Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Elizabeth Wein first introduced a new generation to World War II in her historical young adult novel, Code Name Verity, one of my top books of 2012. We meet “Verity” after her plane has crashed and she’s being held hostage in a hotel by the Nazis during the German occupation of France during World War II. To save herself, she’s willing to give up wireless codes.
Maddie, the pilot of the plane that crashed, is presumed dead from the photos that the Nazis have shown “Verity.” Through “Verity’s” confession, we learn more about how she came to be a hostage, we learn of the women who were part of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and her unlikely friendship with Maddie.
With so many plot twists and turns, giving a full description of the story would give too much away. I dare not reveal too much for fear of ruining the surprises for others. (The audiobook is also worth seeking out.)
Rose Under Fire, published on September 10, 2013, picks up a year after Code Name Verity leaves off. It's August 1944, Rose Justice grew up in Pennsylvania flying planes from a young age. She is now an Air Transport Auxiliary pilot and is flying Allied planes from Britain to points in Europe during the War.
The men and women at the airfield exchange stories of pilots who were able to tip flying bombs as known as "toppling Doodlebugs." When a woman pilot is killed others suspect her of trying to tip a flying bomb away from its target.
Rose loves flying and she takes her job very seriously. On a mission to France to transport an Allied plane back to England her fate is forever changed when she encounters a flying bomb and disappears.
Six months later she is in a Paris Ritz hotel room unable to leave the room, get dressed or eat, able only to write of her whereabouts for those long months. Through her journal, she writes of her days at Ravensbrück Concentration Camp in Germany. After a nauseating ride in the back of a truck to the camp, Rose meets Elodie Fabert, a member of the French Resistance who has been transferred from another camp. In those first hours, Elodie and Rose bond and though physically separated at the camp they manage to communicate through their own unique ways.
As Rose is transferred to different blocks at the camp, she meets a number of remarkable fellow prisoners: Róża, one of the many women known as Rabbits who were subjected to Nazi medical experiments; Irena, a former Soviet pilot; and Lisette, a popular French novelist whose husband was Jewish. Her entire family had been shot. During the long, horrific days at the camp, Rose is assigned to such jobs as making bomb parts and clearing corpses. She copes by writing poems and songs, and is determined to learn the name and tell the story of every Rabbit.
About the Author
Erica Voell is the Youth Collection Development Librarian at the Kansas City Public Library. She enjoys gardening, sewing, knitting, seeking out gluten-free vegetarian cuisine around the city - and yes, being a good librarian, she is owned by a cat.