Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

14 Jan

Rose Under Fireroseunderfirebyelizabethweinbookreviewminifreakout

The sequel to the much acclaimed Code Name Verity, reviewed here, takes place largely in Germany in the women’s concentration camp Ravensbrück. American Rose Justice, once serving as a British ATA pilot with her friend Maddie Brodatt (familiar to those of you who’ve read Code Name Verity), is captured by the Germans when she flies to France to deliver her uncle and, while on her way back, chases a German flying bomb plane so that it will not attack Paris. She finds herself over Axis territory and is forced to land where they automatically take her to Ravensbrück. There, she meets a courageous French prisoner, Elodie, who proves to be a great friend and asset to escaping the camp. After Rose’s group is quarantined, she is taken to work at the nearby Siemens & Halske factory, where she refuses to make the wire for bombs, subsequently whipped and thrown into the bunker where political prisoners are kept, including the group known as the Rabbits. The Rabbits were a group of Polish women on whom doctors performed gruesome experiments that were designed to test the possibility of death by leg wounds, to “predict” better outcomes for German soldiers injured in war. These women fought against their treatment by managing to send information out of the camp to the media and foreign governments, using their maltreatment to blackmail the camp’s director into not secretly killing them all and somewhat better treatment. Rose’s new family with the Rabbits consists of her camp mother, Lisette, and sisters: Roza, Karolina, and Russian taran pilot, Irina. The Rabbits’ mission is to tell the world of the horrors of Ravensbrück, and when Rose, Roza and Irina escape, it is their mission as well, even more so for Rose because she can speak English. However, the battle for Rose is not just about survival, but the courage it takes to speak of her experience and the moral dilemma when facing the perpetrators of such acts.

Really, just a phenomenal novel that sucks you into the time and place but does not get too descriptive (medically speaking) about just exactly how hellish it was. While I enjoyed the literary style of Code Name Verity much more, this book is still just as well-written and poignant a novel. I will be surprised if it doesn’t win anything in awards this year.

One of the things that struck me about the novel was how Rose (and other women like her) had to work at the Siemens factory because they used some of the more healthy prisoners as factory workers. The idea that Siemens, a factory group that still exists today which incidentally is about 5 minutes from my house, employed concentration camp prisoners just astounds me. That and the fact that they were instrumental in Germany’s war effort through manufacturing parts to make flying bombs that killed people. It just isn’t something we regularly think about…

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Posted by on January 14, 2014 in Historical fiction, Young Adult/Teen


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