Monday, September 16, 2013

Book Review: Rose Under Fire, by Elizabeth Wein

I can't believe how much I loved Rose Under Fire. You see, I really didn't like Code Name Verity at all.

Rose Under Fire is a companion novel, so it isn't necessary to have read Verity. One of the characters in Rose is a friend of one of the characters in Verity.

Rose is a U.S. civilian pilot in England, ferrying planes around for the Air Transport Auxiliary. She would love to be flying in combat, but in WWII, of course that isn't possible. The beginning of Rose Under Fire gives us the feel of the war in Europe. Although there is always the danger of the flying bombs, Rose's life is pretty exciting but mostly safe. Rose wants nothing more than to fly to Paris.

Her Uncle Roger, who got her this job because he's high up in the Royal Engineers, gives Rose her chance. He manages to get her assigned to fly him to Paris. On her way back, Rose runs into trouble, ends up in enemy territory and is captured by the Germans. She is sent to a concentration camp -- Ravensbrück, and that's where the story takes off.

Ravensbrück is where many young Polish women were experimented on by crazy doctors. They would deliberately infect them with gangrene, cut out muscle and bone, and do all sorts of other horrible things. These women were called "rabbits" and Rose became friends and somewhat of a protector to some of these women.

Life in the camp was horrible -- I'm not going to spend a lot of time on those details, but it's a special kind of society that you really need to read about. These women made so many sacrifices for each other, and plotted and schemed to save each other and really to keep their sanity. Rose recites and writes poetry. Another lady in the compound makes paper airplanes. Getting the paper was not an easy challenge! Rose Under Fire is such a multilayered story, it's impossible to explain everything in a review.

Rose Under Fire is written in a diary format, which works well for the subject. Rose is a hero, but there are many heroes in this story. The story is not totally linear, but is very easy to follow (unlike the experience I had with the disjointed narration in Verity.)

I would recommend Rose Under Fire to anyone, teen or adult, who is interested in women in the war, concentration camps, and just the resiliency of the human spirit. The book ends on a more upbeat note, and does include the Nuremberg trials of these horrible doctors.

Reading over this review, I just really didn't do this book justice. But I don't want to say more, because you have to read it to understand. Wein does a lot better job of writing than I do (hah!  Big surprise!) This book should be added to the WWII/Holocaust book lists at all of your libraries.

Published by Miramax, September 10, 2013
eARC obtained from NetGalley
368 pages

Rating: 5/5

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  1. I'm really excited to read this one. I also didn't like Code Name Verity as much as other people did and was worried if it had the same feel to it. The disjointed narration of Verity also hindered my enjoyment of it but I think this diary format seems to work better. Thanks for the review!

  2. I wasn't too fond of Code Name Verity either, but you really have piqued my interest with this one. I'll have to give it a try.


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