Code Name Verity | Elizabeth Wein | Reviewed by Ria

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Code Name Verity header
*image via GoodReads

“I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.”

Our story starts in 1943 in an abandoned hotel in Nazi occupied France, where Queenie, a British spy, has been captured and tortured by the Gestapo. Her captors soon convince her to become a collaborator and she has been allowed to write down the events that led to her capture in the hope she will divulge some secrets about the British War Effort. 

But Queenie isn’t giving up her information that simply. She’s going to tell her story, but her story starts back home in England with her best friend Maddie. Fearless, flying Maddie who was the pilot who flew her to France in the first place. 
The written account Queenie provides her Nazi captors is as much Maddie’s story as it is her own and actually start with Maddie’s upbringing and ambitions to one day fly aeroplanes. Queenie herself is not introduced as a character in Maddie’s story until much later, with the two of them meeting whilst serving together in the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force). The two young girls are from completely different worlds (Queen is a from a Scottish legacy, Maddie country girl brought up by her Jewish grandparents) and if it weren’t for World War II, they may have never met. 

As well as detailing bits and pieces of the war effort to appease her captors, the account Queenie provides ends up becoming so much more than a forced confession but an incredible account of two best friends who make a sensational team.

So what’s my verdict?
I started Code Name Verity pre-LeakyCon and actually got to meet Elizabeth Wein at the convention. At the time I confessed to her that I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction – quite daring of me I know! – but I was enjoying what I read of her book so far. She urged me to go on and that if there was a book to get me into the genre she hoped this would be it. Luckily for her, she was definitely right about that.

For me it did start a little slow – though this may have been the large break I had in the middle of reading the book – but once I fully immersed myself into the story I found myself stuck into a brilliantly written and heartfelt story of two wonderfully brave young women. Queenie, our main narrator, clearly admires Maddie and her confidence not only as a person but as a skilled pilot. But Queenie is also an astonishing woman in her own right, her talents lie in deception and her language skills in French and German prove to be more than useful to the Special Operations division of the military. 
Unlike most fiction in this genre, the historical details provide a seamless backdrop to the main chatacter’s journey. The technicalities are there with types of planes, the airfields and dated slang but slotted in easily within the story and aren’t forced upon the reader. 
Though Maddie and Queenie are obviously our main protagonists, the book plays host to plenty of others both allies and enemies. The most interesting characters for me were Queenie’s captors themselves. Though morally corrupt at face value, with Queenie living under their thumb for the majority of the book Wein does manage to give those in the Gestapo stronghold a voice too, with surprising effects.

Overall, I’d completely recommend this novel. The story is captivating and the ending with leave you heartbroken. It's great to read story set in this era with two strong female protagonists, who are both heroes in their own right. 

Reading Soundtrack:
Part Of Me: Katy Perry; Night & Day: Sarah Blasko; This Is The Thing: Fink; Night Terror: Laura Marling; There You'll Be: Faith Hill; Soldier On: The Temper Trap


For lovers of…The Book Thief, Carrie's War, other WWII historical fiction and kick-ass female characters.

This book was reviewed by regular reviewer Ria, get to know more about her here!
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Post author: Ria

Ria is a coffee addicted, part time blogger at Thoroughly Modern Millennial and professional fangirl (it's a thing, believe me). She co-founded Blogger's Bookshelf with Erin back in 2012 and the rest, as they say, is history...

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