Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Having somehow stumbled randomly on Elizabeth Wein‘s very recent “meta-review” on reviewing (complete with crossed-out phrases about “
tasteless morons“), I’ll try to not break her seven “observations” here. Just allow me a moment to digress (and comment): 1. I wasn’t aware of any Verity hype, although surely such a smart, pulse-racing, breath-wringing adventure deserves to be hyped to the heavens; 2. Of course, I finished – then wished for more; 3. I didn’t experience a single microsecond of boredom; 4. I’d be thrilled to pieces to have Wein turn up on this blog (always appreciate author visits), and promise to be on my best behavior if our paths ever cross in livetime; 5. I don’t need to fact-check a single phrase because I completely believed every repetition of “I have told the truth”; 6. I won’t apologize for nothing!; and 7. Since I don’t read reviews, the biggest shocker I can attest to appears on p. 285 (don’t you dare peek ahead!) which made me sputter and wince, then left me bereft.
In Wein’s own words: “There you go, my [own] meta-review.”
Verity is a rarity indeed. Two young women, so different in background (one the English grandchild of Jewish immigrants who’s gifted with machines; the other a royally descended, titled Lady who grew up in a Scottish castle with a posh Swiss education and a term at Oxford), are brought together by war … and become the very best of friends. One is a pilot, the other her passenger. During an unauthorized flight into France, one becomes the prisoner of the Gestapo, the other works desperately to find her. One writes her story, Scheherazade-style, on any paper she’s allowed – from fancy hotel stationery to a Jewish doctor’s prescription sheets to discarded recipe cards to sheet music in which “the flute parts are all blank” – scribbling to save her life. The other hopes to attempt an impossible rescue. Each friend shares half the story; together, they undoubtedly “are a sensational team.”
A word of warning: if, like me, you choose to stick this heartbeat-raising book in your ears, I urgently recommend you also have the on-the-page version readily available. As convincing as the readers Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell are, the book contains essential textual details that just cannot be translated onto a recording: turn to page 62 to see an example.
While this might be a bit of a spoiler (you’ve been warned!), I must commend Wein’s cleverly ironic choice of certain names: the angel with a Yank accent, the officer whose name echoes a major Berlin thoroughfare on which sits the city’s iconic Brandenberger Gate haunted by eerie photos of Nazi soldiers during the 1933 announcement of Hitler as the new Chancellor, the faraway daughter who shares the name of a tragic heroine whose life was operatically staged by the anti-Semitic, Hitler-endorsed Richard Wagner.
A book with so many layers (did I mention meta?) needs to be read first for the spectacular story that it is, then combed through at least again for the literary accomplishments it achieves. Verity is veritably WOW.
Readers: Young Adult, Adult