Friday, March 8, 2013

Code Name Verity

Title: Code Name Verity
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Genre: YA Fiction
Published: 2012
Rating: 7/10

This is the second book set during WWII that I read in February. This congruence of themes wasn't at all planned -- both are books from the "Best of" lists from last year and they turned out to be quite different despite that both could be very roughly described as "young women doing brave things during the war".

Code Name Verity begins in the form of a report by a captured English spy. Chapter by chapter, we learn about her training in England, her best friend who is a mechanic and a pilot. And about her interrogation at the hands of Gestapo in the town of Ormaie.

My initial feelings towards the book mostly revolved around how unlikely I thought the premise was. There you have a woman broken down during interrogation and instead of asking her some direct questions, they spend valuable paper (that they are short of) to let her ramble on for hundreds of pages about her best friend with occasional mentions of something that may be considered useful. Even if you allow for the possibility of her questioning officer being a bit soft on her, her treatment is still a far cry from anything you'd expect.

I decided to set that qualm aside though and tried to immerse myself into Verity's story telling. The story itself flows quite well with the characters and friendships being developed. I didn't get the same sort of feel for the atmosphere in England during the war that Mr. Churchill's Secretary created, but there are different bits and pieces that are quite interesting.

The second half of the book is told from Maddie's point of view. Once again there are things she does that I have trouble believing anyone could possibly get away with and I had to try hard to suspend my disbelief at certain events that she narrates. On the other hand, the narrative is cleverly woven together with the story Verity has told in the first part to expose events in a different light and often turn them around in clever ways. I rather enjoyed that aspect of the plot and the second part of the book was a faster reading than the first.

Altogether I was a bit disappointed in Code Name Verity, but perhaps I just had unrealistically high expectations for the novel to start with. It's a very well written book with likable characters and an exciting plot. I just couldn't get past the bits that seemed unrealistic to me and that tarnished the experience somewhat. I'd still recommend this book to anyone who enjoys strong female protagonists.

P.S. Chad read Code Name Verity at the same time -- take a look at his review.


  1. I'm glad Verity's 'written story' bothered you too. I was never made to understand they didn't ask direct questions, have their way with her and get what they wanted without the need for all the paper.

    I'd really love to know why this is considered a young adult book.

    1. Exactly! I found that really irritating that she describes them using cigarettes to keep her writing, but not do anything to answer their questions, or keep her on point.

      I also thought that Maddie, being of Jewish origin, walking around Germany-occupied France without any problem (and without any language skills) just because she had papers for a German name was pretty ridiculous too.

      I enjoyed the friendship aspects, but there were just way too many glaring holes in the conception of the novel. I gotta say, the prescription pads are rather entertaining though. I liked the humour of the book quite a bit.

  2. I thought Maddie's alienation could have been greater than Julie's with the language, behind enemy lines, and out of my element (flight) aspects but it never really felt that way.