The mountains made me cry. But the really hard facts of a WWII concentration camp left me dead calm, despite their awfulness. It was so atrocious that I simply read on, while trying to ignore some of the details. If you stop and think, you couldn’t go on.
The same as for the inmates of Ravensbrück in Elizabeth Wein’s new novel, Rose Under Fire. They just got on with it, in an almost unbelieveable manner. That way, some of them survived until the end of the war.
Starting with a funeral, and going on to a wedding, this story revisits some people and places from Code Name Verity. I like knowing what happened later. (Ideally you should read CNV before embarking on Rose Under Fire. You don’t have to, but you would be cheating yourself out of a most marvellous book if you begin at the end.)
Although, we know Rose survives the war, because her tale about how she ended up at Ravensbrück actually does start at the end. This is another journal, both similar to and very different from Julie’s diary in CNV. Rose is an 18-year-old American ATA pilot, and her voice is very much that of the surprised American girl who wonders how she ended up starving in a German concentration camp.
Rose is a lovely character, but it is perhaps the European girls and women at Ravensbrück who impress the most. It’s easy to think of them as mere victims, dirty and hungry and looking like walking skeletons. Here you find university professors, continuing their work by educating fellow inmates. The solidarity as people go without (impressive, since there is so little, that to go with less should be impossible) in order to assist with the current plans for helping someone escape, or hide, or any other desperate action forced on them.
This is no Code Name Verity. It would have been impossible to repeat. Rose Under Fire is a very well researched ‘inside a concentration camp’ story. People have to die, or disappear, because it’s what people did. I had heard of the operations performed, but had had no inkling as to what it really meant. I almost prefer not to think about what I’ve learned.
Rose Under Fire is a must read. Elizabeth’s done a great job creating another girl pilot, letting us see war torn Germany from the inside, not to mention the inside of the hole under the floor in the toilets at Ravensbrück.
It’s a love story, even if not in the traditional sense.