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Elizabeth Wein – Code Name Verity

May 23, 2014

35. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (2012)

Length: 339 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Started / Finished: 26 April 2014 (during readathon!)

Where did it come from? The library booksale.
Why do I have it? I remember hearing a ton about it when it came out, but I don’t remember one specific source.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 26 October 2013.

Most spies, when forced to
tell everything that they know,
don’t write a novel.

Summary: Verity is a young British woman, being held by the Gestapo in a small town in Nazi-occupied France in 1943. Under torture, she’s agreed to tell her captors everything she knows, but she demands two weeks to write out her story, even though she knows when the time is up, she’ll most likely be executed… if she’s lucky. Her story involves how she came to be in France, and heavily features her best friend, Maddie, a pilot who flies ferry planes within Britain as part of the Air Transport Auxiliary.

That’s probably one of the least-useful summaries I’ve written, but so much of the fun of this book is piecing things together for yourself that I don’t want to say too much more.

Review: This book was amazing. Unputdownably good. You should read it. Right now.

But this book is also really difficult to talk about why it’s so good without giving away a lot of the details that make it good. But I’ll give it a go.

First up, the characters are great. Verity and Maddie feel like real people, people who crawl into your heart without your noticing, and then cause it to break, repeatedly. But the secondary characters are also really interesting, as you tease details about them out from the course of the main story. (I also have a rather large crush on Jamie, now.) The history is also really great. Every time I feel like I’m fed up with World War II novels, that there can’t be a WWII novel with a new angle, something like Code Name Verity comes along to shut me up. I’d never heard of women pilots during the war, and Verity’s role in things was also fascinating. Wein also includes a good author’s note that discusses her sources, and the (few) times she deviates from historical fact.

The plotting of the novel is different from normal – since it’s Verity telling her story while she’s still a prisoner it sort of starts from the middle and spreads out from there, jumping back and forth through time. But Wein makes it all work together, building the suspense and tension and throwing in a bunch of twists and turns that make you go back and re-read and re-evaluate previous scenes. This is one of those books that you finish and immediately want to go re-read, not only to figure out what’s really going on, but also because it’s so immersive that it’s hard to put it down and drag yourself back out of. 5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Absolutely highly recommended. It’s listed as YA, but it’s older YA, and really, I think anyone who likes WWII stories or spies or pilots or stories of bravery and friendship, or novels that require paying attention and that keep you guessing, will enjoy this book.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Capricious Reader, Things Mean a Lot, The Written World and roughly a million more at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: I AM A COWARD.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 25: “It is not the same as their hatred for Thibaut, the Quisling turncoat, who is their countryman and is working for the enemy.” – A traitor who serves as the puppet of the enemy occupying his or her country.
  • p. 33: “She stopped so he could catch up with her, waiting on the duckboards laid over the concrete apron because there was so much standing water about that if you stepped in a puddle it came over the tops of your shoes.” – A board or boardwalk laid across wet or muddy ground or flooring.
  • p. 47: ““This is going to be one hell of a prang.”” – To crash (an airplane, for example).

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 23, 2014 8:58 am

    I’ve heard so many good things about this book. It’s been on my wish list for quite a while and needs to migrate to my purchased list one of these days.

    • May 27, 2014 10:05 am

      Kathy – I hadn’t officially even put it on my wishlist, but it was buzzing around my head as something I should probably read, and then I saw a copy at the library booksale for $0.75 and couldn’t pass it up!

  2. June 1, 2014 11:31 am

    I’ve heard so many good things about this, too! Isn’t there a sequel out now? Our library book sale is this Saturday; I’ll keep my eyes peeled for a copy!

    • June 2, 2014 7:46 pm

      The sequel is Rose Under Fire, I think? I need to keep an eye out for that one; hopefully you’ll nab a copy of this one!

  3. June 6, 2014 10:11 pm

    So glad to see you liked it. Both my daughter and I loved it. I’m reading the companion novel, Rose Under Fire, right now, and it’s really good, too.


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