My list of books to read on Goodreads currently has 57 books on it. The selection is eclectic, including classics I feel I “should” read like Frankenstein or Gone with the Wind, a few thrillers I am trying to work up the courage to read and finally, a massive amount of contemporary novels that I delve into with abandon.
Some books have been waiting for my attention for years, while others are more recent finds. And very occasionally, I hear about a book that I am so sure I will love that I add it to the list and start reading straight away. Code Name Verity, a young adult historical novel, was one of those books.
Code Name Verity: the story
I normally write my own descriptions for these things, but not this time!
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.
There will be no spoilers in this article (as usual) but I WISH I knew someone who had read this book so I could go over every little detail with them. It is an extraordinary piece of writing and an emotional rollercoaster that left me feeling deflated when the ride came to a halt. It was truly, truly excellent, and I am SO glad I got to read it and that nobody told me about the story beforehand.
I have already pressed this book upon various friends and everyone has said something along the lines of “it looks depressing”, and YES it is terribly sad, even more so because of the vibrancy of the characters. I knew this was fiction from the beginning but it felt incredibly real, even more so than some non-fiction WWII books that I have read. The guilt felt by the collaborator, the shame, the stupidity of how she was caught by the Nazis… It is all tangible and it sucks you in.
I was struck by how well the 1st person narrator was used. The narrator’s tale unfolds and the reader (you, reading the novel, along with the Nazis) is taken on a ride down memory lane that brings you so close to her that you can hardly bear the allusions to torture scenes that follow.
I am honestly at a loss as to why this novel has been labelled young adult fiction! The themes involved – torture under Nazi reign, concentration camps, high treason – are in no means tackled in a way that makes you think the author was censoring her writing for a younger audience. I started off thinking that it was good, then as the book went on, it just kept getting better. Each twist made me gasp and I worried constantly about the characters’ lives and choices. I mourned the dead and suffered for the injured, and although I generally have a book in my bag that I read on my way to work, my morning commute has never seemed so short.
Code Name Verity will definitely be one of my favourite books and I will reread it as soon as possible (as soon as I finish the sequel, Rose Under Fire) so I can put the facts straight in my head. What a book! I wish that everything I read could be half as good as this.