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on 29 April 2017
I'd not heard of this author until last week. I was watching a book review video and this was one of the books mentioned. This is quite a harrowing, but compelling tale about the atrocities that occurred in one of the WW2 camps for women. The book draws you into the characters, and at times I shed tears over events that happened to the women. A story about friendship, sacrifice, determination, strength, compassion etc. I knew very little about the camp in question. Perhaps many other people do not either, as perhaps we tend to hear more about some of the other concentration camps. After reading this book, I did further research on the internet about the camp, the experimental 'rabbits', the Nuremburg trials etc.
I've now ordered a copy of the author's new book which is released in a few days. Let's hope this is another excellent read.
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on 28 May 2017
I read Code Name Verity, Wein’s first YA WWII novel about women during the war, quite a few years ago now. At the time, I loved it, as the World Wars are a time period I’m very interested in learning about. So, when I stumbled across the fact Wein had published another similar novel, I was over the moon. However, part of me worried it wouldn’t live up to the expectations of the first book.

That worry was pretty stupid, because of course Rose Under Fire was great. It tells the story of a young American girl who puts her passion for flying to use as she delivers planes for the allies in Britain, taking them to where they need to be for repairs or where fighter pilots need them. Rose is frustrated by the fact that the female ATA pilots cannot travel abroad. However, she has a few family connections, and strings are pulled that allow her to fly to a part of France recently liberated by the allies. That’s where something goes wrong.

The story has a slow start, but it’s not a bad kind of slow. It sets up Rose’s character well, the position of women in the air force, and what it was like for those in Britain during the Blitz. Wein is brilliant at crafting a believable voice for her first-person narrators. Both Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire are written in diary format. The little descriptions Wein throws in of Rose’s childhood are detailed yet short, building up a believable portrait of Rose Justice.

Rose is headstrong yet romantic, and it’s these qualities that get her through the horrors of the war as one headstrong mistake lands her in enemy territory, away from the relative safety she has known in Britain and America.

We don’t initially find out quite what’s happened to Rose. Her diary ends abruptly a quarter of the way through when she is supposed to be heading home from France and the voice changes to a friend. From this section, we glean that Rose has gone missing, presumed dead. Then, Rose’s voice returns some six months later. She has made it back from Ravensbruck, the concentration camp for women.

The rest of the book follows Rose as she writes about the horrors she has witnessed and endured, as well as the struggles she faces readjusting to life after the war. Wein details a horrific and vivid depiction of Ravensbruck, making sure not to dress-up the story in a way that makes it easier to read. This part of the story is harrowing, yet tinged with hope, as Rose finds a surrogate family in the camp, with two stand-out characters being Roza and Irina.

Roza in particular was a captivating character, especially because of who she was. Roza is one of the Rabbits, Polish girls who were experimented on by the Nazis in Ravensbruck. These experiments involved, in very simple terms, cutting into the girls legs and studying infection, as well as removing parts of bones. As a result, Roza struggles to walk, but what has been done to her only enhances her already feisty, and sometimes heartless, nature. Roza can be really quite rude and spiteful, and it seems these are qualities she has had since childhood. Yet, despite the fact she can say some very nasty things, I really warmed to her. She’s determined, vicious, intent on justice for what has happened to the Rabbits. You can’t entirely blame her for her sometimes savage remarks after the way she’s been treated since her capture at age 14. She was definitely the most nuanced, as well as flawed yet likeable, character.

Then there is Irina, who is a Soviet fighter pilot. Like Roza, she can also be a bit hard, but together with Rose she is instrumental in the survival of this ragtag family of girls: Rose, Roza, Irina, Karolina and Lisette. They are determined that the world will know what has gone on here, that the world will find out what was done to the Rabbits. As the American, Rose is singled out as the one with the connections to get the story out there.

I really grew to love these characters. Even at the darkest moments, they stick together, intent on getting Roza and the other Rabbits’ story out of the camp. Sometimes when reading, I struggled with the fact that this all really happened. Whilst Rose’s personal story or Karolina’s or Lisette’s didn’t specifically happen, Ravensbruck did exist, and so did the Rabbits.

I thought the story was brilliantly written. Harrowing, hopeful, and not afraid to shy away from the realities of the war and the lengths these women would go to to make sure the world knew, to make sure that at least some of them got out alive.

