Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Published: 10 September 2013 by Disney Hyperion
Pages: 368 (hardcover)
Genre/s: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Source: Publisher for review
While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women's concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?
When I finished Code Name Verity I knew I'd fallen in love with Elizabeth Wein's style, characterisation and sense of history. Although I had some small issues with Code Name Verity, I loved the strength of the characters and the depths of their relationships so I was very excited to see how Wein could take another aspect of World War II and turn it into a story of friendship, bravery and strength, and I can say right now that Rose Under Fire didn't disappoint.
Unlike Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire begins at the beginning of Rose's story. There are also some connections to characters and situations in Code Name Verity, however Rose Under Fire is definitely a traditional companion novel in that it can be read as a standalone. It could definitely be read and enjoyed without reading Code Name Verity first, but I'm glad I did as it does give extra meaning to some of the secondary characters' stories.
As in Verity, there are quite a lot of references to airplanes and flying in the first part of the book but they disappear once Rose is captured by the Nazis and it's only at the end that it comes back into play, so if you don't enjoy those aspects it's not as full-on as Code Name Verity in that respect. I also read Rose Under Fire much faster than I read Code Name Verity because I found it a little less heavy, although not any less intense or emotional.
I'm going to stop comparing the two books for now, but I wanted to talk about some of the aspects that I can imagine some people may have found frustrating in Code Name Verity and hopefully convince people that Rose Under Fire is quite different from Code Name Verity in some ways.
It did take me a while to fully connect with Rose - at first I found her quite aloof and a little lacking in personality, but once she is in Ravensbrück her actions really brought her character alive and by the end I was once again completely blown away by Wein's characterisation. Rose dreams of being a poet, and there is quite a bit of poetry throughout the story - it's not something I normally enjoy (read - I normally skim poetry) but I found it quite interesting in Rose and actually appreciated the way it made Rose seem even more realistic.
The secondary characters that Rose meets whilst a prisoner of the Nazi's were simultaneously heart breaking and uplifting - they are all unique, strong and passionate, and although it would be impossible to NOT feel sympathic towards them, I was completely sucked into their story. Wein does a good job of bringing a feeling of fear and authenticity to Rose's experiences, and the ending brings the story full circle and left me feeling hopeful and uplifted despite the terrible things that Rose and her companions endured.
One final comparison to Code Name Verity - both books focus strongly on friendship, particularly the friendships between women, and in the case of Rose Under Fire, the way that friendships work under huge amounts of pressure and stress. And this is the main reason that I enjoyed both books so very much, particularly Rose Under Fire - I loved that these books could evoke so much emotion without having romance as the catalyst.
Rose Under Fire is a novel with strong female characters, an atmospheric historical perspective and it was everything I'd hoped for - sad, shocking and ultimately uplifting.