Rose Under Fire, Elizabeth Wein

Rose Under Fire

Rose Under Fire

Elizabeth Wein

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.

4.5 stars

368 pages, e-galley from NetGalley (thank you!)
Published September 10, 2013 by Disney Hyperion
Purchase: The Book DepositoryAmazon


10 thoughts on “Rose Under Fire, Elizabeth Wein

  1. Yup, spectacular, depressing and emotional were also words that came to mind after reading Code Name Verity, so I’m extremely pleased this one follows in the same vein! Though I’m also curious in what way this one would be slightly more palatable to you than Code Name Verity was – I hope you give Code Name Verity another try, Meg. That one was hard for me to get into, as well, but once I did, everything from the beginning started to make sense and come together. It was worth it. And this one sounds like it has the potential to be EVEN MORE phenomenal, if that’s possible. Eeek, I can’t wait! (but also a bit anxious about getting my heart crushed again after Code Name Verity). Really fantastic review, Meg!

    • Everyone’s been gushing about Code Name Verity! I have no idea why I couldn’t get into it, but I WILL give it another go, that’s for sure. I’m pretty sure I just wasn’t in the right mood for it at that time. I hope you get a chance to read this soon, Aylee. It’ll crush your emotions and make you cry, but it’s TOTALLY worth it. Thanks! 🙂

  2. I haven’t read Code Name Verity yet. I own it, because it won the Edgar award, and have heard good things about it — but I just haven’t gotten to it yet. This book sounds really good, and really heartbreaking — which I always like. Though, I have to be in the right mood for a book like that. I love that it sounds like Roza comes off as an unlikeable character, but then you ended up caring about her so much. I think that’s always a mark of a really skilled author — when they can change your opinion of a character so wholly. I’m glad you enjoyed this book, and when I read it I’ll have to look at the Afterword.

    Great review, Meg!

    • Same here — I probably wasn’t in the right mood for CNV, so I couldn’t enjoy it. Right? Elizabeth Wein has a talent for weaving three-dimensional, totally real, and totally lovable/hatable (it depends) characters. Hope you get to read it soon, Kim, and thanks!

  3. That is a very beautiful quote o.O.

    It’s Elizabeth Wein’s 7th book???? I mean I knew Code Name Verity wasn’t her first novel, but I didn’t realize she’d published five before it. Wow. I never got a chance to read Code Name Verity, so I’m curious whether I’d have the same trouble finishing it and whether I’d think that this one was SPECTACULAR (though I have seen nothing but good reviews so far! All saying it’s better than CNV). I’ve also only cried maybe two? three? times when reading – but I will take your word for it that this book is emotionally gut-wrenching.

    “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.” <– You mean because it was written in a journalistic way, it became real? I could see how that would make it harder to discount the narrative, make it more in your face type, but I also feel like that runs the risk of disconnecting you too. I've read a few novels told from that perspective and not been able to get into the story.

    BUT CHARACTERS ARE THE BREAKING POINT, and in other reviews, I've read the same about the women and the things they'll do for one another and even though I don't cry much when reading, it sounds very, very touching. I wonder if this one will win another literary prize too….

    I'm glad you enjoyed the book! I hope to pick this one up, and then maybe I'll be like you and retry CNV afterward. (You've also intrigued me about this Afterword. I wonder what was revealed…)

    • I know! (And thank you, because I tend to get self-conscious about the quotes I pick out.)

      I was pretty shocked about that, too. Nah, the problem I had with CNV was probably with me — I think I wasn’t in the right mood to read it, so I couldn’t get to it like the others good. And I hardly cry either, so it was a COMPLETE surprise when I suddenly burst into tears because of one short sentence. Seriously. It’s heartbreaking.

      Yes. 🙂 And also because I did some research after I read it, and the whole book is historically correct, so that made all the events more real to me. I never thought that I’d be able to connect so deeply with Rose because of the writing format either, but I did. She narrates in a very down-to-earth style, which probably helped, too.

      Hopefully! I mean, this book definitely deserves it.

      You should give it a go, Christina! I really hope you enjoy it. 🙂

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  5. I just finished this book a few days ago an I ended up crying against when I wrote my review. Such a powerful, evocative and yes as you said spectacular book. I loved CNV and I thought this could never match up but it did, I loved it. These are characters and a story I will never forget which I’m glad about as real life events as horrific as this should never be forgotten about.

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