I wrote last week about how much I enjoyed Code Name Verity, Wein’s novel about a female pilot during WWII. After finishing CNV, I immediately read the second novel, Rose Under Fire, which isn’t exactly a sequel but does pick up where the first book left off and has several characters who reappear and are part of the storyline. The main character, however, is different, although she too is a female pilot.
Rose Justice is an American girl who has grown up around airplanes. Her father runs an aviation company and she’s been flying since the age of 12, so she jumps at the chance to go to England and work for the civilian ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) as a transport pilot, Europe is already several years into WWII, and many of her fellow pilots have already experienced tragic consequences in their own lives.
Although young, Rose is a strong-willed and optimistic person who believes in what she is doing. She also has a sensitive, artistic side and writes poetry. Inspired by the works of Edna St. VIncent Millay who wrote poems praising democracy and the Allied war effort, Rose chronicles her own feelings about the war through by prose and poetry.
And then real tragedy strikes Rose’s life as well. While flying an unauthorized mission over France, Rose is captured by the Germans and interned at Ravensbrück, a woman’s concentration camp in northern Germany. What she goes experiences during her time in the camp and the relationships she forms there will forever change her.
The bulk of the story takes place during Rose’s time at Ravensbrück, and I won’t go into too much detail as i don’t want to spoil the story for anyone. It is an incredible narrative, though, and one that has changed me just in the reading of it. While it is Rose’s story, as she is the narrator, it is also the story of all of the women whom Rose encounters and who become more to her than just fellow inmates. These women are mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends. They are victims and they are survivors. They are incredible, breathtakingly brave and generous and forever scarred.
I fell in love with the character of Rose, but there is so much to admire about the different strong female characters in this book. I love the way that Wein has highlighted, through both books, female accomplishments and inter-relationships in a context that in much of literature is dominated by men. Men have very little place in these stories, apart from in roles as secondary characters. They are present but they are not the focus, and the women’s experiences are not defined by their relationship to a man but by their relationships with each other. I can’t emphasize enough what a refreshing change this is from so much of YA literature today.
Although I loved both CNV and Rose Under Fire, the second book was probably my favorite. I highly recommend reading them both together, as they complement one another perfectly.
Incredible. It is just incredible that you can notice something like that when your face is so cold you can’t feel it anymore, and you know perfectly well you are surrounded by death, and the only way to stay alive is to endure the howling wind and hold your course. And still the sky is beautiful.
Thanks so much to NetGalley and Disney Book Group for providing me with a review copy of this book.
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