Title: Rose Under Fire
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Publishing Information: September 10, 2013 by Disney Hyperion
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, World War II
Series information: A Companion to Code Name Verity
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Source: Obtained an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
Recommended For: Fans of historical fiction, World War II, and deeply moving relationships
While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?
I know many readers had a hard time not comparing Rose Under Fire to Code Name Verity, and I can see why, they are companion novels after all. Personally, I worked hard to separate the two, and not for the obvious reasons. I worked to separate them because…here comes a confession: I didn’t love Code Name Verity. Code Name Verity was a gorgeous and shocking novel, but for some reason I didn’t fall in love with it as so many readers did. Perhaps it was because I felt it was too hyped, or perhaps it was the fact that I didn’t like having to drudge through 2/3 of the novel before really FEELING anything for the characters. Whatever the reason, I am glad that I was able to separate, because that made me enjoy Rose Under Fire so much more. Rose Under Fire gets to you in a much more direct way, the harrowing details of the war are spelled out for you, there isn’t much to infer, and that made me fall more deeply into the story and feel for the characters.
As stated, the novel is harrowing and raw, this will come as no surprise once you read the description. However, the intense circumstances that surround these characters are not what make it so emotional. It is the relationships built under hard pressure, and the changes in Rose that really overwhelmed me as a reader. The characters in Rose Under Fire are incredible, they are strong and willful and determined to survive. They are all vastly different, but under the circumstances they grow into a family. A real family that at times, quite literally, holds on another upright in order to survive. It was incredibly emotional to read about these characters and how they reacted to one another, as they weren’t just different, but they were treated differently at camp. Some of the prisoners were used as experimental “rabbits,” and some were on work orders to transport dead bodies around the camp. Despite their desperate circumstances, these girls bided their time and worked together to defy those that held them prisoner. They were in no way compliant, despite how they acted and carried out their different tasks.
As I mentioned above, the transformation in Rose’s character is what really got inside me. As the novel begins the reader sees Rose as a naïve girl who is excited about her inclusion in the war effort. There are many comparisons throughout the novel between Rose and the other prisoners. For example, while Rose was picnicking prior to being captured, some of the rabbits were having gruesome experiments done to their bodies that would leave them crippled for the rest of their lives. It is the naiveté that Rose has prior to entering the camp that assists in her rapid transformation. It is not surprising that Rose is a shell of herself upon escaping the camp; she has to work to perform the simplest tasks such as eating, or sleeping with a blanket. Where some of those who have escaped want to fight and tell the world their story, Rose shies away from the courts, and people in general. Rose is not the fighter that Verity or Maddie are, she is more silent in her suffering and stands apart from these characters by showing strength in other ways. Ways that may seem small in comparison, but one must remember that everyone fights their own battles in their own way and for the most part, the characters throughout the novel understand that.
A little happy tidbit: Maddie is back! I loved, LOVED reading her parts and if I am being honest the parts that made me cry the most came in the form of Maddie’s reminiscing about Verity and how she built Rose back into a functioning human, little by little. There was one particular scene after Rose escapes where Maddie is reading her writings about being in camp and Maddie is just there on the bed with Rose, with her hand on her as a warm presence and reminder that Rose is not alone that really had me tearing up. These subtle messages, especially when they are encompassing emotions from both novels really got to me.
Overall, this novel was a beautiful read and I am happy that I experienced it though it isn’t something I would read again. There were no hidden agendas and surprises as in Code Name Verity, but the horrifying details are there on the page with little to infer. The relationships are deeper and more heartfelt and familial, which made me feel deeply for these characters. Rose Under Fire is a deeply moving novel that will definitely pull a reaction out of any reader. It comes highly recommended for fans of historical fiction and deeply moving relationships.
I also have the pleasure of working with two of my very dear friends, Brittany from The Book Addict’s Guide and Amy from Tripping Over Books on a new feature called Three’s Company, we will be reading the same book and then sharing our mutual thoughts with all of you! So STAY TUNED! Meanwhile, to hold you over..here is a little sneak peek at what we have in store…go check out Brittany’s review and Amy’s review and report back!