bookish posts reviews

2015 Favorites: non-fiction

ravensbruck village of secrets call the midwife how to be a victorian The Bletchley Girls

Ravensbrück by Sarah Helm: Pretty much without a doubt, my favorite non-fiction book of the year was Sarah Helm’s Ravensbrück. It’s rare for me to feel emotional about non-fiction, but in this case I was totally invested, to the point of tears. Helm’s account of the women in the Ravensbrück camp is astoundingly detailed, but never loses sight of the fact that she is talking about real people. By both providing personal accounts and giving them context, she allows both immediacy and understanding of complexities. (When this person was speaking, and to whom, for instance.) It’s a truly impressive book, but even more so, it bears witness to the women who wanted nothing more than to tell the world what happened there.

How to be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman: There are a number of books about daily life in the Victorian era, but Goodman is able to give her personal experiences with various daily chores and routines. Because of this, and her thoughtful understanding of the Victorian worldview and life, it stands pretty far above any similar book I’ve ever read. She is clear about where the Victorian methods make sense and where they were disastrous. All in all, I felt this did a good job of neither sentimentalizing nor condemning, but attempting to make sense of Victorian daily life.

Village of Secrets by Caroline Moorehead: I found Moorehead’s examination of the very complex history of the Vivarais Plateau during World War II to be fascinating on several levels. First, she takes a great look at the myths and stories we tell about it, and where they come from. Second, she delves into the actual records and eyewitness accounts with great scholarship. In the end, what she presents is a much richer, more human, and in a way more understandable account of the village of Le Chambon and the other villages on the Plateau. I didn’t see it as denigrating; in fact, it seemed to honor the actual character of the people involved. And I’m still thinking about the way history twists into myth.

The Bletchley Girls by Tessa Dunlop: This fits nicely into the themes I’ve been talking about already in this post. Dunlop looks at the young women (some of them really girls) who worked at, or in connection with, the Bletchley Park project. As Dunlop weaves their stories together, it becomes clear that the idea of the idealistic and brilliant code breakers is over-done; that many of the girls who worked there found their work drudgery; and that some of them did not feel that it changed their lives significantly. On the other hand, for others, it opened a new sense of possibilities, or the chance to develop life-long friendships.

Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth: I’ve loved this show a lot, so I thought I should read Worth’s original memoir. It’s interesting to encounter the originals of stories I already knew–and it reinforced my sense that the writers had done an excellent job of crafting a narrative that hews pretty close to Worth’s own words but has a structure that works for TV. While I do like the tv show more as a narrative, I also appreciated Worth’s perspective and experiences.

bookish posts reviews

Women at war: Noah’s Ark and The Bletchley Girls

Once again, I’ve managed to accidentally read two books in a row that contrast nicely with each other. Both of these books deal in some way with women during WWII. The first is Marie-Madeleine Fourcade’s memoir of her activities as one of the leaders of the Alliance circuit of the French Resistance. The second is Tessa Dunlop’s look at different women’s activities and experiences while working at or around Bletchley Park.

Fourcade’s memoir is intensely personal, and filtered through her own opinions and reminiscences about the Resistance and the people who made it up. The English version, called Noah’s Ark, is a translation and abridgement of the French original, which made me wish I read French well enough to try that. (I don’t at all.) I was interested in the various figures that Fourcade shows us, although I almost wished that I had read an overall history of the Resistance first. I felt I was missing various contexts and that we were really getting her opinion about people and events.

While Fourcade doesn’t focus a great deal of attention on this, she does talk a bit about the fact that as a fairly young woman (I believe in her mid thirties) she stepped into running a massive organization, in the middle of a war. She had to learn to command the respect of those who were more directly risking their lives. And it carried a great cost for her personally, as she ended up apart from her family and unsure of whether she would ever see them again.

