Category: I saw this book lying around my teenage cousin’s room for weeks. It looked intriguing, so I asked her if I could borrow it (I feel as though I made her become a reader, so it’s fitting that now I’m borrowing books from her).
My thoughts: Oh my goodness. What a great read! This book was marketed to teens, but it’s one of those books that I feel like should be marketed to adults. And it made me cry. And not just a single tear—I actually sobbed (at the time, I was in the safety of my own apartment, and not in public, thankfully). So, dear reader, do not expect a happy experience with this book. But it is well worth picking up.
Code Name Verity begins with a confession. During World War II, in occupied France, a British spy for the Special Operations Executive has been caught by the Gestapo and is imprisoned in a former hotel that they are using as their headquarters. The officer in charge of the “interrogations” (perhaps I should call it what it is—torture) Captain von Linden, gives her paper on which to write her story, including details of the British war effort. And thus we get the story of the strong friendship between our imprisoned spy, nicknamed Queenie, and Maddie Brodatt, a young female pilot. It was Maddie who flew Queenie to France in the first place.
As I said before, this novel involves some torture. And the torture scenes are quite graphic. These moments were difficult to read, but I feel as though they are necessary. You can’t have a book about a World War II prison without the ugly aspects, and such things happened to real people. Like The Book Thief, I love that Code Name Verity highlights the bravery of those who resisted the Nazis. People like Queenie (we eventually get her real name, but why spoil the surprise) and the French Resistance fighters rebelled against Nazi occupation—even though it could, at the very least, cost them their lives. They remind me of the civil rights workers in Coming of Age in Mississippi—other young people who decided to fight against unjust systems (some of whom died in the process). But Code Name Verity also highlights the fact that so many people got caught up in the whole Nazi machine, and this led them to do despicable, horrid things.
There are several references to Peter Pan and Macbeth (Queenie, as she reminds everyone, is a Scot, and woe betide anyone who calls her English). Also, there’s a reference to Admiral Horatio Nelson’s last words (“Kiss me, Hardy”). I have to admit, as an American, I’m only vaguely familiar with Admiral Nelson. Also, the friendship in this book reminds me the one in my first magical reading experience, the book that made me really fall in love with reading—Charlotte’s Web. That book depicted a strong friendship between two characters from different backgrounds. I don’t want to give too much of the plot of Code Name Verity away, because it takes some interesting turns. I kept having to turn back to previous pages and reread passages that were clues I’d missed the first time (I didn’t even know they were clues). Just read the book, and you’ll see what I mean.
Great passage: You know, I envied her. I envied her the simplicity of her work, the spiritual cleanness of it—Fly the plane, Maddie. That was all she had to do. There was no guilt, no moral dilemma, no argument or anguish—danger, yes, but she always knew what she was facing. And I envied that she had chosen her work herself and was doing what she wanted to do. I don’t suppose I had any idea what I “wanted” and so I was chosen, not choosing. There’s glory and honor in being chosen. But not much room for free will.
Up next: Persuasion—because I need to read something slightly cheerful.