While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?
Elizabeth Wein, author of the critically-acclaimed and best-selling Code Name Verity, delivers another stunning WWII thriller. The unforgettable story of Rose Justice is forged from heart-wrenching courage, resolve, and the slim, bright chance of survival.
“Hope is treacherous, but how can you live without it? When you lost hope, you turned into a schmoozich, nothing more than a starved mouth and snatching hands that even the guards ignored except when they were counting everybody – or you died.”
If I had to describe Rose Under Fire with one word, it would be “spectacular.” Next would come brilliant, depressing, and emotional. Because Elizabeth Wein’s seventh is just that – heart-wrenching, captivating, and a stellar piece of work. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did, having had some trouble getting into (and finishing, heh) Code Name Verity, but I did, and more. It’s the kind of story that will slowly sneak under your skin and pounce – and then reduce you to an emotional wreck right after, as it did to me. So trust me when I say that this book will make you cry.
Summary: Rose Justice, eighteen-year-old poet and American pilot, working in Europe as a transport pilot, flying different kinds of planes to and fro. Though living in tough conditions – having to eat rationed food, needing to make a dash to the bomb shelters at any moment – life is still good. Until she tries to stop a flying bomb from hitting Paris and gets captured by the Nazis. She’s forced to endure a miserable life in Ravensbrück, but even the most darkest of places, hope, loyalty, friendship, and love can bloom.
Rose Under Fire is written a lot like Code Name Verity, the whole of Rose’s story told from her journal and her writings. I felt that this gave the book a “real” sense of realism. Like, this wasn’t just a story that couldn’t have happened, but a story that actually could have been true for all we knew. And since the entire book was written in this way, it was extremely easy to connect with Rose. She was a more than apt protagonist to tell this story.
But what made the book so tragically heartbreaking were the characters – the hard-hearted women from the prison camp. When I was first introduced to them, never once did I imagine I would grow attached to any of them, especially to Roz•a, a particularly cynical prisoner whose spiteful personality I didn’t take to liking immediately. All those negative traits didn’t matter, however, when I saw how loyal, how loving, how utterly compassionate and brave they are. How can anyone have such strong and powerful traits when they’re in a prison camp? These women were so loyal that they would do anything to keep their fellow inmates alive – including bear hours of standing in freezing temperatures, naked, just to hide a few of their girls who were about to be gassed. If that doesn’t make your heart warm for them, then you must be mentally sick in the head, because these women were enough to make me cry for them.
Rose Under Fire ended beautifully. Even though the outcome of the book is already revealed before Rose’s capture, there is no shortage of thrills and absolute horror at what the Nazis did to their prisoners; it’s enough to keep you reading on and on. Elizabeth Wein is truly a master at historical fiction, being able to weave out both a historically accurate and heart-wrenching book, and I can say with certainty that I will definitely be giving Code Name Verity another go after this!
A NOTE: For those who plan to read this/have read this, do check out the Afterword at the end. I did, and was shocked at some of the things revealed there. You don’t want to miss it!
Who is this book for?
Fans of Code Name Verity, historical fiction, and the World War II era. Really, though, I would recommend this to anyone, because it was SO GOOD.