While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women's concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?
It hardly seems surprising, now I think about it, that it took a seriously impressive book to push me back into reviews. With only 5 minutes here or there to dedicate to blogging (you should see the state of my email), I never seem to get anywhere when I try to review lately. Add to that, the fact I sold my laptop and am using an Ipad without a keyboard at the moment, and you'll see it's a miracle I've so much as tweeted anything for the past couple of months. Seriously, is there anything more annoying then the space bar on the Ipad keyboard?? I think it ignores me tapping it just to spite me. But it's Sunday morning, the babe is napping, I have coffee, and I just finished Rose Under Fire and can't stop thinking about it.
Time to share!
Once again Wein has constructed a story perfectly set to illustrate a number of things I've never considered when thinking of the second world war. There is no shortage of books, film and memoirs about the various Nazi concentration camps, and I was both surprised and impressed Wein found a perspective I hadn't encountered before. It never occurred to me there would be British or American women in any of the camps, I'm not sure why not, it seems obvious now that I think about it, but I suppose because you largely hear stories about Dutch, German, French and Polish survivors. It certainly has always escaped me that if you didn't speak German you had to learn in a hurry, or you had to rely on someone else who could translate for you, or risk severe punishments for not complying with the German spoken commands. And from all the stories I had heard over the years, I realized very, very few of them were stories of the fighting women who ended up in these camps. Fighter pilots, resistance fighters, spies, etc. The idea of Girl Scout troops taking part in the resistance by smuggling bomb parts, during the war, blows my mind (excuse the pun), and it illustrated a very different experience then those of the young Jewish girls who were picked up simply for their religion.
Once again Wein took the simple act of friendship and turned it into the most beautiful relationship story I've ever read. If you thought Maddie and Julie were heartbreaking, wait till you meet Rose, Irina, Karolina, Roza (sorry, I have no idea how to get the appropriate accents on this keyboard), Lisette, Micheline and Elodie. The new Kiss Me Hardy!, so repeated after Code Name Verity, will be TELL THE WORLD! And it will choke you up and mean so much more than what the three simple words convey. I was prepared for Wein's ruthlessness this time. I knew she was going to make me cry. I knew this book would be heart wrenching and fabulous all at once, so the soul crushing moments didn't side swipe me in the same epic way they did in Code Name Verity, but they were no less deeply effecting. No meter man caught me sobbing my heart out this time, thank god.
One of the most impressive parts of the tale was Rose's poetry. Normally poetry and songs are a construct I don't enjoy in books, probably because the authors just aren't talented at it and so it's not successful at conveying what they want it to. However, Wein's poems for Rose are subtle and effective. I'm no poetry connoisseur, but I really loved them. I would happily quote one as an example, but I've only an ARC right now, so it'll have to wait. Remind me when Wein comes to the Tdot and I pick up a hard copy.
Code Name Verity was on the market for awhile before it exploded in popularity, Rose Under Fire will not have that problem. And although it will race off the shelves simply by being a companion novel to CNV (who doesn't want to know what happened to Maddie?) it will keep it's popularity by being just as impressive a book as it's predecessor. Wein's name is soon going to be synonymous with the best in YA lit, and I smell another season of well deserved accolades and awards. In short, don't let this book pass you by.
Rose Under Fire, by Elizabeth Wein
Published by Doubleday Canada, September 17th, 2013
My copy kindly provided by the publisher