Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Wein’

3992wein_code_name_verity-1“Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth Wein, is a masterpiece of historical fiction, deceptively categorized as Young Adult fiction. It begins “I AM A COWARD” as Verity writes on pieces of paper from a once elegant French hotel, now Gestapo headquarters, where she is being held and tortured after the plane she was ferried in crashes in a French field. It is the fall of 1943.  To stay alive, Verity, a  wireless operator, is penning British code secrets. Each secret she exposes gives her back an article of clothing. She is shunned by other prisoners as she tells her story, Under the watchful eyes of Fräulein Engel, who must translate her writing into German, Verity buys time before her eminent execution, as she weaves a tale of friendship with Maddie, the dead pilot.

Verity, aka Queenie, and Maddie have a friendship unlikely in 1943. Verity has royal blood dating back to Mary Queen of Scots and William Wallace. Her life has been one of culture and finishing schools. Maddie is the daughter of immigrant Russian Jews. She can dismantle an engine, and put it back together; a precise mechanic who dreams of becoming a pilot. One girl becomes a secret agent, the other becomes an aviator, ferrying spies and resistance fighters. It is their friendship that gives them hope and the strength to do what needs to be done. That friendship made me laugh, gasp and it made me cry as much as it made me marvel at the human spirit.

The first half of the book is told through Verity/Queenie’s writing, which begins first on the hotel stationery, then on recipe cards, musical scores, even on prescription pads that bear the name of a Jewish doctor. Through her writing, Verity gives away war secrets as she tells her and Maddie’s story. She also, almost casually, comments on the torture she is subjected to, or of the torture to others that she is forced to witness. With very little description, the horrors of being a prisoner of war are revealed.

Abruptly, Verity’s story ends, and another’s begins, picking up the pace, revealing all manner of clues that were always in Verity’s writing.  To tell you much more would be to expose the whole story. It is the one conundrum that almost every review I read about “Code Name Verity” expresses.  This is a tightly wound tale – and you will not realize how tight it is until this point in the book.  I simply could not put it down, so riveted was I to these pages.

I wish there was a different way to categorize books in the young adult category. YA covers anything between the ages of 12 – 18, though I’ve seen the category go up to 25. That is huge range of skill, knowledge, reading maturity, and it is so confusing. “Code Name Verity” will be found in the young adult section of your library. Don’t be fooled. While it is aimed at readers younger than perhaps you or I, it is a book that is very much for adults as well.  It is in paperback, and, depending on where you call home, has several different dust jackets. I did not like the one pictured here, which is the cover on the copy I read. After I read “Code Name Verity”, I felt it was a fitting cover, after all.

I encourage you to give “Code Name Verity” a try.


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imagesI was mullioned, unexpectedly, and through no fault of my own; attacked as I entered the hallowed halls of the public library.

Mullioned. On a bright and beautiful Saturday afternoon, doing what I do best;  accruing as many books from as many libraries as I can, often in a single day. I know, I know, I need help, but, what is a girl to do who loves books and bookish places?

I had several library books to return and made excuses to myself that I should go into the library rather than use the return box available in the parking lot. Yes. I needed to go in, just in case there was a book – or two or more – sitting on the new book shelves or the shelf in one of my favorite libraries, cleverly called “Your lucky day”. There was one waiting, just for me. My lucky day, indeed, or so I thought as I was then lured upstairs and came down toddling down with several audio books to boot.

Heavily laden with a half dozen checked out items, I hobbled over to my car and suddenly remembered a book that Rachel over at BookSnob reviewed that I knew was at a neighboring library. So, what did I do? You know me well. I motored five miles, then around several blocks as I skirted a neighborhood celebration, and into another parking lot in my library hopping marathon. I entered the vestibule, where I checked out the sale books. At 10 cents a book, I just could not pass up the racks and took a quick look.

Restraining myself from grabbing a few books to purchase, I opened one of the two glass doors to enter the library as a man pushed the other one outward to leave. It was then that I was mullioned! That center beam of heavy metal, the mullion, came loose and whacked me on my left shoulder. The exiting man pulled if off, with an “Are you okay?” . Momentarily breathless, I was mostly stunned and it hurt more than a bit.

Still holding the mullion, he called to a librarian, who showed great concern for me, offered me ice – or an ambulance. I could move my shoulder, raise my arm, nothing was protruding. I knew I would have a colorful bruise, but, that I was otherwise alright. Mostly, I was so very grateful that this heavy metal hit me and not a child, who would have surely been badly injured, and I said as much. The librarian was very nice and called me the next day to see if I was okay.

So much for reading in “stile”, wouldn’t you agree?

Would you like to see what I’ve been reading?


“Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers’ Markets, Local Food, and Saving the Family Farm”, by Forrest Pritchard was a delightful, informative, and often very funny book that I suggest all who are interested in sustainable farming, farmers’ markets, locally grown meat and chicken,  and the slow rise of a downed family farm should read. It was my lucky day find, which I finished in a few sittings.


“Laura Lamont’s Life n Pictures” by Emma Straub first came to my attention at A Work in Progress where Danielle wrote an intriguing review about a girl from Door County, whose parents run a summertime theater. When tragedy strikes her family, Elsa Emerson vows to one day flee to California and become a movie star. Elsa does, first marrying an actor from the summer playhouse, then heading for California, where he gets bit parts in movies while she is home, having babies. After meeting the powerful Hollywood executive, Irving Green, at a studio party, Elsa life changes. Irving tell Elsa, who is pregnant with her second child, to have the baby, lose 30 pounds, change her name to Laura Lamont, and come see him. He will make her a star, and he does. The book spans 50 years of Elsa/Laura’s life and the studio system era of Hollywood.


“Code Name Verity” is a young adult book about a woman who is a secret agent during World War II. Captured by the Gestapo, she confesses secrets to save her life. Or does she? After surviving the gauntlet at the library when I went in to check it out, I’m really looking forward to reading this.   I’ve linked to Rachel’s review of the book above.


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