- “Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth Wein
- ISBN: 1423152190 / ISBN13: 9781423152194)
- Number of Pages: 343 pages
- Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
- Publication Date: 15 May 2012
- Date Read: 18 May 2013
- Rating: 5 Stars
I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.
That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine – and I will do anything, anything to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.
He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France – an Allied Invasion of Two.
We are a sensational team.
“But I have told the truth. Isn’t that ironic? They sent me because I am so good at telling lies. But I have told the truth.”
My late father was a big fan of war stories – being a frustrated soldier (his father didn’t allow him to get enlisted to the army after graduating college because my late grandfather, although he was okay, had some signs of trauma from WW2). It was through him that I got to appreciate war movies, too, but it was something I never regarded it as a favorite genre.
I couldn’t recall now how I chanced upon this book on GoodReads, but with my interest caught by its high average score of 4.22 stars out of 5 (the time I first saw it), I started reading the reviews one after another and from there, I acquired the eBook copy and read it immediately (I first read it on eBook format, before buying the physical copy a year after).
It’s premise was very interesting, mainly because the protagonists in the story were two women, something unusual (at least for me) because war stories often showcased the stories of the men, and if there would be women in the story, they were often supporting characters, like the nurses or the loved ones these soldiers left behind.
At first I admit I had a difficult time immersing myself into the story. While the words were easy to read, I found myself lost after a few pages at a time that I had to go back and read the chapter again. For that reason alone, I felt like giving up, until I realized that this book was meant to be read slowly – savoring each word and each scene.
The book had two parts – Verity and Kittyhawk – the two voices in the story, coming from the two main characters – Queenie and Maddie. It started with Verity, who was caught by the Gestapo in France and was given two weeks to write her confession. Verity and Kittyhawk were together in France until Verity’s capture, so halfway through the story it then shifted to Kittyhawk’s voice.
This was a novel like no other I have read at that time. It was like a novel within a novel, or more of a convergence of three novels (one from Verity, one from Kittyhawk, and one that bound these two together) and the writing was very good, although I did have to consult my friend K about some terms because it mentioned certain British slang. That, and the difficult to pronounce terms were the only things that I had problems with, but it did allow me to learn new things. It switches from first person perspective to third person without creating much conflict, and the description of how the world was during that time period was vivid and nostalgic, like picturing a movie in my head, or listening to the stories elderly people told about during that time.
The friendship between Verity and Kittyhawk started accidentally, and even if they haven’t spent that much time together, their loyalty to each other was beyond compare. Even if one thought the other was already dead… they still remained loyal to each other, and I have to commend Kittyhawk for trying her best to find Verity despite the fear that her best friend might already be dead given the time (how long) since they separated.
Like most people their age, they were partly childish, too, making them “real” people. I loved that part when they shared the things they feared the most – one of them mentioning “getting old,” and as one of them wrote their story, the writer realized, “I am no longer afraid of getting old. Indeed I can’t believe I ever said anything so stupid. So childish. So offensive and arrogant. But mainly, so very, very stupid. I desperately want to grow old.” This book had a lot of heart, but it wasn’t soft…at all.
This book made me laugh, made me get excited, got me anxious and made me cry… buckets and buckets of tears. It was heartbreaking that some scenes had to happen, but I guess that was the biggest testament of how these two ladies trusted and loved each other…that they were willing to do something so heavy given the circumstances and not hold it against the other. I pray none of us will go through what they went through, but this part of the story just made me appreciate the people I have in my life.
Quoting a line from a letter sent to Kittyhawk by Esme (Verity’s mother), that made me cry the second time while reading the book:
The window is always open. Fly safely.
“The window is always open” is something from “Peter Pan,” giving “Fly safely” a double meaning – since Maddie (or Kittyhawk) was a pilot and we all know in “Peter Pan” the kids fly to Neverland and back home. That line, coming from a mother just sent me to tears, really.
It may be set during the World War 2, but the main focus was the friendship and what happened “behind the action.” It was a story of courage, forgiveness, acceptance. If you’re into war stories, I recommend you to read this… but if you’re not into it, please give this book a chance, and I hope you will love it as much as I did.
“It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.”
…and it’s also like being in love, discovering this book.