Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Review: Rose Under Fire

Title: Rose Under Fire
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 360
Availability: On Shelves Now
Review Copy: CD set & Hard Cover from Library

Summary: While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women's concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that's in store for her?  -- Cover image and summary via IndieBound

Review: Rose Under Fire is a companion book to Code Name Verity which I loved so I went into this book with some expectations. If you haven't read Code Name Verity, I strongly recommend that you do that. It is not a pre-requisite for reading this book, but it's a good one and if you are going to read both, that one should be first. Rose Under Fire is well able to stand alone though.

Wein introduces readers to Rose, an innocent and fairly naive young woman who has stepped up to help in the war effort. Rose is a fantastic pilot with just enough skill and knowledge to land herself in a huge amount of trouble with the enemy. Getting to know Rose is a pleasure. She is a young girl with hopes and dreams and she has no idea how ugly life can be until she is surrounded by pain, hunger, and brutality. The friendships made in the midst of such horrifying circumstances are amazing to behold. Though this novel doesn't have nearly the mysterious twists and turns of Code Name Verity it does deliver another strong emotional impact. The bonds between the prisoners and the situations they dealt with tore at my heart especially knowing that Wein was not just making everything up and there were such atrocities that happened to real people. She explains some of that history in her afterward, but also provides links to more resources on her web site.

Throughout the novel, Rose is quoting and writing poetry. Poetry and writing is a significant part of Rose's character and added another layer to the book. It also created a strong connection with another young prisoner who then led her to more friendships. There were so many unique characters surrounding Rose pointing to the fact that those numbers of dead and imprisoned that we hear about from the holocaust lead back to distinct people - daughters, mothers, sons, and fathers.

I enjoyed the audio, but did want to note that one aspect of it did bother me. The reader read with animation and I appreciated that she read the different characters in a way that made it easy to distinguish them, but one of the characters was difficult to listen to. She read Róża lines with a high pitched Polish accent. It was annoying to me and perhaps it was meant to be. The text is not written with the accent though so I am not sure why that choice was made except that when the character is first introduced, the book says "Her heavily accented English was just like Felicyta's, though the voice was different--higher, soprano instead of alto. And younger." I still enjoyed the audio overall, but I started to dread Róża speaking and she is a fairly major character.

I would highly recommend Rose Under Fire to anyone with an interest in historical fiction or novels of friendship.

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