Saturday, July 27, 2013

Rose Under Fire: A Review by Malissa

Rose Justice is a young American ATA pilot, delivering planes and taxiing pilots for the RAF in the UK during the summer of 1944. A budding poet who feels most alive while flying, she discovers that not all battles are fought in the air. An unforgettable journey from innocence to experience from the author of the best-selling, multi-award-nominated Code Name Verity. From the exhilaration of being the youngest pilot in the British air transport auxiliary, to the aftermath of surviving the notorious Ravensbruck women's concentration camp, Rose's story is one of courage in the face of adversity. Code Name Verity is shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal.

My Thoughts

So this is it. Companion/follow-up to Code Name Verity, hands down one of the best books I've ever read (see my review of that book here if you're interested I had to have this book shipped from overseas and deal with a shipping snafu with the first copy they sent to get it before the Sept 10 publication date here in the U.S. So was it worth it? In short, yes. Despite a similar protagonist, similar setting and similar narrative style, this is a different book than Verity. That book was, if I were going to try and oversimplify it, a book about friendship filled with twists and turns that made you gasp and and flip back to see what you missed and how. This one is a survival story and a bit more straightforward in terms of knowing what's going on. And while I LOVED (yes, caps and italics are necessary) Verity, I'm glad this book was different because it's a different story. 

We know going into this one (unless you didn't read the jacket flap or publishers description in various locations) that Rose, an American ATA pilot, is going to end up captured by the Nazis and be sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp. And most of us have read concentration camp stories before. At least there are plenty out there for the reading. I've read many, most of the "big" ones both fiction and nonfiction. Still this book stands out for me because Elizabeth Wein's characters just come alive on the page. Her characters live and breathe and cry and sometimes stop breathing and it hurts when they do. It really hurts. Because of the way it's told (the largest part of the story written after the fact by Rose) we know the outcome to some extent but not the details. And the story is in the details. In the friendships and small acts of rebellion and little acts of faith and hope that keep Rose and her fellow women prisoners alive during their time at Ravensbrück. And it's in the outcome for various characters both those who survive and those who don't. It's in the humanity and incredible way people can keep fighting even when faced with the worst that other humans can possibly do to them. I read this book in about two days, and not weekend or vacation-type days, because I couldn't stop turning pages. 

I will say that this book didn't affect me quit as much as did Code Name Verity but I think that's largely because I was prepared this time. I knew what Elizabeth Wein can do to the hearts of her readers going in to this one. And a part of me kept waiting for the other shoe to drop or the rug to be pulled out from under me with a big twist I hadn't seen coming but it didn't and wasn't. Because this is a different story, as I said. 

There are connections to Verity in this book, so I'd recommend reading them in publication order if you're wanting to read both. And while I'm glad for those connection because we get to see the followup events to that book to and extent, to see how people are doing after, they actually weren't my favorite parts because this is Rose's story now. And I think that speaks to the author's skill that I found myself wanting to go forward with this story not go back to that one. 

Definitely a recommended read both for those who loved the author's previous book(s) and those who didn't and a book that will live on my shelf permanently (the U.S. hardcover edition is already preordered). It would also make a great book club selection.

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Thank you so much for taking your time to share your thoughts! I try to respond to everyone. :)