Thursday, May 8, 2014

Code Name Verity

Wein, Elizabeth. Code Name Verity. New York: Hyperion, 2012. Print.
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My Thoughts
Plot summary from the book jacket
"When 'Verity' is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she's living a spy's worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

They'll get the truth out of her. But it won't be what they expect.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure, and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from a merciless and ruthless enemy?"

This was a hard book to read. The content wasn't difficult--following what was happening was. This is a story of a Scottish (NOT ENGLISH!) interrogator who has been captured by the Nazi's in France. She is to write down everything she knows. It was confusing because the text moves from present to past without much indication of what time the reader is in at the moment. There were a few visual breaks in the chapters, but not enough for me. It was also difficult following along because this woman "spy" often writes about herself in the third person. "I had not even noticed I was doing it until he [von Linden] asked" (Wein 58).

She writes about what is happening to her in the defunct hotel, Chateau de Bordeaux. She writes about what she hears happening to other prisoners.  She writes about what will happen to her "if I do not produce a satisfactory report in the time allotted--I will be sent to a place called Natzweiler-Struthof" (Wein 113). I've been there! It is a lesser known concentration camp located in France, mostly used for political prisoners. It was strange for me to actually read about this place in a fiction book. I think this gives credibility to the story.

"I am in the Special Operations Executive because I can speak French and German and am good at making up stories, and I am a prisoner in the Ormaie Gestapo HQ because I have no sense of direction whatsoever" (Wein 6). This is what the reader sees about the narrator early in the book. As I finished Part 1 (the first 200 pages of the book), and started writing this blog, I realized that even from page 6, I was not trusting the narrator. She tells us that she is good at making up stories. We should believe her. After finishing this part of the tale, I still didn't know if what I read was true or not, even though Queenie/Eva/Julia writes, "I have told the truth" over and over on the page (Wein 202). Page 162 provides some truth and page 199 gives her real, complete name!

This book is really two tales: Queenie/Eva/Julie/Katharina/Verity and Maddie/Kitty Hawk, a WAAF radio operator who wanted to be a pilot (Wein 30). Part Two of the book (beginning at page 207)started filling in the holes of part one's story. I began to see how it all came together to make a complete tale. Oh, a complete tale, indeed!

Maddie is a pilot and has flown many missions. One such mission ended in Julie evacuating the plane. Seeing Maddie's side of the story was great. I can't wait to see how Wein ties this all together. One thing that Maddie worries about while waiting in France is that she is Jewish. She worries that if she's caught, "I don't think Hitler will let me off for being godless" (Wein 215). She also worries and wonders about Maddie. "The missing face has been sucked into the engines of the Nazi death machine, like an unlucky lapwing hitting the propeller of a Lancaster bomber--nothing left but feathers blowing away in the aircraft's wake, as if those warm wings and beating heart had never existed" (Wein 227). What wonderful imagery in spite of the truth about it.

Maddie's lists of ten things she's afraid of has changed from Queenie's version earlier in the book. The lists appear on pages 53 & 223.

I have just finished the book (I wrote this post in stages so I wouldn't forget the story). OH MY! I am thrilled with how Wein created this tale. I kept flipping back into Queenie/Eva/Julie/Katharina/Verity's story to fit the pieces together. Not all is at it seems and some things that seemed insignificant became vital pieces to the story. I was shocked at several things that are explained in the second part of the book. I don't want to spoil the story here.

If you read this book, stick with it to the end. 

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