Three troubled weeks and mounting problems have delayed this review – apologies. I finished reading Code Name Verity on September 5, but a bad head cold laid me low, and now financial hurdles have arisen.
However, I am attempting this edition of my Thursday Creation Review and hope that I can catch up as there are full reviews outstanding from early in the year – and I’ve just finished another book.
Code Name Verity
Elizabeth E. Wein (Goodreads Author)
Two young women become unlikely best friends during World War II, until one is captured by the Gestapo.
Only in wartime could a stalwart lass from Manchester rub shoulders with a Scottish aristocrat. But then a vital mission goes wrong, and one of the friends has to bail out of a faulty plane over France. She is captured by the Gestapo and becomes a prisoner of war. The story begins in “Verity”’s own words, as she writes her account for her captors. Truth or lies? Honour or betrayal? Everything they’ve ever believed in is put to the test . . .
A gripping thriller, Code Name Verity blends a work of fiction into 20th century history with spine-tingling results. A book for young adults like no other.
Review 5 stars
When a young woman is captured by the Gestapo in occupied France, she begins writing down an account for her captors about a plucky lass, Maddie from Manchester. Her story, told as one of her captors accuses ‘in novel form’, shows how Maddie learns to fly and becomes an Air Transport Auxiliary pilot. She befriends Queenie, an enigmatic Scottish aristocrat who is recruited as a spy by the Special Operations Executive. Through this account, the Gestapo learn secrets about the Allies war-effort as well as about the two young women – and the reader realises that the writer is Queenie.
“I of course took the opportunity to interpose wi’ pig-headed Wallace pride, ‘I am not English, you ignorant Jerry bastard, I am a SCOT.”
Queenie is accused of being a collaborator, giving away crucial wireless codes and more for her ongoing survival. However, as this account spilt out with disturbing details, I wondered what was being revealed. Perhaps it was the novel’s opening quote about passive resisters that made me unsure about Queenie’s account. Or the truth is, as Queenie writes at the beginning, “I AM A COWARD” and a traitor?
What is truth? What is verity? That is the question in war when some sacrifices pay that ultimate price, and principals are abandoned. The atmosphere is rife with emotions – grief gives way to anger as the details are exposed of an era when so many died; what did they die for? The truth?
Although Queenie’s account is written for the Gestapo, it peels back their layers, even revealing cultural tastes.
“Nothing like an arcane literary debate with your tyrannical master while you pass the time leading to your execution.”
There are moments of humour that distract and buy time. For whom? For what? On one level, it seems that the cost of this betrayal will be too high, yet I wanted Queenie to survive.
I just hoped that this was a masterful deception and that a rescue was imminent. When the novel switches from Queenie’s POV to that of Maddie, I experienced new emotions – not just renewed hope. The voice changed, although the writer had already given us a taste of Maddie’s character as well as of the harsh existence in Occupied France.
To say more would require spoilers. Just know that Maddie’s story is as riveting with unexpected plot twists that play through to the end – to the truth, or should I say Verity.
All the characters are engaging, whether they are the older adults like the officer that recruits Queenie, or the young people on the frontline of this and so many other wars. Elizabeth Wein captures a deep sense of all those caught up in these life-changing events.
This is a brilliant and gritty YA novel that sweeps the reader along with the feisty and resourceful protagonists – pulled into their minds and actions. I felt I was witnessing the highs and lows of lives experienced in the face of the traumatic horrors of war
And running through the novel, adding another layer to the central characters, was the Neverland theme – poignant and beautiful.
“How did you ever get here, Maddie Brodatt?”
“‘Second to the right, and then straight on till morning,'” she answered promptly-it did feel like Neverland.
“Crikey, am I so obviously Peter Pan?”
Maddie laughed. “The Lost Boys give it away.”
Jamie studied his hands. “Mother keeps the windows open in all our bedrooms while we’re gone, like Mrs. Darling, just in case we come flying home when she’s not expecting us.”
Code Name Verity must be my favourite read of 2018 as it played with all my emotions. I look forward to reading both the prequel the Pearl Thief – which is more in the style of a classic mystery – and Rose Under Fire a sequel of sorts.
Story – five stars
Setting/World-building – five stars
Authenticity – five stars
Characters – five stars
Structure – five stars
Readability – five stars
Editing – five stars