Elizabeth Wein set herself a very high bar with Code Name Verity. This is often a problem with the first book--by an author, in a series, etc.
Rose Under Fire
suffers from the comparison, which is sad, because it's a very good
book. It's powerful and tragic and the characters are so brave and sad
and human. And there are such moments of triumph, without lies or
glossing over what a concentration camp was.
Verity had two things going for it that Rose
didn't: one, there was a twist, a big reversal that I didn't quite see
coming but that created in me a love that I suspect will be everlasting
for Elizabeth Wein. She went from being just someone who wrote this
book to the Mind behind it, someone who was steps ahead of me and
meticulously crafting the story. I mean, when it was revealed that
there was more going on than I realized, every piece was in place, every
clue was there, and every detail fit together. That's craft.
was a story I'd never read before. Female pilots, women captured
behind enemy lines, spies in German custody--all fresh to me. There
were parts that were familiar--Maddie's time spent hiding reminded me of
the resistance fighters in the book Tamar, for example. But there was so much that I knew nothing about, and that much was exciting. Julie felt powerful, even when she was truly powerless.
Rose's story is at least close to ones I've read. I don't want that to
sound like a complaint--it's a powerful story and a poignant one. But
there are so many books and movies that have had parts of this story in
it that it was not unfamiliar to me--the premise itself didn't surprise
Enough with the complaints, though, because it
was really so good. I didn't know anything about the Rabbits (well, I
knew the existence of Nazi medical "experiments," but not much about the
victims), and I'd never met Rose, who was worth meeting. And Lisette,
and Karolina, and Roza, and Irena. Each of them was so different from
the others, each completely her own character, and all amazing in their
own rights. I loved Rose's poetry, which kind of surprised me in and of
Every character was trying to survive, but
every one had moments of selflessness. I won't say it was unbelievable
in that--it's very believable, it's what you want to believe
about the human spirit--but it was so exciting, so satisfying, to see
everyone struggle for each other, keep each other alive, in spite of
I loved Rose. I loved her best, I think,
in the Paris hotel room she inhabited after she left Ravensbruck, alone
and frightened and finally safe, unable to figure out where she was or
what was supposed to happen next. I loved her in that moment, and I
loved the maid who took care of her and all the lovely people Elizabeth
Wein put in the world to make up for the horror.