Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Official Summary: “Oct. 11th, 1943—A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.
When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.
As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?
Harrowing and beautifully written, Elizabeth Wein creates a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other. Code Name Verity is an outstanding novel that will stick with you long after the last page.”
Code Name Verity tells the story of a young female secret agent captured by the Nazis during World War II. The story is told as a first person narrative, from the perspective of the key players in the form of their own written records of what happens. While it is first and foremost a story of the World War II, Elizabeth Wein has also woven the story of two best friends meeting each other during a time of immense stress into the plot. The historical aspects of the story are fascinating, but it is the human element of the relationship between the two friends that really elevates this book to such an impressive level and gives it its emotional punch.
I must admit, I had a harder time getting into this book than I expected. I am a fan of most historical fiction and am particularly interested in World War II, so I was very excited when I picked this book up at ALA Midwinter, but the somewhat disjointed (intentionally so) structure of the first person narrative made it hard for me to feel completely engaged with the story at first. I say this as a warning to other readers who may have the same reaction to the beginning of the book, because, having finished the book, I can definitively say that it is well worth giving it time. Once I gained more of a sense of the characters, the setting and what (I thought) was going on, I got caught up in the book and realized that the first person narrative was actually the only way that this story could be told.
The book is very difficult to fully review without giving away the plot, but I will say that even though I knew that twists were coming and thought that I had guessed them, Wein never failed to surprise me. In the end, the plot points I thought I had “guessed” were not only wrong, but would not have been nearly as powerful as the tale that Wein has actually chosen to tell. After its somewhat slow start, the story builds momentum until the very end, leaving me unable to put the book down as I reached the conclusion.
Beyond the plot itself, the attention to historical context is also extremely impressive. It is clear throughout the book that Wein has backed her writing up with a staggering amount of research. The book is filled with subtle details that all ring true and combine to make it possible for the reader to fully believe an otherwise somewhat incredible story. Even as I was finding myself surprised by details from the time period, I nevertheless completely believed them because Wein was able to back them up with so many supporting details. The book ends with an author’s note that confirms the facts that it was based on and also provides suggestions for future reading for those who become fascinated with the facts and events she presents.
This book is an excellent choice for anyone who is interested in historical fiction, particularly books set during World War II. But, I would truly recommend this book to anyone.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.