Thursday, September 3, 2015

Rose Under Fire (Code Name Verity, #2)Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a sequel to Code Name Verity, one of my favorite books last year, but you don't have to read the first book in order to understand this one. The character development is incredible, and realistic. Elizabeth Wein is a capable, skilled wordsmith and author.

Rose Justice, a naive young woman who as a girl learned flying at the knee of her father, is an eager American pilot. She is the owner of a flight school in Pennsylvania and leaves to go to England in order to join the Air Transport Auxiliary and assist the Allied cause. On return to England from a flying assignment to France she disappears. She has been captured and taken to Germany and ends up in Ravensbruck, a women's concentration camp, with women prisoners from France, Poland, and Germany. This is the prison camp where Corrie Ten Boom was sent, and the experiences of the women there were so horrible and beyond imagination, it's no wonder that people at the time didn't believe the stories coming out of Europe. You want so desperately to believe it's all made up and stuff like this never happened. But it did. For that reason I think Rose Under Fire is important. We owe it to those people to never forget. "Tell the world." That's what the characters cry, over and over. "Tell the world." And I thought about that, over and over, throughout the whole book.

If the facts don't get to you, the characters will. While the characters are fictional, real women went through the events described. They are wonderful, strong and fierce and they look out for each other no matter the cost. They are believable, and I will not forget them, so desperate to live or at least to get their story out.

The author, Elizabeth Wein, is a poet and she skillfully uses that vehicle to record Rose's experiences and thoughts. Poetry is an escape and balm for Rose throughout the book. In prison she is changed into a ghost of her younger self. Yet the reader sees, through the lyrical, soaring words in the dozens of short lovely poems she writes and shares with her fellow inmates in the dark, that the young optimistic Rose is still there and that she will eventually heal. Those poems--their brightness of hope, their warmth, their clarity--are heartrendingly beautiful.

This is a story about real events. It is not a quick nor an easy read. It is a story about hope, when it's not the thing with feathers. “Hope is the most treacherous thing in the world. It lifts you and lets you plummet. But as long as you're being lifted you don't worry about plummeting. . . Hope is treacherous, but how can you live without it?” It is a story of friendship, and the camaraderie of women of all nationalities and walks of life, a story about the strength of humanity even as their humanity was stripped from them. It is brutally honest, but it has a perfect, powerful ending with closure and a bit of happiness.

The events and setting of this historical novel are incredibly well researched and are eloquently presented in a thought provoking way. To quote another reviewer, she "nicely gives you a little bit of a history lesson and you learn things without even realizing this. . . this is a true gift - education all wrapped up in a compelling story." From Rose Under Fire and Code Name Verity both, I learned a great deal of history, and gained a deeper awareness and appreciation of the largely unrecognized amazing women pilots of WWII and the incredible women prisoners of that war. Code Name Verity is my favorite of the 2 books, but I highly recommend both.

I really appreciate the factual information which follows the story.
Audio version, excellent.

“Hope has no feathers
Hope takes flight
tethered with twine
like a tattered kite,
slave to the wind's
capricious drift
eager to soar
but needing lift

Hope waits stubbornly
watching the sky
for turmoil, feeding on
things that fly:
crows, ashes, newspapers,
dry leaves in flight
all suggest wind
that could lift a kite

Hope sails and plunges
firmly caught
at the end of her string -
fallen slack, pulling taught,
ragged and featherless.
Hope never flies
but doggedly watches
for windy skies.”
― Elizabeth Wein, Rose Under Fire

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