Saturday, July 21, 2012

Book Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Book: Code Name Verity
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Published: 2012
Source: Review Copy from publisher via NetGalley

German-occupied France, 1943. A young British woman has been captured by the Gestapo, and after three weeks of torture finally agrees to give up everything she knows. But she does this by relating the story of her friendship with another young British woman, the woman who flew her into France, crash-landed their plane, and apparently died in the wreckage.

Polar opposites on the outside: Julie educated at boarding schools, born into the nobility, reading at Oxford before the war, versed in literature of various languages, can lie her head off while looking you in the eye, versus Maddie, working-class mechanic who fell in love with airplanes when she saw the engine taken apart, who can’t speak a word of anything except English and who is frankly rubbish at anything smacking of subterfuge. But under the skin they’re the same--brave, tough, funny young women, doing their jobs in wartime for the love of their country, family, and friends.

Like Scheherazade, the captured woman spins out her story knowing that when she finishes, her death lies at the end. But how much of her story is true, and how much has this trained British interrogator and spy made up on the spot?

At its heart, this book is a love story. Not in the romantic sense of the word, but in the pure and powerful connection between two friends that goes deeper than mere hearts and flowers and into a place where one friend can ask anything--literally, anything--of the other. It's also a shining example of how a really good unreliable narrator can suck you in. It's very hard to talk about this book without giving away spoilers, but I'll say this: when you realize just how thoroughly the young spy has suckered you, she is so real and vital a girl that you understand why and you're actually sort of proud of how she did it.

I'm writing about this book relatively calmly, but that's because I took a few weeks. When reading, I was completely caught up in it. At one point, I laid it down, buried my face in my pillow, and sobbed uncontrollably, and for the better part of a day I would still get teary-eyed thinking about it. Maddie and Julie became that real to me. This book tore out my heart, stomped on it, then sat down next to me and offered me a cigarette and a very strong drink.

Harrowing and powerful, this is a book you won't forget in a hurry.


Jenny said...

I need to read this! It's always checked out of the library and they don't have an ebook. Aaaaa.

Janni Lee Simner said...

Guess I'd better return my library copy soon, huh? :-)

I loved this book. One of my favorites of the year. And it made me cry, too.