Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name VerityTitle: Code Name Verity

Author: Elizabeth Wein

Series: Code Name Verity #1

Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary (from Goodreads)

Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.

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.

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 the enemy?

Review

Recently, I’ve been trying to stick to only reviewing my actual review books, not just things I read or listen to for pleasure, but I enjoyed this one so much I felt compelled to talk about it.

Code Name Verity is one of those books that haunts you. I listened to it on audiobook (which was beautifully produced, but ultimately a frustration, as I kept wanting to turn back and look things up in the first half of the book after I got to the second half) and immediately wanted to go back through and listen to it again.

There are so many books set in the great wars that are overly sentimental and pulling on your heartstrings in a heavy handed sort of way. Code Name Verity was a horribly sad book, but it never felt like emotional manipulation – it was just clearly stating facts about what it was to live in those times, and what it meant to work for the war effort. The utterly unsentimental nature of the narrative made it all the more powerful.

I’ll admit, the switch of narrative perspective half way through was initially jarring, and after getting used to the perspective of the first girl, to switch to Maddie felt uncomfortable. But it was a necessary conceit, as the truth about the first half of the narrative is gradually unravelled throughout the second half.

It was so cleverly written – and I can’t say much more than I have without spoiling – that it made me want to laugh with delight. It’s a book about espionage that makes you feel like you’re a spy trying to figure everything out, not knowing who to trust.

I highly recommend that everyone who enjoys historical fiction goes out and gets this book – I really, really enjoyed it, and still think about it several days and several books later. To me, that’s the mark of a story that’s really had an impact on you.

Rating: 5/5

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