Review No.142 – Rose Under Fire

Rose Under Fire – Elizabeth Wein

Electric Monkey, 2013

During the summer of 1944, as the Allies fight their way across France, Rose Justice joins the war. A young American pilot delivering planes and taxiing passengers for the ATA, she has seen the impact of the past few years on Great Britain, but she has chosen to take the risks and chafes at not being allowed to do more. Then she is sent to France, and the same woman will never come back. Because in France, she is captured.

This book has been categorised as YA, along with Wein’s earlier novel Code Name Verity, and I really can’t understand why. YA is a fantastic and extremely flexible genre, and a teenage audience could certainly read Wein, just as they could read any other writer. But if these books are YA, what the hell does it take to be categorised as adult fiction?

Reading Code Name Verity was a shattering experience, but even that is insufficient preparation for Rose Under Fire. The only word is harrowing. And yet, this is Wein’s skill: she makes the unbearable real, makes it possible to read. She takes statistics and restores their humanity. This book does not have the devious twists and turns of Code Name Verity; it is the same war seen from an entirely different angle, and with a different kind of defiance, the kind that holds you together when an entire bureaucracy of the inhumane is doing its best to tear you apart. I could not bear reading stories like this very often, but they need to be told. They need to be remembered.

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