Oct. 11th, 1943—A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.
When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.
As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?
Harrowing and beautifully written, Elizabeth Wein creates a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other. Code Name Verity is an outstanding novel that will stick with you long after the last page.
**An electronic copy of the book has been provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review**
As I have said a billiongajillion times, I was a history major in college. I love history, and WWII is an era that I find truly fascinating. So needless to say I had this book on my radar for a long while (pardon the pun) and when it was offered up on Netgalley, I jumped at the chance to read it. I was mostly happy with it.
The book is told in a diary-style narration. For the first half (give or take), we hear Verity’s side of events leading up to her capture by the German Gestapo and details of her imprisonment. She is agonizing over the fact that she’s giving up secrets about her country and her fellow servicepeople in exchange for not being tortured. The second half of the story is told by Maddie, about her life before and during the War. I liked this a lot. To be totally honest I found that Verity’s story had started to drag a bit, and when the book unexpectedly switched to Maddie’s perspective – which was a quite different perspective of the same events – I started to really get into the story. I thought Wein did a good job with giving the two young women distinct voices and personalities, which can occasionally be an issue when you have a book that is told from multiple perspectives.
Verity is an unreliable narrator and I found myself confused about some of the choices that she was making. As strong a person as she made herself out to be before her capture, it kind of chaffed that she was giving secrets to the enemy (although who knows what any of us would do in the same situation?). Once Maddie became the narrator it cleared up so much and there was one point at about 70% into the book that I made a major connection and just gasped out loud.
Maddie is a likeable protagonist. Verity can be very likeable at times, and although she is a betrayer of the worst kind you often find yourself rooting for her to find escape, be rescued, etc. The two become unlikely friends and change each others lives in extremely profound ways – some good, some very bad – and when they are separated your heart aches for them. At its heart, Code Name Verity is the story of a very special friendship in a time of extreme struggle, and the choices that we are forced to make by the circumstances that are given to us.
While I struggled a bit out of the gate and the story lagged for me a bit here and there, at the end of the book I found myself genuinely riveted.