For me, perhaps the most emotional part of the book came when she described the fate of Leon Faye, one of the main agents for the Alliance circuit, who attempted to escape from the Gestapo headquarters in Paris with Noor Inayat Khan. I had heard this story before, but had been pretty much entirely focused on Noor’s part in it. So it was quite unexpected to find her suddenly here.

At any rate, this was a fascinating, heartbreaking, informative book, but it was most certainly a memoir, recounting a particular person’s viewpoint and opinions. I would like to find a good history of the Resistance to compare it with.

The Bletchley GirlsTessa Dunlop’s The Bletchley Girls is a little different in scope and approach. She made a point of finding and interviewing the Bletchley girls who are still alive (or were at the time of the writing) rather than relying on published histories. She weaves together the reminiscences of fourteen of the young women who worked at Bletchley Park. The overall effect gives the overview of women’s roles at BP a personal touch.

I suppose that, like most people, I have a fairly glamorous–or at least, vaguely exciting–image of Bletchley Park. And perhaps if one of the women who worked most closely with Dilly Knox or Turing were alive to give her testimony, that would be more present. But the accounts Dunlop collects show that for many of these young women, the strict secrecy and compartmentalization of the Park gave their work a monotonous flavor. Most of them didn’t really know until after the war how vital their particular work was.

While in a certain way this is slightly disappointing, it also helps dispel some of the mythos that surrounds Bletchley Park. Some of them loved it, and others were bored in the moment but appreciated the overall work. Some simply hated it. But interestingly, for many of them their work at BP changed the course of their lives. Not necessarily in dramatic ways, but by giving them opportunities, by introducing women who became life-long friends.

Because both of these books are primarily centered around personal accounts and memories, neither is entirely focused on the overall role of women in the war (Dunlop is more so). However, they both of course provide a picture of some of the many reasons women did enter the war, and how they made their way.

bookish posts reviews

Reflections on Ravensbrück by Sarah Helm

ravensbruckI first encountered Ravensbruck at age 10, when I read The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom’s wartime memoir, for school. Although Corrie and her sister Betsie were not imprisoned in Ravensbrück for very long, the book made an instant and indelible impression on me; it’s partly or mostly responsible for the fact that I started to read everything I could about World War II.

A few years later, I read a biography of Mother Maria Skobtsova, the Russian Orthodox nun and French Resistance member who died in Ravensbrück in 1945. But after this, it really wasn’t until I read Elizabeth Wein’s wonderful Rose Under Fire that I heard about Ravensbrück again. It was the first time I discovered the story of the Polish Rabbits–the Lublin special transport who were experimented on in the camp–and it also gave me a sense that there were many more stories to be told.

And now Sarah Helm has written a monumental book that has done just that. She began researching Ravensbrück after writing an earlier book about Vera Atkins, the SOE officer who spent the rest of her life trying to uncover the final fate of the SOE women she trained and sent into action. Four of those women died at Ravensbrück. It might have been easy to keep the focus there, to primarily tell the story of the English and American prisoners. But Helm does not do this. Included in the book are the stories and words of Polish, German, Russian, Ukrainian, Dutch, English, French, and Jewish women–and those are just the ones I’m remembering off the top of my head. She begins at the construction of the camp and continues on to show the ripples of its effect on the survivors after the war.

And I found that Helm does a marvelous job of keep the story on a human scale. When we begin to talk about 150,000 women prisoners, about 30-60,000 women killed, about the conditions and the medical experiments, it might easily become abstract, a kind of numerical problem. But we follow the stories of a few women at a time through the different periods in the camp, seeing how the conditions and decisions affect them. I found this way of storytelling so powerful, so intensely compelling, that I ended up reading this book very quickly, considering the length and subject.

Helm manages to let the voices of the survivors and victims–as well as the guards and other more culpable characters–come through, and at the same time she contextualizes them. She doesn’t shy away from presenting the circumstances of the account, the biases and self defenses of the witnesses, the questions we may never have the answers to. She is able to give an overview, to synthesize the different accounts and information to paint a picture, without denying the complexities of the situation and of the people involved–so many of whom could be both kind and unimaginably cruel.

