Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Book Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wain

Code Name Verity

Written by: Elizabeth Wain

Published: 2012

Synopsis (Goodreads): I have two weeks. You'll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That's what you do to enemy agents. It's what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine - and I will do anything, anything to avoid SS-Hauptsturmf├╝hrer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I'm going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France - an Allied Invasion of Two.

When I was in my book slump I couldn't find a single book that appealed to me. I didn't feel like horror, or sci fi, or romance or comedy. I didn't want to read a book that would make me cry or that would teach me new things. I wanted to read, but reading is hard when you can't think of a single story that seems tolerable. I was stuck waiting for a bus with nothing to do and no games on my phone, so I ended up flicking through my kindle app. I don't have a tonne of books on there at the moment, but there were two books that I bought last year that I hadn't gotten around to. Graeme Simsion's* The Rosie Project and Code Name Verity. I felt pretty eh about both but I ended up flipping through Verity to pass the time and then I couldn't put it down. 

Not only is Code Name Verity good enough to knock me out of my slump, it's just really good full stop. This is going to be one of those really vague reviews because I knew very little going in ("ladies and world war 2" basically covers what I knew it was about) and I truly feel like that added significantly to my experience.Especially given I've since seen that a lot of synopsis' give a lot of detail about the second half of the book and that seems crazy too me.

So, bare bone details. Code Name Verity is a gorgeous tale of friendship and feminism amidst WWII. Two women, Maddie the mechanic/pilot and Queenie the radio operator/translator, strike up a friendship when they're both working at an airfield**. And while the story is all about their friendship and the paths they took to get to where they are, it's also not. You see, Queenie/Verity was captured by the Germans when she arrived in France to work with the resistance. The story she's telling, the one about a pair of girls who are bright and warm and full of spark, is so that she can collaborate with the Germans and offer them details in exchange for her life. So as you fall in love with these two girls (especially Maddie, god I adored her tenacity) you are also incredibly aware that it's a whole different life. Queenie might be collaborating, but she's still very much a prisoner of war so there's a lot of darkness and pain outside of her tale of friendship. 

And that's all I'm going to tell you because I can already feel my fingers tingling and wanting to type big huge gushy spoilers about the characters and the story. I don't want to do that so I'm going to finish very briefly by saying that I really adored this book. I loved reading a WWII book that was about women and friendship that took place on the front lines (so to speak). In the author's note Elizabeth Wain mentioned that while she tried to keep historical details factual, she stretched the truth at times because this is a fictional book after all. But the stuff about Maddie as a pilot, the risks and roles women took during WWII around piloting and intelligence was all entrenched in fact and I was so fascinated that I bought three non-fiction books on the subject about 5 minutes after I wrapped by reading Code Name Verity. 

*I only just realised that his surname isn't Simpson.  

**There is a very good possibility some of these minor details are off. I read the book awhile ago and my memory is full of holes. But the feels, oh my god, I remember those acutely. 


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