Genre: Young Adult/ Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 2013
Status: Companion to Code Name Verity
Page Count: 368
Also by Elizabeth Wein:
Code Name Verity
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Rose Justice is an American female pilot, who is working as a taxi for passengers and broken planes during WWII. One day she finds herself being forced to land by a group of German fighter planes, and upon landing is sent to a "women's prison" where she is labeled a French political prisoner because no one speaks English. She is really in Ravensbruck, a woman's concentration camp. Rose must find a way to survive and keep her camp family alive as well.
It will come as no surprise that this is a heartbreaking and beautiful novel. Verity was heartbreaking, but Rose was even more so. Wein is a fantastic writer. Her characters are real, the historical atmosphere is overwhelming, and her prose are beautiful. Her female characters are strong in every sense of the word and her stories pull you in, and don't let you go even after you have finished the book.
I had never read anything about the women's concentration camps in WWII, so this was an interesting setting for this novel. It allowed the novel to be filled with an all female cast, and each character was so very strong and vibrant, despite their situation. What I loved most about this novel was the way that poetry is weaved into the story. Rose loves to write poetry, and her favorite poet is one of my favorite poets, Edna St. Vincent Millay. Rose's original poetry and Millay's poetry next to the despair in this novel was quite a breathtaking thing. Hope in the tiniest forms was vital to these characters, and poetry played a huge role in keeping hope alive. The poetry was a shocking contrast to the events of the novel, and that's one of the things I love most about poetry. It is inherently beautiful, but when written about horrors the contrast becomes shocking.
One thing that I am always amazed by anytime I read something set during WWII or study the time period, is the fact that humanity's resilience is absolutely endless. Humanity will sacrifice to save others even in the most desperate of times, and find any small way of surviving and continuing to pass on love.
This book dealt a lot with the young girls that are and were referred to as "rabbits." They were experimented on by Nazi doctors in an attempt to discover how to better treat the injuries their soldiers in the field were dying of. This isn't something I had heard about or studied frequently so it was new and shocking to me. I knew that experiments like this happened on innocent people, but to hear the stories of the young women in this book and have a face (even a fictional one) to match with the horrors was another thing all together.
The rabbits main concern in this novel, and their motivation to survive is their goal to "Tell the world!" They are determined to tell the world the horrors they have faced and to prevent humanity from forgetting the horrors inflicted during this time. This becomes a huge theme in the novel and something that is still important today. We MUST continue to tell the world and talk about this event and other events like it. We must honor those who perished by telling the stories of their lives and believing those stories. When word of the camps were getting out through those that escaped, no one in America or England believed the stories the survivors were telling. It took months and many prisoners sharing their stories to convince the world of all the horrors that had happened during this war. We must continue to tell the stories of survivors and victims, and we must continue to honor their sacrifices; it is our duty to them to never let this horror, or their lives, be forgotten.
Although this is not a pleasant subject to read about or discuss, it is important. Wein handles this subject with honestly and beauty, and I highly recommend this and Verity to lovers of historical fiction or those who don't usually read this genre.