Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Book Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

On a moonlit night in October 1943, a plane carries two girls into Nazi-occupied France.  One is the British pilot, the other a Scottish spy.  Hit by antiaircraft fire, spy Verity is forced to parachute in to the village of Ormaie, her best friend and pilot Maddie's fate unknown.  When Verity is arrested by the Gestapo less than 48 hours after landing safely (for the ridiculous error of looking the wrong way before crossing the street and almost being killed by a French van full of French chickens - in front of the Ormaie Gestapo HQ, no less), the game is up.  Starved and tortured for information, Verity has promised to tell the Gestapo (who believe she is a wireless operator) everything she knows, including eleven sets of wireless code  - in return for two weeks of time and the return of her clothes.

As Verity writes down her story for SS-Hauptsturmfüher von Linden on scraps of hotel stationary, the back of flute sheet music, prescription forms belonging to a Jewish doctor, recipe cards, and any other scrap of paper given to her, the story of her and Maddie's friendship and how the pair came to be on that doomed flight to France is slowly revealed.  Broken by the knowledge of her friend's death (von Linden made sure she saw the photos of the cockpit of Maddie's plane - and the pilot - after the crash), Verity is scorned and hated by the other prisoners, French villagers arrested for Resistance activities, for Nazi corroboration.  Still, as long as she continues to write and tell her story, she remains alive another day.

To tell you any more would ruin the impact of reading this novel that is just as intricately crafted as a wireless code key - but let's just say that Verity is a spy and a master of deception.  She writes only the truth - la vérité - but the truth is not always what it seems.

Code Name Verity is, at its heart, a story of friendship.  Funny, clever, snarky and heart-broken, posh Scot Verity is a fighter with a fierce affection and devotion to her best friend.  As she tells the story of how working class British girl Maddie fell in love with planes and fought to become one of only a few women pilots for the ATA (the British civilian Air Transport Auxiliary) and how they formed a fast friendship in the midst of terrible times (nothing brings friends together like an air raid siren), her voice is clear and true.  If I'm ever parachuted into a moonlight field in Nazi-occupied France, I absolutely want both Verity and Maddie at my back.  With daring night raids and thrilling adventure, heart-in-your-throat danger in the skies, fields, and under the bridges of Ormaie, and brief moments of chilling horror in the Gestapo's interegation room, Maddie and Verity will make their way into your heart and won't let go.  For fans of WWII and historical fiction, or for anyone who thought last year's  Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys was amazing, check out this heart-wrenching story of spies and friendship this summer - you won't soon forget this incredible story of how immensely good - and how desperately terrible - human nature can be.

Megan
(looking forward to starting Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood over dinner!)

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