Share The Real Story Behind Benedict Cumberbatch’s Imitation Game

The Real Story Behind Benedict Cumberbatch’s Imitation Game

Suzanne Donahue became a voracious reader when she discovered the Scholastic Book Club in grade school and realized she did not have to read only the books her older sister had read before her. Suzanne is Associate Publisher at Atria Books and the greatest thrill of her job is when a manuscript she fell in love with becomes a book she can hold in her hands and share.

I am a huge Benedict Cumberbatch fan and am dying to see what he does in The Imitation Game, the film in which he plays the mathematician Alan Turing. I am sure he will bring Turing to wonderful life as he has done in many other roles but a film can only cover so much so I wanted to read something about Turing before seeing the movie and found this really excellent biography by Andrew Hodges.

The great thing about this book is that the author is a mathematician and can explain the details of Turing’s work – as a scientist, mathematician, and a code breaker – in a way that is easy to understand. He is also wonderful at the emotional nuance of Alan’s life, who was a somewhat odd – a student was assigned to him in school to help him maintain a semblance of tidiness in his appearance, rooms and school work and at Bletchley Park he was known for chaining his tea mug to a pipe – but he was also charming and intelligent and Hodges brings all the aspects of his personality and life into sharp focus.

A large part of the book focuses on Turing’s work at Bletchley Park, in the famous Hut 8, where Turing was assigned with a team to break the Enigma codes the German navy was using. You learn so much about this mysterious place – indeed what was done here was held in secrecy until the 1970s – and marvel at a time when codes were broken by teams of people puzzling through reams of numbers and words and working out solutions by hand. Someone recently told me that an iPhone holds more technology than the Allied Army had during WWII and reading this book you realize how true that is and what a feat of scientific will breaking the codes was.

As thrilling as learning about Bletchley and the code breakers is, there is tragedy to this story as well. Turing was gay and even as his life should have been sailing ahead on his accomplishments it founders on the rocks of society’s policy toward homosexuality. Turing never hid who he was but while a relationship between school mates in the 1920’s was deemed perfectly normal, by the 1950’s homosexuality was viewed as an abomination and a crime. Alan Turing, the genius who Churchill said had shortened the war by two years; the father of the modern computer and artificial intelligence, was pilloried, humiliated and drummed out of service because he was gay. He committed suicide when he was only 41. And the tragedy is not just why he died but that in his dying so early we lost the possibility of all he still had to offer.

Hodges brings all of these elements together in what is surely the definitive biography of this genius and man.

 


Alan Turing
Andrew Hodges

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

12 Mathematical Books to Help You Solve Your Reading Rut Problem

By Aimee Boyer | March 14, 2019

The Real Story Behind Benedict Cumberbatch’s Imitation Game

By Suzanne Donahue | November 24, 2014

Close

Thank you for joining our email list!

If you create an Off the Shelf account, you'll be able to save books to your personal bookshelf, and be eligible for free books and other good stuff.

Click here to create your free account.

You must be logged in to add books to your shelf.

Please log in or sign up now.