Dear Elizabeth Wein,
We love your characters, your writing style, and your ability to completely absorb us into the past. You opened our eyes to what life was like during World War Two in a way that history books haven’t. You changed the way we think about the world, (and what more can we ask for from a brilliant writer) and for this we thank you. The heroines of these two books, Verity and Rose respectively, are strong, fierce, resilient, and endearing young women who, in Maggie Stiefvater’s words, will “infest your heart.” They’re deeply relatable characters, particularly in their relationships with their loved ones, the best aspects of which we see in our own friendships. More than anything though we love the gloriously absorbing story you weave, particularly in Code Name Verity, where there were so many layers of narrative details that when we got to the end we had to start all over again.
AND she has another series called ‘The Lion Hunters’ (which sadly we don’t have at the moment) which is Arthurian which means they feature subject matter pertaining or relating to King Arthur and his court.
With much love and respect
R n R
Fair warning, this book has left more than one librarian in tears. It’s one of our all time favourite books. We, and many others on Goodreads, can’t quite put into words why we love it so much. The consensus seems to be: because it’s a completely different read to other YA, to other war stories, to other stories about women. Because while heartbreaking it’s tender and Elizabeth Wein pulls us between them both beautifully. Because in amongst the heartbreak it will make you laugh. Because it’s one hundred percent completely and utterly believable.
That’s all well and good you say, but what’s it about? Verity has been shot down over WW2 occupied France. She’s an enemy agent being interrogated by SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden. They’ve struck a deal where he’ll stop the torture if she tells him everything she can remember about the British War Effort. But that story starts with Maddie, the pilot who flew Verity into France – an Allied Invasion of Two. It’s a rollicking good story with some seriously shocking twists. We cannot recommend it highly enough!
Rose is an American, it’s 1944 and she’s just arrived in the UK to ferry planes. She’s more naive than the other girls and in the early part of the book the suspense builds as you just know something is going to go dastardly wrong. Which it does so spectacularly, landing Rose (quite literally) in Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Where Verity was battling the Nazi’s by herself, Rose’s strength to fight them comes from her friendships with the other prisoners. More than caring for someone else though, Rose’s life depends on these friendships. The horrific conditions of the concentration camps are something that, because of time and distance, we can’t ever quite comprehend. However, the characters, and more specifically the relationships between them, are so very relatable that they pull us into the world Elizabeth Wein is describing with ease. Because we fell so in love with the characters, the horrors of WW2 resonated in a way they didn’t when we studied them in school.
If you want to know more about the Nazi concentration camps, the Memorial Site and Museum of Auschwitz has a fantastic website as does the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum which can be found here.