Astounding. Incredible. Heartbreaking. Horrifying. Uplifting. The list of words that can describe this book goes on and on. Shocking. Terrifying. Lovely. Pick up Code Name Verity, and I absolutely guarantee that you will not put it down until you have finished every page. Your children may as well just learn to dial for pizza now. Give them a $20.
Code Name Verity is one of the best books I have ever read.
At its most basic, the book is the story of a friendship; a BEST, incredible, life-changing friendship, that only has a chance to start because of horrific circumstances. Set in mid-WWII, Julie and Maddie meet during their service as WAAF (members of the Women’s Auxillary Air Force) in Britain. Julie is the only daughter (with five brothers!) of a Scottish noble family, and Maddie the only grandchild of Jewish shopkeepers in northern England.
While stationed at Maidsend (a fictional base in England near the coast) an air raid brings them together. Forced into a shelter for the duration, Julie reaches out to a terrified Maddie with humour and understanding. While the war may not have levelled the class system in Britain, it did open a few doors that would have otherwise remained closed.
Their wartime careers converge and diverge, over and over, allowing them to build their friendship even as one flies covert operations to drop agents on missions, and one becomes the agent that the other couriers. On such a mission to France, their plane is shot down, and only one can survive the events that follow.
There is victory and loss. There is redemption when it looks like nothing could ever be good again.
Impeccably researched, Code Name Verity will have you running for history books, googling events online, wondering if the story could be, in fact, true. Elizabeth Wein weaves a novel of such complexity and suspense, that it must be true. If you read her remarks at the end, you will understand why it seems to be so; she has done an incredible amount of research, each time looking to answer the question “could this have happened?”
The novel is a mind game. What you think you know, what you believe to be the truth, is turned on its head. You will be left scratching your head, looking back at the clues, understanding, wondering how you could have missed the truth.
This book can and should be read by everyone, teen and up.
Code Name Verity is published by Doubleday Canada