Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein (2012)

Genre: Historical Fiction
Interest Level: 12-adult
Code Name VerityIt’s World War II, and two young women develop an unlikely but fiercely loyal friendship. Maddie is British, working class, and in love with airplanes and flying. She signs up for the Women’s Auxiliary as a wireless operator (the closest a woman is likely to get to aircraft) and eventually joins the civilian Air Transport Authority, piloting planes as a shuttle service delivering people, cargo and occasionally the planes themselves. Queenie is of Scottish aristocracy, and because her upper-crust education is in German Studies, she is soon working as a translator. The story is presented as a series of journal entries by Verity, code name for a spy who was caught by the Germans nearly instantly upon landing in France. She is being tortured to reveal what she knows. She has traded her secrets for paper and pen so she can write her story, and it is this story we are reading.
Author Wein has done extensive research (her afterword includes a bibliography for those who wish to know more), and her detail, from destroyed rosebeds to snarky chokes to head lice, provides added depth and texture to a fascinating story that reveals the horror and anguish of life in wartime Europe, but remains a story of friendship, loyalty, smarts and secrets. But it failed to completely hold my attention – about halfway, I was losing interest in the prisoner of war journal entries. Torture can be tedious, it seems – okay, that doesn’t say much about me as a human being, I admit. But when the story shifted to Kittyhawk’s perspective (I don’t want to say much more – watch for spoilers if you check other reviews), things picked up dramatically and I was deeply into it again, right to the very end. And don’t forget – historical fiction isn’t my favourite genre, so perhaps my lack of enthusiasm can be blamed on that. Worth sticking through this one – it has been nominated for several awards and picked up some Best Book honours too.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13531619-code-name-verity

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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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