I AM A COWARD.
Thus begins the opening line of Verity's "confession." In exchange for relief from torture and a delay of her inevitable execution, captured Scottish spy known only by her code name "Verity" agrees to write the story of how she became a Special Operations Executive, spilling as many Allied secrets as she knows along the way. But Verity instead begins to tell the story of how her best friend Maddie learned to fly and joined the WAAF, culminating in her final flight with Verity as she dropped her into Nazi-occupied France. Through torture both physical and psychological Verity struggles to finish her account and defy her captors as a hideous fate worse than death looms constantly over her head.
Code Name Verity aims to fill a niche in WWII fiction. The stories of WAAF pilots are few, probably because there were very few WAAF pilots to begin with. The Women's Auxiliary Air Force ferried planes and equipment back and forth across England, made secret drop-offs of spies into France, and otherwise aided the RAF. Verity's narrative vividly depicts the constant terror and burden that was the life of a transport pilot at the homefront. The painstakingly researched descriptions may leave you knowing more than you ever wanted to about aviation during WWII.
Of course any story about spies, torture, and war is ripe for moral dilemmas, and the harrowing Code Name Verity is no exception. These dilemmas include whether its morally acceptable to betray ones' country and whether a "mercy killing" is a loving or right thing to do. Unfortunately, like the similarly WWII-themed YA The Book Thief, there is a noticeable and somewhat depressing lack of God in the worldview and perception of the characters. Because of this, answers that should be black and white are (frustratingly) presented in shades of gray, which naturally leads to some problems. The worldview that struggles with the question of whether a "mercy" killing is right travels the same line of thought which enabled the Nazis to perform the very atrocities these characters fight against.
So this is not one of the happier stories about WWII. War is not romanticized (although flying sometimes is). The gruesome tortures that the captured spies undergo may not be described graphically, but they're eluded to in a way that is still stomach-turning. A world at war is an ugly place to live in, and sometimes these characters must make impossibly hard choices that lead to equally ugly consequences. But Code Name Verity still remains a very beautiful story. The tragic story of these two friends brought together and torn apart by war is full of heartbreak, but the love and courage that they display in the face of it make this intense, heartbreaking, bittersweet novel a satisfying read.
Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here.
Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here
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