I’ve read a few young war novels during my time as an intern teacher. These include The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, and The Book Theif. I usually find myself really enjoying war novels, especially World War II novels, and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein was no exception. Although, I have to admit it took me awhile to really get into the book. I am fairly sure it is because of the way it was written.
The story is about Julie, a spy for the Allied Forces in during World War II. During a secret mission, Julie is captured by the Gestapo and in order to avoid further torture she agrees to give her captors wireless codes and the names of aircraft. The prose in part is written as Julie’s confession and tells the story of Maddie, the pilot who dropped her in France. It describes how Maddie became a pilot, how she came to work for the air force, how Julie (who describes herself as Queenie in the story) and Maddie became best friends, and why Maddie (a civilian pilot for the Air Transport Auxillary) was dropping agents into enemy airspace. Part two of the book is from Maddie’s perspective after she crash lands in France. Maddie describes her emotions towards the events that occur before, during and after she gets back to England. Mainly, she is concerned for Julie, who’s codename is Verity.
One of the things I loved about this book were the parallels between Verity and Kittyhawk (Maddie’s codename). Julie’s fake identity while in France was supposed to be Katharina Habicht, which is “kittyhawk’ in German. Maddie finds this sweet, but rather risky on Julie’s part. I think the best parallel is when Julie and Maddie are updating their list of fears at virtually the same time. Also, they both have the same dream at about the same time as well. Other parallels include Thibaut. In Julie’s story, Thibaut is a French Nazi who tortures Julie to get information out of her. In Maddie’s story, Thibaut is Etienne Thibaut, the son of the family whose barn she is hiding in. I also love the way Wein uses the character of Anna Engel. In Julie’s story, Engel is the lady Nazi who forces her to keep writing day after day and then translates everything for the Gestapo officer in charge of the prison, von Linden. Julie often writes of how brutal Engel is to her, and tries to get her into trouble by writing things that Engel does, such as smoking. In Maddie’s story, Engel is actually a kind woman who helps the resistance get the information that Julie was sent into France to get. It comes to light that Engel was actually compassionate to Julie, and Julie was covering for Engel by making it seem that Engel was a horrid Nazi b!tch.
*SPOILER WARNING ENDED*
I loved the way Wein describes emotions in Code Name Verity. Julie’s fear is so real that one word can make the reader equally as fearful. Kerosene. Julie’s worst fear. Now mine. Literally, gives me shivers every time I think about it.
Finally, I loved how plausible this book it. It’s almost as if this book could have been a true to life biography of two female officers during World War II. Wein admits that she took some creative liberties to avoid breaching the Official Secrets Act, but where she could she used real facts, such as the ball-point pen. Wein says in the Author’s Debriefing of Code Name Verity that “there’s a real story, like this one, behind just about every detail of episode in the book” (Wein, 2012, p. 337), and it’s this that makes me love this book so much.