A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{May 15, 2012}   Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Plot: In normal times, a trilingual scottish aristocrat and a flight-obsessed girl from Manchester might never have met. In war everything is different: not only do the two young women meet, they work together and become best friends. But when an important mission goes horribly wrong, one of the women is taken prisoner in Nazi occupied France. Under duress she agrees to write the story of how she and her pilot, Maddie, came to be in ennemy territory and what they have planned. This is that story.

This review is based on an ARC provided by Netgalley.

I don’t read a lot of WWII fiction, I couldn’t tell you why. Perhaps it is that these horrors that happened almost 70 years ago still feel too real and immediate for simple entertainment. But I cannot resist a well crafted story and I have loved Elizabeth Wein since I read The Winter Prince. Besides what reader can resist the thrilling adventures of a female pilot and a female spy? Not me.

The narrator, she is called many things but let us call her Verity for simplicity’s sake, is vividly real in my mind and utterly unreliable. She has a sharp intelligence, a foul mouth and dark sense of humour, I often found myself laughing at her descriptions of her circumstances and her captors until I was reminded by some small detail that Verity is actually being tortured. She probably really is a little crazy, but that’s part of her charm. She calls herself a coward but despite her apparent collaboration, she performs countless little acts of resistance some of them clever, others savage.

Performs. That is the perfect verb for Verity. It quickly becomes apparent that this is her greatest skill: she can transform herself into anyone. For this tale, she turns herself into Maddie, her pilot friend, and tells their story from her point of view. At first I was confused: why was she talking about a different girl in her confession? But soon I was too caught up in the adventure to care. Verity’s acting skills make it hard to believe anything she says. But at the same time, she is utterly convincing. I want to  believe her and believe in her.

The narrator changes in the second half of the novel. I understand the narrative necessity of it but it was a little disappointing to have Verity’s confession explained and put into context. I liked her twisty, unreliable narrative as it was. Still I would have been disappointed without the closure the second half brings and it is an exciting, well told story in its own right.

This is a beautifully executed war story full of adventure, danger and pain. It is a fascinating history that has taught me a great deal about the roles women played during the war. But above all else this novel is about the unlikely friendship between two girls. They support, help and believe in each other. It is better than any love story Wein could have given us. “It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.” (p. 68)

Code Name Verity comes out in Canada tomorrow, May 15th 2012. I highly recommend it.

2012 (#48)


I have seen this book come up on a lot of book reviewers blogs lately….I have it on my TBR list but I’m a little afraid that it will be overly heavy but it sounds like it’s pretty good and worth a read through :). Thanks for posting this awesome review and I love the book trailed BTW 🙂

[…] Under Fire is a companion book to last year’s amazing Code Name Verity. Maddie, from the first book, appears, there are more brave female pilots and it takes place during […]

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