Monday, 3 February 2014

Code Name Verity review

Code Name Verity
Elizabeth Wein
February 6th 2012
Egmont UK

I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.

We are a sensational team.

I'm not usually a huge fan of books set in World War 2 . Nothing against them, I just feel like they can sometimes be a bit samey and are all just trying to emotionally manipulate you and tell you that the war was bad, which doesn't really need to be said because we all know that. From a historical perspective, I think that WW2 is really interesting, but after a childhood of pretty much just reading books about evacuees (though this may just be because when we do the war in primary school all we ever do is stuff about evacuees. And also I'm not trying to demean the value of these kinds of books in any way. I knew that they're important but most of the time I don't like those sorts of books is all.), books set in WW2 never really held that much appeal for me. But I am interested in books from less conventional perspectives. Code Name Verity always appealed to me because it didn't sound like just another WW2 book. And it really isn't.

Code Name Verity is the story of two pretty incredible women, I think it's fair to say, and their more than incredible friendship. As it says in the blurb, they make a sensational team. The story of how they became friends is told to us by Verity as she writes it in her report of sorts for her Nazi captors. She's meant to be giving up any knowledge of the Allied war effort that she has, but along the way she tells up about Maddie. And I loved them both so much. I loved getting to see how their friendship came about and how it grew, and even though the narrative style is such that you feel like you should be cautious about believing what Verity tells us, reading about, you don't feel like it could possibly be a lie.

Really, though, that goes for a lot of Verity's narrative. It's an epistolary novel, so it makes a really good use of the first person POV (not that other books in first person don't, but I don't read that many books it which it has a purpose). And I just so completely believed everything that she told us. You get this real sense of who she is as a person right from the get go, and your assumptions of her are always changing. As well as this, when she's writing about Maddie and not about herself  in her present situation, she writes about her in third person from Maddie's point of view. I was expecting this to feel kind of jarring, and honestly I thought it would put me off or make it a bit inaccessible, but I actually kind of liked it, and I didn't feel like it took me as long as I expected it would take me to get into it. Though I can understand why it would put some people off.

I want to talk about this book forever and ever, I really do, but if I do that then I will definitely spoil it and even though it's been out for a couple of years, I still don't want to do that because for anyone who might be reading this that hasn't read the book, you really do not want it to be spoiled for you. And even though I was kind of expecting That Thing That Happens at some point, I wasn't expecting it to be in that way, and my heart broke a tiny bit when I read that, I think. Not to be melodramatic or schmultzy or anything, but it is just kind of a heart breaking thing. I cried a lot. I haven't cried at a book in a while, but I cried a lot.

But it isn't just a sad book. It's a funny book in places and it's harrowing in others and it's lively and the characters mattered to me so much by the end. I don't know, I feel like a lot of the reason why I loved this book so much was because I waited so long to read it that I wasn't affected by the hype for it. I'm a mood reader and if I'm not in the mood for a book than I probably won't enjoy it half as much as I will when I read it and I am in just the right mood for it. Which I was with Code Name Verity. Though I feel like I am definitely going to have to wait a while for this to settle before picking up Rose Under Fire, which I have no doubt is pretty stunning, too.

The other thing I loved about this book was that it focused on some of the roles that women played in the war. I mentioned this earlier, but I'm only really interested in books that are about popular periods of history if they're from a less common perspective, like, in this instance, a female ATA pilot. It wasn't really until I read Captain Marvel that I was at all bothered about reading things about female pilots, but now, especially after this, more books about ladies who fly planes please (I am eagerly waiting for someone to write about about/from the POV of a female Russian WW2 combat pilot please that would be amazing). A part of me felt like I would be a bit bored with the whole pilot thing because I'm not really into planes or cars or engineering or the like, but it's weird how reading about someone who's passionate about something makes me feel at the very least mildly interested in that something. And besides, we can always do with more stories about girls who are into planes and engineering.

I feel like even though I've gone on for ages, that I haven't really touched the surface of what I wanted to say about this book and what it means to me, and I can't believe how little I've gone into talking about Maddie or Verity or their friendship (it is quite hard to talk about without spoiling things), but it is absolutely the core and heart of this book and it is so incredible and it is just such a magnificent book, and I just loved it.  In the words of Verity, 'I have told the truth' (about this book and how much I loved it).


  1. It broke your heart a TINY bit? Omg it broke our hearts a HUGE bit. To this day, Kristan can and will cry if she just thinks about that moment for too long.

    Hehe. Great review though. You're right, this book is so much more than "just" a WWII story. It's about friendship and feminism and truth and bravery and war and hope and... yeah.

  2. I'm SO glad you read and loved this! It's basically the best book ever. I actually really like books about the war (especially about evacuees, lol) or the homefront, but I managed to forget that until I read CNV. Now I want ALL the war books. But seriously, this is such an amazing, heartbreaking read, I'm glad you enjoyed it


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