*sits in heap of emotions, looks around bleakly, doesn’t cry as hard as That Part In Code Name Verity When That Thing Happens, which she supposes is something*
So. Remember how great Code Name Verity was? And DEVASTATING, right? And the events therein are obliquely referenced in Rose Under Fire and I am like, pause for weeps. Because that book killed me like Doomsday Book killed me, like The Sparrow killed me. This review isn’t even about that book, seriously Raych.
Rose Under Fire! Different book, same feels. And because it doesn’t hinge on the twist, I feel like I can actually tell you what happens this time. Rose is a transport pilot during WWII, and it’s fun but also THE WAR and also they don’t let girls fly into France or something but Rose’s uncle pulls some strings and she gets to drop him off in France (I sort of forget the specifics of this part) and then GAP IN THE DIARY, which gap is filled with letters and notes from Rose’s friends and family all, Woe unto us, for Rose has disappeared behind enemy lines.
And then the diary picks up in Rose’s hand again, all Here I am, returned from Nazi Germany! Only it’s more like, Here I sit, naked, with the lights on, because I can’t put my dead-woman’s clothes back on and I can’t be in the dark and I am literally afraid of everything because Nazi Germany.
And then she tells you about the concentration camp. And you forget how, at the time, reports of various atrocities were leaking out, and the rest of the world was like, Pfffffft, that’s outrageous. And after she gets back, someone says something along those lines to Rose and you feel personally offended because you are super, super invested right now.
Rose befriends some of the Rabbits, so called because they had experiments performed on them, and it is APPALLING. I mean, it’s a concentration camp, so the whole thing is appalling. But this is appalling with a bonus side of harrowing. And reading it is sort of a Lest We Forget exercise, like, This is hideous, but it is also a witness to Real Things That Happened To Real People. Which, it turns out, is the point of the book. Bearing witness, I mean.
And one of the things that impressed me most about Code Name Verity was the depth of horror Wein could convey with so little detail. Which is really the only way I made it through this book. The abominations are given their maximum due, without being treated voyeuristically.
And then there is bravery and triumph and altruism and enduring female friendship, that last of which there is not nearly enough in the literary world.