My latest read was the WWII novel Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. This book is a companion to Code Name Verity, and while it is not a direct sequel reading Rose first without reading Verity like I did will spoil what happens to the characters from Verity.
I’ve always loved books and movies set in World War II. There’s something about the perseverance of the people and their will to survive, of those willing to stand up and fight despite the consequences that makes for a compelling story. This one is no exception.
Rose, age eighteen, is an American girl who joins the Air Transport Auxiliary in England. She’s been flying since she was 12 and dreams of flying fighters like the boys, but instead is stuck ferrying un-armed aircraft from base to base. While flying a plane from France to England, she is captured by German pilots and after questioning is sent to Ravensbruck, the now notorious women’s prison camp. There she meets a group of brave young women, including the Polish “Rabbits” who the Nazi’s have experimented on in the name of “medical science.” Rose must learn to survive long enough for the allies to reach the camp and help the others to protect the Rabbits so that they can live to tell the tale of what was done to them.
The other characters include Lisette, a French novelist in her thirties whose Polish husband and sons where killed, Roza, a seventeen-year-old girl and one of the Rabbits who can barely walk thanks to what the Nazi doctors have done to her, Karolina, whose legs bare the scars of one of the Nazi’s surgery’s who has escaped additional tortures, and Irina, a soviet pilot who was shot down and captured. These four women form Rose’s “camp family” with Lisette as the mother of the younger ones. Together they help each other survive. Rose, who is also a budding poet, uses her poetry to help herself and the others survive by providing them with a little bit of comfort.
This story is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. What those women went through, especially the 74 Polish women and girls (the character of Roza was fourteen at her first so called surgery) the Nazi doctors experimented on in the name of “medical science” is horrifying. What those women went through was nothing less than torture. However, the ending is hopeful as it shows us their attempts at healing the physical and emotional scars.
I highly recommend this one to everyone. Five Lightsabers.