Rose Under Fire | Elizabeth Wein | Book Review

“Hope is treacherous, but how can you live without it?”

- location 2418 in Kindle ARC of Rose Under Fire

It’s hard to start a review of a book that’s precious to you. One wrong phrase and you can totally muck up just what you are trying to convey about why everyone needs to drop their schedules and read said book. So, instead of starting this review of Rose Under Fire, the companion novel to Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein in the usual way, I choose to start with a quote – one that I think perfectly encapsulates the themes and feelings within Rose Under Fire. Remember the heavy, can’t breathe feelings from Code Name Verity? Wein does it again with Rose Under Fire, a tour de force if ever there was one. The thing Wein keeps doing is winning my heart with her realistic main characters and the extraordinary courage they exhibit.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein | Good Books And Good WIne

Similar to Code Name Verity, the plot of Rose Under Fire involves female pilots during World War II and being captured behind enemy lines. There are strong friendships and courage that roars. Yet, this is where the similarities end. Rose Justice, main character, is an American ATA pilot whose parents own an airfield in Pennsylvania. She has come to Great Britain to help and has struck up a friendship with a pilot we all know and love named Maddie Brodatt. Rose Under Fire takes place towards the end of the war. It’s at the point where the Nazis no longer occupy Paris and they know they are losing, but there’s still that last push. Anyways, Rose is tasked with flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England. This is pretty routine and should not be a huge deal.

Unfortunately, her plane is shot down by Nazis. She ends up in Ravensbrück, a prison camp for women. As you can imagine, the experience is horrific and she does not receive special treatment because she is American — a fact that struck me the most as for some odd reason, I just figured Americans get special treatment. Interspersed with Rose’s story of her time at camp, is the present timeline, or rather, the post-War Nuremburg trial timeline. What results is a complex and evocative read, eliciting anxiety even though you know that Rose will survive based upon her narration at the trials. Unlike Code Name Verity, there is no big part two twist. Rather, what you see is what you get.

“You always think you’re immortal, don’t you? I mean, it hasn’t happened yet. I am still alive.”

-Location 2687

The thing about Rose Justice, besides her fantastic name is just that she is so damned American. She is incredibly different from Queenie in Code Name Verity which is probably the first thing I picked up on while reading this companion novel. I think that is great thing as I do not like it when authors keep telling the same plot over and over. Instead, Rose is a girl who has levity. She’s freewheeling and spirited. She’s not nearly as reserved as Queenie. So, when she is forced into the prison camp, you can feel her spirit start to break down. You can see a marked difference. Yet, Rose is more than just a silly American girl. She’s also a poet. We get to read her poems throughout Rose Under Fire and they are actually quite good and encapsulate what I would image she would be feeling at the time (which obviously it should, but still sometimes poetry doesn’t work — in this case it does). Rose is someone you just want to root for and want to help through her trauma as she’s what I would consider a bright light kind of girl.

“But people need lift, too. People don’t get moving, they don’t soar, they don’t achieve great heights, without something buoying them up.”

-Location 3276

When I was in college, I took a History Of The Holocaust class as I wanted to learn more about why such atrocities happen. I will never forget when the professor asked us what exactly those who survived had in common. People tossed out all kinds of factors, but in the end it really came down to luck. I mean, the fucking Nazis would kill people for no rhyme or reason — sometimes because a person is in the wrong place at the wrong time. So, when I read stories like Rose Under Fire I pay attention to the luck in her tragic circumstances that allow her to live through such a terrible, terrible ordeal.

I also have paid attention to one element of the story — the Rabbits. In the book, the Rabbits are these girls and women who have been medically experimented on by having their bone marrow drained and more. Many can barely walk, but the prisoners of the camp protect them and want them to live so that they may tell their story. For that same class I mention, we had to write one term paper – the majority of your grade depended on it. I did mine of Mengele and his horrific experiments on twins. So, I thought that it was good that Rose Under Fire included something about people who are victims of the Nazi medical experiments as I don’t know that enough people are educated on that dark portion of history.

“‘You really are the world’s worst pain in the neck,’ I complained. But my heart ached for her bravery.”

Rose Under Fire pulses with hope. It pulses with friendship. It shows that there is light even in some very, very dark places. I would say it’s one of those books that truly shows the triumph of the human spirit, cliche as that makes me sound — because even when the circumstances are terrible, people still manage to love and to hope and to be good. When I think of the beautiful ending that Rose Under Fire has, I realize that all the anxiety and uncomfortable feelings reading were worth it.

Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.

Other reviews of Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein:

Girls In Capes – “left me breathless in more ways than one
Bananas For Books – “this book literally took my breath away.”
Readaraptor – “just incredible

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About April (Books&Wine)

April is 27 years old and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. In her free time she can be found reading, working out, or eating junk food. She often wears her sunglasses at night.

Comments

  1. This is a wonderful review, April. I recently read Code Name Verity, and wow was that one amazing. I’ve been telling everyone I know that they NEED TO READ IT RIGHT NOW.

    So I have Rose Under Fire, too, and I am so excited (and terrified) to read it. I went to a librarian conference in the spring, and a representative from the publisher was there talking abou tupcoming releases. And of course she mentioned Rose Under Fire. She said that it is different from Verity, but just as amazing.

    I’m going to try to get to Rose soon.

  2. You know, you make me want to read this and I was one of the few who didn’t particularly like Code Name Verity – it was too wordy for me and I don’t really like narrators as unreliable as Queenie – but this sounds more like something I would actually need to read.

    Thanks for sharing all your thoughts.

  3. Sounds fantastic. I loved Code Name Verity and can’t wait to get my hands on this one. I think the poetry element sounds great and I love that the MC is so different to Queenie. Roll on Sept, I’m so excited!

  4. I think you’ve conveyed everything really well. It sounds like a wonderful book — better even than Code Name Verity, maybe, would you say? It sounds maybe a bit even better.

  5. Great review April! I absolutely LOVED this book and am honestly terrified to review it! Overall, it was beautiful. I loved the differences between this one and Code Name Verity, while still showing the similar trials people during the war went through. One thing that stuck out to me was how everyone came together to celebrate the war being over. My heart was overwhelmed by this scene, mostly because I will never know that kind of jubilation the people of Paris felt.

    I can’t wait for more people to read this one and get to read more reviews of it!

  6. I loved Code Name Verity, so I already knew I wanted to read this book. But your lovely review has just made me that much more excited for this book to finally be released! I love that Code Name Verity focused so much on female friendship. I think it’s something lacking in a lot of YA books (or is just a secondary storyline to a love story), so I’m excited to hear we get more of that in this one. I’m also interested in finding out about the Rabbits. Seriously great review April and love the inclusion of all the quotes!

  7. If your goal with this review was to tempt me to drop all other books and immediately start Rose Under Fire, you have succeeded. It took me a long time to read Code Name Verity, which is a tragedy as it was a beautiful book. Rose Under Fire sounds like an amazing companion to it, and I cannot wait to start it.

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