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Code Name Verity Paperback – May 7, 2013
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About the Author
Elizabeth Wein (www.elizabethwein.com) was born in New York City, grew up abroad, and currently lives in Scotland with her husband and two children. She is an avid flyer of small planes. She also holds a PhD in Folklore from the University of Pennsylvania.
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There was one issue that jerked me out of the narrative. I'll refrain from mentioning it because it's a major spoiler, but seems like 12 resistance fighters with guns could take out three German soldiers. In the end, despite that scene, it was such a page turner, that I couldn't bump it down to four stars.
And I appreciated that Maddie and Verity were so true to life. They felt like real people.
Decades ago, fiction was littered with these larger than life male protagonists who always rescued themselves and saved the damsel in distress (who were utterly useless). They didn't cry, they grunted away injuries, and were basically testosterone fueled killing machines who never needed any help. Years later, I've noticed the reverse happen. Now it's the female protagonists who have slipped into that same role. I am so sick of books with the 'tough' female protagonist who is an expert fighter (or my favorite: the most feared assassin in the world at the wise old age of 17), survivalist, saves every male character in the book, and never, ever cries. What's worse...she feels the need to say (at some point in the book) "I don't need help from a man." And proceed to point out how she just did whatever she did better than a man.
Basically, these 'tough' female protagonists are cardboard cutouts of their male counterparts, minus the plumbing, and more obnoxious because the narrative tends to make a point out of inserting some 'tough female' speech, or has the protagonist punching a man to show him whose in command. It annoys me to no end.
Why can't individuals have strengths and weakness and everyone help each other out (no matter the gender) without giant, Rambo-sized egos?
I thought Code Name Verity did an excellent job of this. Maddie had a knack for fixing things and flying, and yet, she had real fears and insecurities, and cried after every harrowing event. She felt so real. The 'tough' female stereotype sneers at crying or any sign of soft emotion. As the daughter of a war veteran, I know first hand that those who are going through, or who have been through hell are some of the most emotional people I know. Tears and empathy are a sign of strength and courage; not weakness.
This novel is a story of female friendship, pilots, and WW II. It is engaging, and usually interesting. There are moments of great human clarity in the text, and I think the author did an especially nice job in her rendering of the friendship of the two protagonists. It seemed real to me, I have lived many of the same emotional moments that the characters experienced.
The story is written in a stylistically interesting manner, and it is well paced. The author (Elizabeth Wein) also raises some interesting questions, especially about the idea of fear and what drives it/us. This text was a surprise to me; someone picked it for my book club, and it gave us lots to discuss.
Interestingly enough I never had a burning desire to pick up the book and read, but when I did so I read for long stretches at a time. Figure that one out. There is a sequel. I doubt I will read it, but I enjoyed “Code Name Verity”.
I strongly believe this could be a PBS series. Or a movie.
I think a large part of that is the fact that, while all three of these books contain elements of hope and tragedy, "Verity" features a balance of humor as well. The other two, I suppose, are "serious" novels. But I can appreciate characters who can sometimes - even in the worst of circumstances - laugh at themselves and the mad world around them.
All in all, I can't really recommend this book too highly. It is one I will certainly read over and over again. :)
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