code name verity

Monday, January 28, 2013 |
My favorite film is an obscure one, and it is based on a novel by Sebastian Faulks (I’ve never read the book, actually).  Charlotte Gray features actress Cate Blanchett in the titular role as a Scottish woman who parachutes into France as a WWII intelligence operative, only to see her mission crumble around her.  It’s not a light or happy story, but it makes for a beautiful film, and is both visually and emotionally vivid.  Given that my favorite movie is about a woman sent to France as a spy, Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity was either going to succeed or fail in spectacular fashion.  My heart will never be the same, because Code Name Verity is PERFECT.

code name verity by elizabeth wein book cover
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 and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

Harrowing and beautifully written, Elizabeth Wein creates a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other. Code Name Verity is an outstanding novel that will stick with you long after the last page.

When a young Scottish woman is arrested by the Nazis for spying in France, her interrogation and confession become not only a desperate revelation of secrets that might keep her alive for a few days longer, but also an unspooling of her memories and friendship with Maddie, a female pilot and mechanic who should not have been flying to France.  In tense moments and amid various reprisals, her testimony shines as brightly as her spirit, and the reader cannot help but hope that somehow, someway she’ll make it home.

What can I say about this book without ruining it for another reader?  It is one of the most convincing, beautiful stories of female friendship that I have ever seen put to paper – it is straight magic in that regard.  Maddie and ‘Verity’ come alive in each other’s eyes; they are real, beautiful young women with hearts and heads, idiosyncrasies and weaknesses.  They are possessed of such courage, determination and ferocity that it is impossible at the end of it all to remember that they are only fictional characters. 

Let me try again to make this sound professional and impartial: Code Name Verity is a taut, moving novel of friendship forged in the midst of World War II, when girls were being called upon to pilot planes, take on intelligence missions and serve their country in ways they never had been before.  This is a story of the line between truth and lies, of the intensity of human existence, of the importance of the family you make for yourself, and a patchwork of those indelible moments that scar, mold, and change a person forever.  It is beautiful and dangerous and heart-rending.

Ah, I don’t think I succeeded.  Here are a few other things I’ll say: I’ve owned this book since May (thanks to @Ginger_Clark’s badgering and many, many retweeted rave reviews), but I held off on reading it until yesterday.  I missed my book club meeting in the afternoon to finish it without spoilers.  Charlotte Gray happened to be on television as I finished the book (so. many. coincidences!), and then this morning it was awarded a Printz Honor.  All those rave reviews, the awards?  Deserved.  Code Name Verity left me a sobbing wreck of a human being, in the best way.

Recommended for: everyone (well, everyone age twelve and over), but especially those partial to historical fiction, WWII accounts and aviatrixes, and anyone who appreciates a haunting and wonderful story.


The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

Thanks for the film recommendation. CNV was my favorite book of 2012 (and one I pushed on my friends) so I'm hopeful of loving this film as well.

Kat C @ Books and Sensibility said...

Oh, I didn't realize this was the Printz Award winner ! I will have to read this one...actually, I think I need to sit down one month and read all the Printz winners from the last year.

Shena Tokala said...

Wow, this book looks really good!! Thanks for reviewing it- I'll definitely be checking it out soon :)

Shena Tokala said...

Wow, this book looks really good!! Thanks for reviewing it- I'll definitely be checking it out soon :)

Liviania said...

Haha, this was the perfect day for this review!

(And I recommend Sebastien Faulk's Birdsong to you.)

Alex said...

I totally agree CNV is perfect and finally, someone who also like Charlotte Gray. No one I know does.

Alyce said...

This one is already on my wish list, and I'm so happy to see you recommend it as well as the other bloggers whose reviews I have read.

Kristen M. said...

I really need to get to this one! I feel like I'm totally missing out. And I've heard of others who love Charlotte Gray but I've never watched it. I need more leisure time! :)

Briana said...

I started to read this one and then just... stopped for some reason! I'll definitely get back to it ASAP!

Elizabeth said...

I just got this from the library - now I am soo excited to read it!

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