Code Name Verity
You know that feeling when you have a book for a long time and you just want to kick yourself for not reading it sooner?
I was given an advance copy of Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity at last year’s IBBY Congress in London. It was the weighty item in my delegate bag that I transferred to my luggage and promptly forgot about. When I arrived back home it moved to the book shelf, where it remained till last week. (I should mention that this is not a rare occurrence. I have a LOT of books that are still waiting to be read. The pile is constantly augmented by Christmas and birthday gifts, recommendations by friends, impromptu shopping sprees and review books.)
The reason I decided to haul this particular book off the shelf was a Tweet that read “The Obamas are reading Code Name Verity, are you?” which piqued my interest. So naturally, I spent the entire weekend devouring it.
If I had known how wonderful it was, I would have read it the moment it came into my possession. I actually want to read it again to relive the experience.
The book details the friendship between Maddie and Julie, two British girls caught up in the chaos of World War Two. The best friends are constantly separated and reunited; their duties often putting them in dangerous situations that change them forever. When Julie is captured by the Gestapo in Nazi-occupied France, Maddie will do everything it takes to get her back.
Code Name Verity is many things. It’s easier to explain in list form.
1. It’s a timeless tale of friendship.
2. It’s an incredibly detailed story that describes how it was before, during and after WW2.
3. It’s a thrilling adventure story for girls featuring fearless girl pilots, Gestapo fortresses and espionage.
4. It’s an empowering read that explains the role women played in the war.
It fits quite a few boxes too: Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Adventure.
The book focuses on the relationship between two young women. One is rural lass who aspires to be a pilot, and the war in Europe finally gives her the opportunity to realize her dream of flying. The other is a member of the upper class who has the less glamorous job of interrogating prisoners, a job she is assigned because she can speak German. In normal circumstances the two would never have met, but the war throws them together and creates a bond that cannot be broken.
Wein has masterfully created a picture of wartime Britain. She doesn’t skimp on the details, so while reader is transfixed by the intricacies of fighter planes and airforce bases, she’s also faced with the harsh realities of war – the increased work week, rations, life during the blitzes, death. Nor does Wein ignore the goings-on in Europe, and describes in detail the fear and torment prisoners of war experience at the hands of the Gestapo.
Some of the content makes this book suitable for older readers only, but it’s not just a book about the atrocities of war. It’s an imaginative, clever, thrilling adventure that teaches girls that there is nothing they can’t do. It’s also a beautiful tale of friendship that will stay with you for a long time afterward.