Title: Rose Under Fire
Code Name Verity #2
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Publish date: September 10th 2013 by Disney Hyperion
Source: Received for review via NetGalley
While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?
Elizabeth Wein, author of the critically-acclaimed and best-selling Code Name Verity, delivers another stunning WWII thriller. The unforgettable story of Rose Justice is forged from heart-wrenching courage, resolve, and the slim, bright chance of survival.
“It is so hard trying to say what you mean.” -Elizabeth Wein, Rose Under Fire
How very true that quote is and how very fitting for Elizabeth’s Wein’s work, which I could not possibly do justice with my own paltry words. I feel like it’s akin to tearing myself open to write this review.
Though Code Name Verity struck me more in the feels as I sobbed over its pages, I think Rose Under Fire is just as powerful and flawless. And perhaps– more important. Elizabeth Wein is a mastermind. That is an all-too-simplistic way of putting it. Rose Under Fire is an harrowing narrative of one girl’s time under unthinkable conditions. It’s mind-boggling and devastating.
In today’s day and age, it’s impossible to imagine that people once did not believe the accounts of torture and inhumanity that took place in Nazi-occupied Europe, behind the fences of concentration camps. That some people still don’t. Because, really: they’re unthinkable. They seem like fiction, like propaganda. It is heart-breaking to be with Rose as she realizes the truth.
Though fiction, Rose Under Fire is a testament to those people and those times. It’s an important read because, as Elizabeth Wein stresses in her afterword, she “didn’t make up anything about Ravensbruck [...] It was real. It really happened to 150,000 women.” These are the kinds of stories that are important to tell. To “tell the world.”
The characters in Rose Under Fire make me tear up just thinking about them, especially Roza, who’s been experimented on and in captivity since the age of 14, and copes with it all through her own particular brand of macabre humor. In fact, many of the characters deal with their horrific situation with that humor. Grasping at anything to lighten their horrible days. Making families from their comrades.
There is a part of me that want to talk about what a triumph of the human condition this story is. In a sense that’s true, but in a sense it could not be more false. It’s a story of how far humanity can fall. Of ordinary people moved to the worst and best of extremes, as some turn to evil and some struggle simply to survive, like clawing their way out of hell.
The fact that people made it out of camps like Ravensbruck is extraordinary. Poetry lovers will weep over the fragile, heartbreaking poems that Rose creates and recites. At first, as someone who is not a poetry aficionado, they took me out of the moment, but later I clung to them as a small beautiful thing among the desolate landscape of Elizabeth Wein’s words. I held fast to those crumbs of hope.
Hope. It’s one of the most powerful forces in the world. It can bolster or betray, but without hope, other people, and a degree of courage that seems impossible, Rose and some of her friends would not have made it through.
Rose Under Fire is just so important. I want to tie it up in a ribbon with Code Name Verity and deliver them to every teacher I know.
“Hope is treacherous, but how can you live without it?” – Elizabeth Wein, Rose Under Fire
Need a second opinion?
“It’s about heroism in its smallest, most difficult, most everyday forms, and sacrifice and love and perseverance and ahhhhh” -Writer of Wrongs
“I have to attempt to boil down 346 pages of heartbreak and horror and hope and victory into something informative and easy to read.” -Shae Has Left The Room
“Wein’s story is incredibly dark and daring, and with a powerful narrative voice.” -A Reader of Fictions