Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein
Electric Monkey, 2012
As a rule, I don’t tend to read stories of World War II – not even the ones spiced up with sorcerers and werewolves, of which this is not one. There is so much of inescapable horror about that period in history. But some are just worth it. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is one of these, and so is Code Name Verity.
She has two weeks before they shoot her. Two weeks as a prisoner of the Gestapo in Occupied France, pouring out everything she can remember of the British War Effort onto paper salvaged from a ruined hotel. She is cursed as a coward and collaborator by her fellow prisoners and taunted by the Nazi guards, but she has a story to tell and she won’t stop writing until it is done. It begins with Maddie – her friend, her fellow officer, her pilot in this final disastrous mission – on that Sunday in the summer of 1938 when a plane fell out of the sky. And it is not over yet.
I decided to read Code Name Verity because two different people whose taste I trust raved over it, and all I can say is that they were right. Elizabeth Wein has written an extraordinary book. It is intense and gut-wrenching and fiercely, incredibly alive. It is even funny, drawing on those moments of brilliant black humour that are found in bureaucratic insanity and impossible situations. There is no way it could have been written better.