Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Rose Under Fire (Code Name Verity) by Elizabeth Wein

"Code Name Verity" lovers will like this book that is similar with its Holocaust setting. I find that after years of reading books on the Holocaust, I find many blur together. But NOT the ones by this author. Elizabeth Wein writes great character-driven stories and this is a terrific story of survival during a brutal war. Rose Justice is a transport pilot from America who gets captured by the Germans and taken to the notorious Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. She hooks up with some Polish prisoners who were cruelly tortured by Germans in medical experiments. Rose is the only American in the camp and they protect her and even die for her because they want her to tell the rest of the world their story. They feel she has a chance to get out of the camp and the incredible bonding through horrible circumstances show how they were able to not give up on living.

Wein is an amazing writer. This book is written quite different than "Code Name Verity." It's an epistolary novel with Rose inking the pages of a notebook with the fear and trauma of surviving a concentration camp. The ending is one of hope and the belief in a better world while not forgetting the past. The plot is straightforward without the plot twists and unreliable narrator found in "Code Name Verity." Rose is a poet and the author shows her gift for poetry. My favorite was "The Subtle Briar." I'm sure you'll find your own. Wein cleverly weaves poetry as a means for Rose to stay sane. She claims it saved her life because she recited a poem while being whipped and caught the attention of the woman who oversaw the Polish prisoners that looked out for her at the camp.

My dad owned a Piper Twin engine plane when I was a kid and later a Cessna. He absolutely loves to talk planes. Planes from World War II. Planes from his days in the Air Force. Planes that he's flown. Today though, he was reminiscing about when he flew transportation for Angel Flight, a nonprofit organization that provides free plane transportation for people with medical problems who can't afford commercial flight. The character Rose reminded me so much of my dad because flying for her is like breathing. She absolutely loves it. The author must be a pilot. Her passion for planes comes through in details that are so right on I found myself thinking of my own father's love. This helped add to the authenticity of the character and plausibility of an escape.

The characters fortitude and creativity in maintaining their sanity and hope is one of the powerful elements in this story. Wein shows how everyone loses in war and makes it quite poignant in the German character, Anna Engel. I thought she was brave to try and explain her point of view and marveled at what a good job she does creating a woman who was complex and as much a victim as a victimizer. But then Wein did this in "Code Name Verity" with the villains so I wasn't surprised. The flashbacks were well done transitioning back and forth in a way that was easy to follow. She's a good study on how to write them. Like I said, she's an amazing writer.

4 Smileys

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