Monday, 11 November 2013

Review: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

 Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Author: Elizabeth Wein Website|Twitter
Published: 3 June 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 469
Buy the paperback: Amazon|Hive|BookDepository
Buy the e-book: Kindle|Kobo

Source: Borrowed from library

Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
Rose Justice is a young American ATA pilot, delivering planes and taxiing pilots for the RAF in the UK during the summer of 1944. A budding poet who feels most alive while flying, she discovers that not all battles are fought in the air. An unforgettable journey from innocence to experience from the author of the best-selling, multi-award-nominated Code Name Verity. From the exhilaration of being the youngest pilot in the British air transport auxiliary, to the aftermath of surviving the notorious Ravensbruck women's concentration camp, Rose's story is one of courage in the face of adversity.

My Review:
I'd placed a hold on this book before I'd even finished Wein's previous novel, Code Name Verity, because I knew I would need to read this one as soon as possible afterwards. Rose Under Fire documents Rose Justice's journey from pilot to prisoner through her diary.

First of all, I think this is billed as more of a companion novel to Code Name Verity than a sequel, and you could certainly read it on its own without having read CNV. Saying that, characters that appear in the previous book to crop up in this one, and if you were to go back and read Code Name Verity afterwards then you may find some of the references in Rose Under Fire spoil that story. I'd definitely recommend reading Code Name Verity first so you get to enjoy the mention of the characters that appear in both novels. Plus Code Name Verity is a must read anyway.

Rose Under Fire introduces us to main character Rose Justice who is an air transport auxiliary pilot in the second world war. I absolutely fell in love with her from the very beginning of the book. Most of the story is told through her diaries so you get to hear her voice as you read. But what was most wonderful about Rose was that she loves poetry. Incorporated into the story are poems, both those she has written herself and ones she has picked up along the way. These really gave you an insight into her life and demonstrated her flare for writing. I loved her positive, forgiving attitude throughout the story as well.

Through Rose's poems and writings you get this real appreciation of the art of writing and how much of a priveledge it is. Rose is often denied access to pens and paper in her time in captivity so you really feel how passionate she is when she's finally able to express herself on paper. I think it's a sentiment that any reader or writer will appreciate. I adored the fact Rose is documenting her story in this one particular notebook which she treasures so much. It made the whole thing feel so special.

Obviously with a book set during the war, you are going to come across some pretty tough times for the characters. After having my heart shattered when I read Code Name Verity, I was pretty fearful for what would happen in Rose Under Fire, and how that would affect my emotions! It was about a hundred pages into this book when something that happened that shook me up and set up the rest of the story. Rose finds herself in a very bleak situation, and throughout Rose Under Fire you get to see the harsh conditions of concentration camps through Rose's eyes.

Whilst the camp scenes were incredibly hard to read, they also provided the sense of camaraderie which became one of my favourite things about the story. We see Rose bond with the girls in her bunk. It's not all smooth sailing and it was interesting to see the clashes in nationalities and backgrounds, but ultimately these girls pull together. The friendship between Rose and Eloide, and Rose and Roza were two of the highlights of the story for me. These people are forced together by circumstance yet they find ways to connect with everyone and help each other through. The friendships definitely provided some uplifting moments. Like Code Name Verity, I loved that book focussed on the stories of women, especially in a role such as a pilot. Rose was a real inspriation.

So this book completely shattered my heart in the same way Code Name Verity did, but I wouldn't change a thing. I was moved, inspired and uplifted by the wonderful characters and vivid storytelling. I was completely lost in Rose's story and what happened to her as well as the stories of those around her. Of course what is even more powerful about what happened is that it is based on real events. The names of real prisoners at the Ravensbruck camp are listed at the front of the novel and it's a stark reminder of what really happened to these people during the war. If you are reading this review and thinking to yourself "oh I don't really like historical" then I urge you to give it a try, because Rose Under Fire provides so much more than just a history lesson. There are fantastic characters and friendships that anybody will be able to appreciate.

Rating: 5*
Books like this: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

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