Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

roseI was pretty excited when I heard there was a companion novel to Code Name Verity coming out as that was one of the best books I read last year.  I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t remember enough of that book to get this one, but it truly is not a sequel, just a companion.  One of the main characters of Code Name Verity is a friend of Rose, the main character in this book.  That’s nice in that it lets you see how her life turns out during the war, and this does take place chronologically after Code Name Verity, and right up through the end of the war.   Code Name Verity had some pretty intense scenes in it, especially of torture, which I had a hard time reading.  Rose Under Fire is even more intense in that it is primarily set in the Ravensbrück concentration camp.  Rose is an American pilot, flying for the British.  She gets captured and sent to the camp.  The details of living (if you can call it living) there are extraordinary and horrific.  Rose makes a family there, especially with the “rabbits”, those women and girls the SS did medical experiments on.  I found this book difficult to read for extended periods of time. And when I got to the end, I cried. And then I read the afterword and cried some more. Mind you, I was doing all this reading and crying at our town park during my son’s soccer game. And then I came home and leafed through National Geographic and saw pictures of mines in Africa and child soldiers and I wanted to cry some more about how human beings can do such terrible things to one another.  OK, so it’s a given that a book set in a German concentration camp during WWII is going to be sad and depressing and hurt your heart. But what else of the book? Well it’s beautifully written.  Rose is a poet and her poetry gets her and other prisoners through long hours.  Her spirit and courage, and that of the other women, too, is amazing and uplifting.  The use of poems and planes all works together beautifully.  This was an incredible book, not an easy read, but so worth it.

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