The follow-up to Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire picks up the story shortly after the first book ends. You will plunge right back into the horror and heroism of the war right from the opening words.
18 year old Rose Justice is an American pilot flying with the ATA (Air Transport Auxilliary). She has been in England for just over a half a year, is friends with Maddie, and is learning about loss and friendship.
Doodlebugs and buzzbombs – funny names for such lethal weapons of destruction, the German flying bombs. Not only did they destroy so much of England on the ground, but they were also a danger to the pilots flying above. Rose learns of a method some of the fighter pilots use to tip the bombs harmlessly into fields, and finds herself presented with the opportunity to try. It works, but at such a cost to herself.
While flying an Allied plane from liberated Paris back to England, she follows such a bomb, loses her way, and is captured by the Nazis. She is sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp, forced to live with the atrocities that she herself had once denied could happen. No one, not even the Nazis, could do what the reports said.
Rose is a poet. The book is filled with her words, describing the horrific conditions and experiences of her six months in the concentration camp. Her words also describe the incredible bravery and friendship of the women she was interned with during the last months of the war.
Rose’s time immediately post-war, as she lives in the Ritz in Paris and tries to come to terms with her experiences, will break your heart. It takes a visit from Maddie on V-E Day to drag her from her cocoon, and start her on the slow road to recovery. If it is even possible.
Beyond anything, Rose Under Fire is about the resilience of the human spirit, the strength of friendship, and how hope can triumph when all seems lost.
Wein has written another masterpiece of research woven with imagination. Her words evoke unimaginable suffering, but even when the reader wants to stop, to not know, you have to continue. “Tell the world!” is the battle cry of the prisoners. Wein has done that; even more than 70 years after the war, her words shock and horrify.
Read Wein’s personal chapter at the end, to understand her research methods and motivations.
Rose Under Fire is published by Doubleday Canada.