Code Name Verity
Code Name Verity
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Elizabeth Wein
ISBN 9781423152194
Hyperion, 2012.
A Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor for Fiction
5 stars
Keywords: allies code-name-verity elizabeth-wein france friendship nazis world-war-ii

Code Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein

"I am a coward." That is the opening line of Wein's (The Winter Prince) extraordinary novel, and the first line of the confession written down by Verity for her Nazi captors.

Verity is a Scot working for the Allies. She was captured when her plane went down in France, where she's being held by SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden. But her small acts of rebellion betray her bravery. Fräulein Engel translates Verity's account from English to German for von Linden, and SS-Scharführer Etienne Thibaut metes out Verity's punishment for various transgressions. Verity calls them "Laurel and Hardy," and believes that von Linden hopes she'll "do some ratting" on them ("He does not trust Thibaut because Thibaut is French, and he does not trust Engel because Engel is a woman"). Thus Verity amuses herself--and readers.

Most of Verity's account, however, weaves in episodes from her friendship with Maddie Brodatt, a pilot she met when they teamed up to bring a German-speaking pilot down safely on an English landing strip. Their friendship sustains Verity throughout her imprisonment. At one point, she writes, "It's like being in love, discovering your best friend." Verity's recollections of it serve as a record of the rare moments of pleasure during wartime. Wein conveys a complexity with her characters that may at first elude us, and the ground shifts with each revelation. Like Megan Whalen Turner, Wein creates a captive who uses wit as a weapon, and makes us feel that, at least intellectually, Verity has the upper hand. Wein's work is mesmerizing.

This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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