Novel: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

With Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein established herself as a writer of devastating power. She cements that reputation further in the follow-up companion novel Rose Under Fire (2013). It’s another shattering read, meticulously researched historical YA set during World War II further examining the exploits of the women of the Air Transport Auxiliary, and the ordeal that one of its pilots experiences after a mission gone wrong.

Rose Justice has more flight hours under her belt than most of the men in the RAF when she comes to England as a volunteer for the ATA, delivering planes from base to base. But it isn’t until late in 1944 that she and her colleagues are permitted to fly over the European continent, in the wake of the D-Day landings. There, during a routine flight over France, an encounter with a terrifying V1 pilotless bomb sends her way off course, landing her in enemy territory, and casting her into a world of almost unimaginable suffering as a prisoner in the Ravensbrück concentration camp.

While it’s similar to Code Name Verity in tone and subject matter, ultimately Rose Under Fire is a different kind of story, with a harrowing core, a dark message from the past. It suffers in comparison only in regards to plot; I found Verity ingeniously mapped, while Rose Under Fire is more linear and less structurally surprising. It’s still a remarkable, heartbreaking read, its soul-wrenching subject matter obviated considerably by Rose’s youthful, upbeat voice. It’s a moving tale of survival, and of friendship between women in a brutal war zone. Highly recommended.

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