September 11, 2013

Review: Rose Under Fire

Rose Under Fire Companion to CODE NAME VERITY
By Elizabeth Wein
Available now from Disney-Hyperion
Review copy
Read my review of The Winter Prince

I loved ROSE UNDER FIRE, perhaps even more than CODE NAME VERITY.  Covering the last six months of Ravensbruck concentration camp and the Nuremberg trials, it is perhaps even more harrowing than its companion.  Characters do carry through, particularly Anna Engel, who is German and is again perhaps an ally of our protagonist, perhaps not.

This review will be short, I know, because it's hard for me to find the right words.

Honestly, what makes these books so great is their exploration of the many people, especially women, involved in WWII.  There's a humanity to all of Elizabeth Wein's characters, even at their worst.  She doesn't sanctify Rose Justice, the Rabbits, or the other women in Ravensbruck.  They're allowed to be cowardly or cruel at logical moments.  But they manage to cling to hope and love.

They also cling to poetry.  Rose is a poet, and her own works and memory of others keeps her alive.  She plays off of famous works, like Emily Dickinson's "Hope is the thing with feathers" and is inspired by William Carlos Williams.  But her biggest influence and love is Edna St. Vincent Millay, one of my favorite poets.  But our perspective on Millay is very different.  For Rose, she's still alive, writing about current events.  Millay is vital, the woman who inspired Rose to join the Air Transport Auxiliary, without which she wouldn't have ended up in Germany.

I managed not to cry through CODE NAME VERITY, possibly through sheer force of will.  But I cried during ROSE UNDER FIRE, and there was one death that almost broke me.  Wein makes the ride as smooth as she can with her beautiful prose, but this is a rough book.  The subject matter is, to take a word from the novel, grotesque.  But while Wein doesn't hold back on the horrors, she doesn't revel in them or try to make them sexy.  They're horribly mundane.

If you didn't like CODE NAME VERITY, then I doubt you'll like ROSE UNDER FIRE.  If you haven't read CODE NAME VERITY, it is not necessary to read ROSE UNDER FIRE.  Just be prepared to be a touch shell shocked after reading.  There's a useful bibliography in the back for nonfiction reading about the people, places, and time covered.


  1. I'm so glad to hear you loved this. I loved Code Name Verity as well, and I'm so excited to read this one - need to buy a copy ASAP.

  2. Excellent review: both analytical and emotional. I liked your observation that Elizabeth doesn't revel in horrors but portrays them as "horribly mundane." As you know, I loved this book and CNV too.

    1. Thank you! It's hard to analyze books like this that do provoke so much emotion, so it means a lot that you think I struck a good balance.

  3. I definitely preferred CNV with its slightly lighter tone-RUF just destroyed me. It's been almost 3 weeks and I'm still about to cry just thinking about certain sections. I did not recognize Anna Engel until just now so thank you for the reminder!

    1. RUF is definitely darker. I think Wein did keep it as light as she could.


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