezed through university, far more preoccupied by pretty girls and they with me to take anything too seriously.
And then I met Marian. Softly spoken and serious, far brighter than me, he gently challenged me and slowly I discovered exactly what that brain of mine was capable of.
Maybe my mother had been right after all, maybe I was too clever for my own good for the path it lead me down took me on a near death adventure I’d only read about in story book comic strips.”
“Sometimes in life unimaginable things happen and we do things we could never have imagined. I’d grown up sheltered, within the walls a tiny chateau in southern France. Privileged, I seemingly lacked for nothing except the one thing I yearned for most, parental love. Starved of affection, I’d clung to my older brother as the gentle hand of our beloved grandmother guided us both. Our fates seemed predetermined, to marry well and enhance the family wealth.
Who could have known that a small man with a black mustache would intervene and rewrite the script? Dipping into an inkwell of hatred and evil, spreading misery and despair, our lives changed forever and I became the woman I was destined to be.”
Sophie’s violet eyes were liquid midnight shadowed in an insidious grief.
“I’ve had fifty years. Maybe that’s all I’m due.” She thought to herself. A little more than her husband, but less than her father, whose weakened heart had just stolen him away.
The cloud of despair darkened. “What would be the point of trying to stumble forward without the two men I’d ever loved, my two best friends?”
It was her father’s wisdom that saved her.
‘You’ll face days of brilliant sunshine and days consumed by ominous storms.’ He’d told her.
‘But always remember, whether good or bad this too shall pass….’
Stored away in the filing cabinets of her mind her father’s words became her guiding light urging her on to continue with the business of living.
Amongst his belongings she found a mysterious letter written to her grandfather over seventy years earlier. Following its trail she discovered an incredible wartime story, one she felt her responsibility to tell and in so doing where she was meant to be and who should walk by her side.
Speaking at the Pilsudski Institute
I’m delighted to have been invited to speak at the Pilsudski Institute, London on May 14th 2019 about my novel The Sunflower Field. Interwoven with a modern day, fictitious wartime mystery, The Sunflower Field tells the true story of three Polish mathematicians who in 1932 first cracked the Enigma code.
In May 1940, after the shadow of war had descended across Europe, having been ignored for years about the increasing threat of Hitler, Winston Churchill became British Prime Minister. Driven by an incredible sense of what was right he stood alone but he stood firm and using the power of his words he galvanized a nation, “mobilizing the English language and sending it into battle.”
The Sunflower Field
The Sunflower Field, my debut novel, is written to honor the ‘few’, of which there were thousands, who during World War II, in words inspired by Winston Churchill, “gave so much, for so many.” In particular for three of those ‘few’, the Polish mathematicians, Jerzy Rozycki, Marian Rejewski and Henryk Zygalski, with whom lies the origins of one of the most significant contributions to the allied victory of World War II, the deciphering of the Nazi encrypted communication system, the Enigma code.
Bletchley Park, 50 miles north-west of London, predictably, proved a fascinating place. Called ‘Station X’, by the British government, it was where during World War II the British cracked the German Enigma Code, the backbone of the German military and intelligence communications. The success in breaking the code, despite the staggering odds stacked against doing so; 150 million, million, million to one, makes the ‘Bletchley Story’ one of the most incredible and greatest feats of WWII.