Perhaps my only criticism, which is not actually a criticism, is that it ended too soon. I was so engrossed that when I turned the final page, I was shocked to see the notes from the author. I turned back and forth, confused, and then re-read the final passage, in disbelief that I wouldn’t find out any more.

I cannot recommend Rose Under Fire and Code Name Verity enough. Even if you’re not a fan of WWII fiction, I urge you to read them. The writing and characterisation is great, and the stories open your eyes to the atrocities that have been committed, and the hope that endured.
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on 15 January 2014
Utterly compelling yet harrowing in places. I was glued to each page. Your heart breaks for Rose and her friends and the worst part of it all is although you know Rose is fiction this book was researched and based on true accounts. Wonderfully written with beautiful poetry don't expect any easy read, I shed tears. If you intend to read Code Name Verity as well I would recommend you read it before Rose under Fire as there are a few references to characters and a small sub plot which may be more meaningful to you had you read the earlier book, but it won't detract from the power of this book should you choose not to. This book will live me with me for a very very long time.
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on 28 March 2017
as expected
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on 30 March 2017
A fantastic book.. loved every second of this story. Moving and informative. Definitely need more stories of this kind xx
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on 27 April 2017
Wonderful book that describes Man's inhumanity to man. Everyone needs to take care to help others. We all need to create a better future.
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on 18 June 2013
Having wolfed down Elizabeth Wein's previous novel Code Name Verity and totally adored it, I was hungry for more. Rose Under Fire did not disappoint.

Rose Justice, a young American pilot (and amateur poet),is working for the ATA delivering planes and ferrying pilots for the RAF during World War 2. Whilst trying to bring down a 'pilotless plane' during one of her missions, she looses her way and ends up in the hands of the enemy. In Ravensbruck concentration camp she meets the 'Rabbits' - girls experimented on by Nazi doctors.

It's a chilling tale, but also one of bravery and friendship in the face of pure evil. Wonderfully told - Elizabeth Wein is a master story teller, and this book is un-put-downable.
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VINE VOICEon 21 May 2016
I've had this book on my shelf for ages. It was a recommendation but I had never really fancied it as there seems to be an overload of WW1 and WW2 books. Thought it was time to give it a go though.....
The subject matter wasn't too much of a surprise as I had read the blurb, it sounded quite interesting and a slightly unusual view of the conflict. What I hadn't appreciated was that this book has been written for the young adult market - I'm nearly 50 so not the target audience at all. This should be no excuse not to produce a well constructed and interesting book though.
Rosie narrates the book and, mostly, comes across as a young teenager who reacts in a childlike way to everything around her. The language is very modern which jars slightly and its use gave me the impression that the author was trying too hard to appeal to her market by allowing authenticity to slip and she was in danger, at times, of becoming patronising. Rosie was a hard character to engage with and I found that the poetry side of her character did not add to the plot (in fact it was an odd distraction).
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on 8 July 2013
I came to Rose Under Fire with high hopes. After devouring its companion novel Code Name Verity and recommending it to everyone I could think of, I couldn't wait to get my hands on Elizabeth Wein's next offering to see if it could possibly match up. Amazingly, it did.

Code Name Verity was a sucker-punch of a novel. It reeled me in, lulled me into a false sense of security, and then delivered a final blow that left me curled up on the couch sobbing and glad that my housemates were out so they didn't witness my embarrassing emotional breakdown. Rose Under Fire was different. The main character Rose Justice spends most of the novel in Ravensbruck concentration camp, and the story tells of the fight for survival, not only her own, but her adopted family's. Instead of being crippled by one large emotional blow, I instead found myself on the verge of tears for most of the book, sometimes not even because of particular events, but just because of the very real sense of how the daily grind of living in the dirt and the squalor of a concentration camp could crush anybody's hope.

What I love about Wein's writing is that, for me, she has given the Second World War a really human face. I remember learning about WW2 every year at school from the age of about 7. That repetition made the war feel really commonplace, unexceptional almost. I became numb to the hardships and pain of those who went through it. Code Name Verity, and now Rose Under Fire, have helped me to rediscover that period of history and think more about the individuals caught up in it.

