All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

on July 16, 2021

Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity #3)
Elizabeth Wein
2013 (originally 2012), 332p
Read from my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/}: Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy? 

I am so late to this party. In fact, when I added this book to my goodreads, it showed me that I had originally listed it under wishlist/TBR in 2012! So 9 years later, I finally got around to reading it after hearing so many people say how much they loved it and seeing it mentioned among lots of people’s favourite books.

When this book begins, a woman has been captured by the Gestapo in France for looking the wrong way when crossing the street, indicating that she’s probably from Britain. She has faced quite a long period of torture and freely admits to telling those interrogating her, a lot of things, much to the chagrin of her fellow captives. She has negotiated a deal – she’ll write down all she knows about British airfields, missions, training operatives, equipment etc and well, she’ll live a little while longer. And maybe she will get a quick death, instead of being subject to experiments or worked and starved to death in a camp. But also, maybe she won’t.

The young woman weaves her story in with another – the pilot of the crippled plane she had to parachute out of. It’s a story of friendship and how two women from very different backgrounds met and forged this friendship when, without the war, they’d probably never have crossed paths, nor built up this friendship. Recruited to the war effort for skills in flying and in languages, the two women end up in dangerous places, sometimes doing dangerous things that they cannot talk about, even to each other. They understand each other, and find ways to be supportive even when they can’t really unburden themselves.

I loved the way this was told. It doesn’t seem to have worked for everyone, but it really did for me. The way in which the story is written, a story within a story and the fact that a lot of the information is alluded to rather than bluntly described. We know how much trauma and torture “Verity” has experienced but she rarely makes more than a passing comment about it. Somehow those comments are just as chilling as if it were described in detail. And anyone who has read anything about the Nazis knows what they were capable of, your mind fills in the rest.

I appreciated the way this story went in terms of making you think one thing about what Verity is saying and doing, before it flips it on its head later on. The narrative changes about 3/4 of the way through and everything slowly starts to recalibrate and you realise how clever Verity was, how well she thought on the fly, even after everything she’d been through. And what she was really doing there and what she was prepared to do in order for it to go ahead, even with her having been captured.

For me, this definitely lived up to everything I’ve heard about it and I got the read that I was expecting. I found myself hooked from the first page, invested in “Verity” and whether or not she might somehow, miraculously escape the fate that seemed to be waiting for her, seeing as she’d been captured. She is like a WWII Scheherazade, bargaining more time with tales of what she knows and she’s also not afraid to sometimes add in a dig to her German captors either. I definitely wondered at her tactic but the further I got into it, the more I needed to know and the more the book surprised me. Especially when the little connections began to make themselves known and I realised who certain people were and who they were connected to. I enjoyed the part that featured the French resistance and the work they were doing getting people in and out of France and the various missions and acts of sabotage they were involved in. It was satisfying to read, even when it came with heartbreak.

I ended up finishing this late at night, when I don’t usually read, because I had to know what happened and how it ended. It’s definitely the sort of book you want to read in a single sitting, the fate of these characters becomes something you get so invested in, even though I think on a deeper level, you know that it’s so unlikely that there’s going to be a fairytale ending. The ending is rough, in a lot of ways, but it’s the ultimate act.

Definitely need to read the others.


Book #121 of 2021

This is book #24 of my Historical Fiction Reading Challenge for 2021

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