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The Code of Love: An Astonishing True Tale of Secrets, Love, and War


The Code of Love: An Astonishing True Tale of Secrets, Love, and War

How can a reader not be affected by what they read in Andro
Linklater's THE CODE OF LOVE? How can a reader not put the book
down, after they're finished with it, to call or see the person
they love and tell them so? How can a reader not feel for Pamela
Kirrage and Donald Hill as they wend their way through the trials
and heartaches of World War II? It would be hard for a reader not
to do these things, because THE CODE OF LOVE is, just as it's title
suggests, an astonishing true tale of secrets, love, and war.

Linklater, author of several nonfiction books including WILD PEOPLE
and MEASURING AMERICA, has written a tremendous love story. RAF
pilot Donald Hill was stationed in Hong Kong during the war, away
from his fiancee Pamela Kirrage, who was waiting for him back in
England. After Hong Kong fell on December 25, 1941, Donald was a
prisoner of war for four more debilitating years until Japan
surrendered. On January 13, 1946, Donald and Pamela were married,
ending a wait of six and a half years. But he was not same, and the
love that they shared before the war was much different when the
war ended.

Donald Hill kept a war diary. He could have been killed for having
such a thing in the Japanese camp. The diary was written in code, a
series of numbers, four at time, in small boxes running up and down
the pages like a grid. Resembling multiplication tables, the boxes
read across the page: 5.14.1, 9.11.20, 6.18.1, and on and on.
Donald would always skirt the subject of his diary during the years
he and Pamela were married. When he died, he took the secret of the
diary with him. Pamela, eager to seek out its contents,
understanding that truly knowing Donald Hill meant reading the
diary, took it to a mathematician who said he would try to crack
the code. After much struggle, he did just that. Using the diary as
well as research and interviews, Linklater paints a vibrant and
vital portrait of life during World War II and common people
falling uncommonly in love.

The bulk of the story is about Donald's time in camp, the horrid
conditions, his state of mind, how he kept himself busy so he
wouldn't go insane. But slowly he did and, after he returned home,
married Pamela --- his life's love --- his life began to crumble.
He put up walls around himself so that no one could get too close,
he threw himself into a rage over the smallest provocation. He did
not know what it was that was breaking him or what he could do to
fix it. Pamela stood by him, their children with them, but their
lives continued to spiral downward.

THE CODE OF LOVE is a touching book about real people with a real
love in an unreal time. World War II changed more than just the
political nature of an era, it changed countries and communities
and, more than that, it changed people more than they could even

Reviewed by Jonathan Shipley on January 21, 2011

The Code of Love: An Astonishing True Tale of Secrets, Love, and War
by Andro Linklater

  • Publication Date: January 8, 2002
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor
  • ISBN-10: 0385720653
  • ISBN-13: 9780385720656