Code Name Verity (my review) was my favorite book of last year. So, it was a given that I would read the next thing Elizabeth Wein wrote. When browsing NetGalley one day, I came across a book with her name on it. I was so excited! Needless to say, I didn’t even read the description. I just put in a request for it, and rejoiced when I got the email saying I was approved.
I didn’t take me long to dig in either.
So, you can probably imagine how surprised and delighted to find that Maddie and Anna Engel, characters from Code Name Verity briefly appears in Rose Under Fire! Honestly, I was beyond excited. Even if they aren’t really main characters, as Rose Under Fire is more of a companion novel that a direct sequel, it was nice to see how they have been after the events of Code Name Verity.
The main character of Rose Under Fire is the eponymous Rose. Rose Justice, a young American teenager and friend of Maddie, is also a female pilot and she is helping deliver planes during WWII. It is during a routine delivery that she is captured by Nazis and sent to Ravensbruck, a women’s concentration camp. Ravensbruck is beyond brutal. If Wein was pulling her punches, it makes me sick to think how bad Ravensbruck really was, because Wein’s version is intense. Rose struggles to survive with her health, her sanity, and her friends until the war is over.
Ravensbruck was truly horrifying. Just reading about the “Rabbits”—Polish prisoners who were experimented on in grotesque and abused in terribly painful ways—is painful. All the residents of the camp, women from the Red Army, the Polish, the Jews, and a scattering of Americans are all deplorably “cared” for. The things they are made to do…. *shudder* Yet, there is an under-current of hope amid all this pain that can’t be denied. Knowing Wein’s attention to detail and research skills, I can only hope the read “Rabbits” had the same mentality as Wein’s. As with most accounts of WWII and the Holocaust—in fiction and nonfiction—I came away feeling both emotionally drained, moved, and haunted.
Elizabeth Wein’s characters live and breathe. That’s the only way I can think to describe them. They all feel so real, with all their feelings, loves, desires, hatreds, friendships, opinions, fears and souls. Their stories are intense and shocking, heartbreaking and disturbing. Wein’s writing is just as powerful in Rose Under Fire as it was in Code Name Verity, even with Rose telling her story after the fact, whereas Maddie and Julie’s stories felt more immediate and dangerous as their stories were told more as it happened. As you can probably guess, I highly recommended both books.
Barrie Hardymon of NPR, compared Rose Under Fire to Code Name Verity, wrote that Rose Under Fire is “a quieter, less breathless read, which ultimately makes it that much more devastating.”
I completely agree with that remark. Get Code Name Verity, if you haven’t already read it, then get Rose Under Fire, which will be released September 10.
Rose Under Fire
By Elizabeth Wein
Published by Disney-Hyperion
Released September 10, 2013
368 pages, Hardcover
Acquired from NetGalley; thank you to the publisher for
allowing me to read and review this book.