Review: Elizabeth Wein – Code Name Verity

I feel quite useless writing a review about this book. It has garnered nothing but praise and features on so many best-of-the-year lists I can’t remember seeing one without it. And honestly, all I can do here is agree with the rest of the world. This is a superb book!

code name verity otherCODE NAME VERITY
by Elizabeth Wein

Published by: Egmont Press, 2012
ISBN: 1405258217
Paperback: 452 pages
Standalone

My rating: 8/10

First sentence: I am a coward.

I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.
That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.
He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.
We are a sensational team.

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This is another one of those books that have been very much hyped – not so much through marketing efforts by the publisher, blog tours, givaways, and such things. But through glowing reviews all over the place. Naturally, I was suspicious at first. But some of the blogs that I read and count among my most trusted Recommenders of Great Books have agreed with the overall praise. It was settled, I was reading this thing.

Being a story set during World War II, there is bound to be some tragedy. Lives are destroyed, people are killed, lovers ripped apart and children taken away. But we focus on a smaller world. In the first part of two, “Verity” confesses how she came to be where she is – being interrogated by the Gestapo and coughing up any facts she can remember about the war. The story she tells is more personal, though. She doesn’t just list places, give away radio code, and sing out names of spies. She tells us how she met her best friend in the world – Maddie.

code name verityIt is hard not to get drawn into the story right away. “Verity” manages to tell her story in a gripping way and despite her terrifying situation, infuse it with a sense of humor that made me love her very quickly. The girls’ first meeting was simply brilliant but I do have one small point of critique. I didn’t quite feel their bond after that initial meeting. They simply don’t spend enough time together or at least we don’t get to see it. And that really put a damper on the entire story for me. Because if that friendship doesn’t feel as strong to me as it obviously does to these two women, then whatever happens won’t touch me as much.

Despite this little misgiving (and it is just a wee little one) I enjoyed this book immensely. When I read a novel about WWII, there are certain things I expect, certain events we all knew happened – but if you can show me something new, and be it a tiny little detail, then I’m already intrigued again. I remember my classmates in school always whining when we talked about WWII because it felt like we always talked about it in a never-ending regurgitation of the past. I believe that there are stories that should be told over and over, and that within the big picture, there is a nearly infinite number of smaller stories that deserve to be told as well. Now this may be fiction – and the author says so in her Debriefing – but there were women pilots and there were a few women spies. I had no idea! This was definitely a story worth being told.

The mix of languages was totally up my alley. Seeing as the three languages used are all ones I speak to some degree, I was thrilled that the narrator sometimes switched back and forth between them. Don’t worry, most of the time, she translates them to English. But this sentence here could have come from my own language-befuddled brain (plus, the French subjunctive is used correctly which made the Grammar Freak in giddy with glee):

quotes greyI shook this treacherous woman’s hand and said coolly, en français pour que l’Hauptsturmführer who doesn’t speak English puisse nous comprendre, “I’m afraid I can’t tell you my name.”

Apart from the great story and the character of “Verity” (she was easily my favorite), this book offered a few things that felt like little gems, put in especially to make me happy. Being somewhat of a Peter Pan nut, I loved the parallels and use of lines and names from the original story. Mrs. Darling, who leaves the windows open, in case her children fly home unexpectedly – what a wonderful image for the mother of a pilot.  There are plenty more but I won’t spoil.

I am expecting this book to win all sorts of awards and they are most deserved. In the end, it wasn’t as much of a hit as I had expected after the rave reviews. The friendship didn’t really feel that close to me until the end. There was admiration between these girls, certainly, but the love of a best friend did not come across through the pages. Still, a very highly recommended read that shows a different perspective on a story we all think we know already.

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THE GOOD: Great writing, wonderful characters, very suspenseful until you know what is going on.
THE BAD: I didn’t feel the friendship as much as I think I should have. The first half of the book was much better than the second.
BONUS: Mixed languages.
THE VERDICT: A highly recommended book that can be read by people of all ages.

RATING: 8/10  Excellent

2 thoughts on “Review: Elizabeth Wein – Code Name Verity

  1. Llyren says:

    Another of those hyped books that I’m still hesitating with. Even though it probably would be quite up my alley with its WWII-subject.
    On the other hand, there is no romance in there, is there? Only the friendship/relationship between the two girls? That would be a point in favour I guess. And after that review, I suppose I’ll give it a try some time.
    Thanks for that!

    Like

    • Nadine says:

      Yes that’s true. No romance. These two girls are best friends but they are in the middle of a war and they really don’t have time to fall in love with boys. 🙂
      It is a very nice book and the first half is so thrilling you can hardly put it down. The hype may be a bit much but at least this wasn’t a disappointment.

      Like

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