Yet despite that strong sense of place, and the incredible amount of research that Wein obviously does to make sure that her novels are as accurate as possible, they still contain really universal themes. The power of friendship for example. Code Name Verity was at its heart a love story between two best friends, Rose Under Fire continues the theme of friendship and shows how strong those bonds can become, stronger than family ties perhaps. We're reminded once again of the endurance of the human spirit, and how writing can be anyone's salvation, no matter their situation. Rose is a poet and her beautiful poems are strewn throughout the text, supplementing the narrative and providing a link between her and the other captives in the camp. Sometimes I read them over and over again before resuming the story, just to soak in their ability to bring beauty to such a painful situation. While the idea of poetry could put some people off, if you see poetry as being highbrow and stuffy, I promise you these poems are anything but. Plus Rose's down to earth narration never feels anything but natural; like a friend telling another friend a story.

I could go on longer about all the reasons I love Rose Under Fire (lady pilots! different languages! morally grey characters!), but I won't, because I want you to discover it all for yourself. So please, prepare your heart and pick up a copy; you won't be disappointed.
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on 9 October 2013
"Fight with realistic hope, not to destroy all the world's wrong, but to renew its good."

They do say, be careful what you wish for because you might just get it. Rose Justice learns that lesson all to well. Only 18 years old she is one of the youngest pilots involved in the war effort. Flying planes to transfer them from one airfield to another, what she really wants is permission to fly missions in to war-torn Europe. When she does get that opportunity through her uncle's influence it turns into her first and last trip. While she safely delivers her passengers at their destination, she goes missing on the return trip. Nobody knows what happened to her, nobody knows where she went down, everybody, while hoping that she may be alive, is starting to realize that she has probably died.

But Rose hasn't died. She's been intercepted by German planes and captured. Through an administrative error she ends up in Ravensbrück Concentration Camp. Here she'll experience horror, fear, hunger and desperation. In Ravensbrück she will also discover friendship and loyalty beyond her imagination.

"I'm done with it now - dry words on a page. The reality was much worse." - Rose about when she arrives in Ravensbrück.

This is not an easy book to read. The reader is lulled into a false sense of security during the first part of the book which details Rose's time in England, flying planes from one airport to another. In fact, by the time everything goes horribly wrong for Rose the reader is as ill prepared for what she is about to face as the character is. Like I said in my review of "Code Name Verity" I have in the past read a lot of books about WW II and I honestly thought there wasn't a lot I didn't know about. But, while I did know that the Germans used their prisoners for medical experiments, I did not know that the victims were called "Rabbits".

And it is those "Rabbits" that this book is really about. Rose may be the main character, she may be the one telling this story but she is really only a mouthpiece used to describe horrors that are hard to imagine, even though we know they are true. Horrors so extreme that the world refused to believe them until it was forced to view the (living) evidence. Rose is incapable of telling her fellow prisoners that while the plight of the Rabbits had been reported in England, people hearing about it refused to believe it and brushed it off as propaganda. Because some things are just too hard to believe. However, if there is anybody out there who doubts that the things described in the section of this book set in Ravensbrück are true, if anyone finds themselves thinking that friendship couldn't exist in such a place, that (young) people could possibly survive such an experience, that it was possible to cheat certain death, or that escape was possible I would tell them to read Samuel Pisar's memoir "Of Blood and Hope" and never doubt again.

Don't read this book expecting a repeat of "Code Name Veriety". That book was a thriller with twists and turns and an uncertain ending as well as a story about friendship. "Rose Under Fire" is no thriller; we know Rose is going to survive that is made clear at the start of the book. This book is about what it took for Rose to survive and what surviving did to her. This story is harder to read because the horrors described are so - and I can't think of a better word - horrific that even I, who has read so many books about this subject in the past, at times found it hard to read on.

This is a book that will break your heart, fill you with horror, and make you gasp in disbelief. Yet it is also a book that will flood you with admiration for the strength of these women. The power of hope against the odds and the capacity to selfishly love, even in the direst of circumstances, will restore your heart again.

Like I said above; these days I try to steer clear of books about WW II. I read my fill of them growing up in Holland. On the other hand I'm glad that books like these still get written. This is a story that can't be allowed to ever be forgotten. And it is books like this one that ensure that present and future generations won't be allowed to forget. Like the "Rabbits" say in the book: the world needs to be told. It needed to be told then, and it needs to be told now in the hope that there will come a time that people are no longer capable of inflicting this sort of trauma upon others.

"People don't get moving, they don't soar, they don't achieve great heights, without something buoying them up."
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