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Elizabeth Wein – Rose Under Fire

November 21, 2014

86. Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (2013)
Code Name Verity, Book 2 (although this is really more of a companion novel than a sequel – it happens a few months after Code Name Verity, and characters from that novel make cameo appearances in this one, but they could be read – and understood – totally independently.)

Read my review of book:
1. Code Name Verity

Length: 360 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction; Young Adult

Started / Finished: 18 October 2014 (during readathon!)

Where did it come from? Purchased from Amazon.
Why do I have it? I loved Code Name Verity and wanted more.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 02 September 2014.

A concentration
camp must be terrible for
one who longs to fly.

Summary: Rose Justice never expected to see any action during World War II – she’s just an American transport pilot, responsible for ferrying planes and passengers around England. So she’s excited when her uncle pulls some strings that will allow her to go to France, even if it is just for another routine ferry run. But things become anything but routine when her plane is forced by Nazi pilots, and she’s captured and sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp. Now, she’s faced with the challenges of surviving the camp, with its horrific conditions and brutal guards. But she meets some incredible women, fellow prisoners who have survived far worse at the hands of the Nazis, women whose courage and strength inspires Rose to endure life in the camp. But how long can she – can any of them – hold on to hope of survival and rescue in a world that’s designed to crush both the body and the spirit?

Review: I really enjoyed this book. Not quite as much as I enjoyed Code Name Verity, but still. Part of that is because Code Name Verity was such a revelation – I’d never read a book about (or even heard about) female pilots during WWII, nor had I read much about the French Resistance or espionage during the war, so on top of it being a really well-written book, it was also full of new things to read about. Code Name Verity was also a really finely crafted and layered book, with well-plotted twists and turns and revelations. On the other hand, Rose Under Fire, while equally well-written and thoroughly researched, didn’t have quite the same “new” factor for me: even though I’ve never read about Ravensbrück concentration camp or its Rabbits specifically, I’ve certainly read a number of books about concentration camps more generally, which makes any individual book less likely to stand out. Rose Under Fire was also more straightforward than Code Name Verity – no big reveal halfway through this one – so I didn’t finish it with that sense of immediately needing to start it over from the beginning.

None of this is to say that Rose Under Fire is in any way a bad book – it’s not, at all. (It’s just not quite as amazing as Code Name Verity, but that’s a tall order to fill.) Wein is very good at creating believably human characters, women who are strong and smart and brave and capable most of the time, but are occasionally scared or selfish or petty, just like real people. She’s also very good at building a story and a world out of first-person narration, keeping us limited (for the most part) to Rose’s head, what she knows and what she sees, but building on a number of small details to give readers a sense of what life was really like for all of her characters. And the few times she steps outside that first person point of view work really well to make the rest of the story more poignant – for example, it was emotionally wrenching to watch Rose and the other prisoners spin rescue fantasies around Nick, Rose’s boyfriend, when the reader knew that he was already married to someone else and wasn’t even looking for Rose. There are a number of such scenes in the book, scenes that tear your heart into little bitty pieces, scenes that make you cry for characters who aren’t even real – and for the thousands of real people who were caught in similar (if not identical) situations throughout the war. So even though I preferred Code Name Verity, this book was also an absolutely worthwhile read. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Fans of World War II books and stories with legitimately strong female protagonists should definitely already be reading Elizabeth Wein’s work.

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

Other Reviews: Good Books and Good Wine, Steph Su Reads, Things Mean a Lot, and 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 just got back from Celia Forester’s funeral.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. annettesbookspot permalink
    November 21, 2014 12:01 pm

    I guess I liked the “straightforwardness” of this one. I liked it much better than Verity. To each his own! Great review!

    • December 7, 2014 6:49 pm

      Annette – Fair enough! Variety makes the world interesting. :)

  2. November 22, 2014 11:25 pm

    I picked this one up before I knew it was a sequel/companion to Code Name Verity, and I absolutely loved it. Code Name Verity is still on my TBR list, though — the library copy was never returned and I haven’t gotten around to seeing if the e-book is available to borrow instead. What a timely review; a couple of the kids in my teen group are studying WWII right now and I need to remember to rec this to them!

    • December 7, 2014 6:50 pm

      looloo – Both books would be great for your teens! And if you loved this one, definitely try to get your hands on Code Name Verity!

  3. November 22, 2014 11:29 pm

    Oh! I loved Code Name Verity. I will definitely have to check this out. Though you made some good points, and I won’t go into this one expecting new revelations and huge plot twists. :D

    • December 7, 2014 6:51 pm

      Jami – I hope you enjoy it! And you make a good point about expectations – if I hadn’t gone in expecting a twist, I probably would have enjoyed this book more for what it was.

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