Title: Code Name Verity
Series: Code Name Verity #1
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: February 6th, 2012 (Egmont Press)
Synopsis: 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?
“Incredible what slender threads you begin to hang your hopes on.”
Best friends Maddie and Queenie set off on a mission that will take them into Occupied France in 1943. But when their plane crashes in enemy territory, Queenie is captured by the Gestapo and tortured and interrogated as a spy. Code Name Verity is the tale of these two girls and their friendship as told by Queenie in the form of a written confession to her captors, as she weaves a story that she hopes will save her from the enemy.
This review is going to be a little vague in some aspects because it would be such a shame to spoil this book for anyone. I recently read the Enigma Game and loved it, so I had to try the rest of the series, in particular this book, which has been on my TBR for several years now. I’m generally wary of overly hyped books, which is one reason Code Name Verity has been on my backlist for so long, and now that I’ve read it, I definitely see what all the fuss is about. This book starts off giving us the sense that Queenie – also known by her code name Verity – has broken under torture, seemingly turned collaborator and is drawing out giving them what knowledge she has in an effort to survive. However, as the story unfolds, we begin to question exactly how much of what Queenie is narrating is the truth.
The narration style takes some time to get used to, especially as it switches between Queenie’s account of past events and her thoughts in present day under Nazi captivity. The two are actually narrated in different tenses which is confusing at first, but later became an easy way to distinguish past from present timelines. I’ve never been a fan of non-linear narration, and this one actually backtracks to give another character’s perspective and experiences during the time Queenie was under interrogation. Personally, I thought that the story only got really interesting towards the end of Queenie’s narrative and as the second POV began. I couldn’t feel the sense of urgency and tension in the story until then, and it was at that point that I really wanted to know how their stories would end.
“It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.”
As courageous and heart-wrenching as the events of Maddie and Queenie’s doomed flight into France was, it was wonderful to learn about the background to the unlikely friendship of these two girls, who would have never met had it not been for the war. This book also gives us an interesting glimpse into women’s contributions in war time, particularly female pilots, which I’ve never come across in WWII historical fiction before.
There is no doubt that this story is amazing, and a very moving one too. However, the narration style was extremely distracting, even once I figured it out, and greatly reduced my enjoyment of the book. It was long-winded to be sure, but what really annoyed me was that the story was told in what felt like disjointed anecdotes and I spent nearly half the book quite confused. There were also a lot of details about aircrafts, pilots and flying in general, which was interesting at first, but I just started skimming through those parts later on, because it’s not something I know much about, and so much time was spent on the details away from the story.
“KISS ME, HARDY! Kiss me, QUICK!”
This had it’s share of surprising twists and that ending 😭. Overall, Code Name Verity was a fantastic read and if you haven’t already read this book, I would highly recommend it!
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
Other reviews in this series: