If I had to pick a kryptonite, its World War II fiction. This setting in time is fascinating to me on several levels and it’s such a rich period that I find I don’t ever read the same story twice.
Both book hangovers that I have been nursing this year were World War II narratives set in different places with different plots.
The first was City of Thieves by David Benioff, where two prisoners of war are given a chance to earn their freedom if they can procure enough eggs for a high-ranking colonel’s daughter’s wedding cake. Sounds easy today, but not when you’re in Russia.
The second was Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein which is about a spy who has been captured by the Gestapo in Nazi-occupied France and her friend, a civilian pilot.I found this book so moving that I styled an outfit inspired by it.
Code Name Verity also gave me one of the worst book hangovers of my life, but I was relieved to find out that Wein wrote a companion novel. Rose Under Fire is that novel, but while it is set in the same timeline, it doesn’t pick up where Code Name Verity left off.
In Rose Under Fire, we are introduced to another civilian pilot and poet named Rose Justice. Rose is an American from Pennsylvania, working in Britain, with Maddie from Code Name Verity. They’re friends and colleagues who share a love of flying.
But, this isn’t the story of Maddie after the events of Code Name Verity, this is the story of Rose Justice, who is flying over France when she gets captured by the Germans and sent to Ravensbruck.
While in Ravensbruck, Rose meets a set of unusual women including a writer who’s husband and sons were killed before she brought into Ravensbruck and a girl who was used by Nazi scientists to perform medical experiments.
These horrifying circumstances are all framed by the idea of finding hope. For Rose, hope comes through bravery, loyalty, and friendship with her fellow prisoners and the way that these women prop people up is this book’s driving force.
Rose Under Fire could be consumed as an entirely separate text. You don’t necessarily have to read Code Name Verity to enjoy Rose Under Fire, but there are a few characters who cross the two narratives.
That’s what I really liked about the novel, the fact that there was this subtle connection between the books really captivated me.
As a whole, I really appreciated the amount of detail Wein put into this book. She wrote a book that was a fictionalized account of a Ravensbruck prisoner and took some liberties with how the camp operated, but her attention to detail is what makes her writing so vivid.
Just like in Code Name Verity, I could imagine the surroundings and I could really feel the emotion. This book is just as character driven and just as insightful.
Sasha Prick, the narrator, does a good job with her performance as a narrator and with the challenge of Russian and Polish accents to contend with, she holds her own. Over the course of the book I think Sasha’s performance showed the subtle transformation of a young girl from Pennsylvania who had never seen war before, to a lady who’s life have been shaped by her experiences in the camp.
It’s hard to put some of my feelings for Rose Under Fire into perspective without giving out details of both books. I will say this: Rose Under Fire is a character study that shows a life touched by war. It is a study of a young girl and the power of hope and friendship.
If you are at all interested in World War II narratives I highly recommend this tale. It kept me so interested and captivated that I finished this book in just under three days. Like all good books, this one made me laugh and smile at the same time and left me wanting more.
FINAL RATING: 5 Stars