One of the things I found most interesting were the accounts of resistance and sabotage, which were far more prevalent than I had realized. The workers in the various factories, at great personal risk, sabotaged parts for planes and bombs. Those who worked to sew clothing for German soldiers “often worked together, agreeing to destroy the finest fur by cutting it into tiny pieces, which they called poppy seed or macaroni…Others worked in groups of up to twelve, taking advice from veterans like Halina Choraznya, the Warsaw chemistry professor, who calculated how to give the anoraks special treatment by piercing the fur in such a way that it would fall apart.” Yet Helm also shows that with those acts of courage came a great price, and that this price was often demanded of others.

And yet, there were people like Halina Choraznya, who is described as “like a little mouse. Sitting there. A very strong little mouse. She organised everything,” who did act with great courage and resolve. And of course there is the amazing story of hiding the Rabbits, which appears in Rose Under Fire, and which is true. It really happened. The lights in the Appellplatz went out. We think of the people in the concentration camps as victims. But Helm (and others) show a much more complicated reality. In one sense, they were certainly victims of Nazi atrocities. But many of them also fought–in the camps, in ways small and large.

One of the major themes in Rose Under Fire is the phrase “tell the world”. It’s the motive Rose uses to keep going, and the burden she carries afterwards. What I did not realize is that, like the lights going out and the hidden Rabbits, it too is true. It occurs over and over again in the narratives of the survivors and witnesses, that same mixture of defiance and hope and responsibility. For instance: “A Norwegian prisoner told her rabbit friend that she would insist on being executed in her place. ‘You should be the one to tell the world about the crimes committed against you.'” And a prisoner who was briefly released “believed she had witnessed a monstrous crime in the making, and that she had been released by God to tell the world.” A quick Google Books search of the text turned up seventeen separate uses of the phrase, some in original testimony and some paraphrased.

It is perhaps the tragedy of Ravensbrück that the stories of the women who lived and fought and died and survived have been so forgotten, despite all their efforts. I hope that this amazing and heartbreaking book is another strike against that silence, another way to tell the world.

bookish posts reviews

Recent Reading: Maguire and Marks

egg & spoonEgg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire: Karyn Silverman kept mentioning Egg & Spoon as one where she thought the historical Russian angle was well done. Having finally read it, I agree! I liked especially the way the characters interacted with with faith–the way they prayed and interceded with saints read as exactly right to me. (Something I wouldn’t necessarily expect from a non-Orthodox author!) And I also liked how Maguire wove in Russian fairytales, both in obvious and not-quite-so-obvious ways. I’d be curious to know how someone who didn’t grow up with the originals or (in my own case) Bilibin’s retellings reacts to that part of the story but it worked really well for me.

My enjoyment of the book wavered a bit based on how I was feeling about the narrator; intrusive narrators are not really my thing. On the other hand, I was engaged enough to not completely mind it, which I suppose is a good sign.I did like the relationship between the two girls quite a bit, the way Cat and Elena both have a lot of growing up to do, even if at first glance it seems like Elena is the wise and mature one. I thought Maguire also did a good job of showing the inequalities of Russian society at the time without condemning the ordinary people involved, and without a ton of overexplaining.

And Baba Yaga grated on me a bit at first, but eventually I settled down, mostly because her place as a figure not bound by time became more apparent. All in all, I liked and appreciated this one a lot. I would recommend it for historical–not so much accuracy as feeling. At the same time, if you’re not a fan of intrusive narrators, or breaking the fourth wall, this one may not be for you.

Book source: public library
Book information: 2014, Candlewick Press; upper mg/YA

between sikBetween Silk and Cyanide by Leo Marks: Between Silk and Cyanide was mentioned by a reader on my post about Noor Inayat Khan, since Marks worked with her and talks about her in his book. It’s a memoir of his time as a cryptographer and code-breaker for the SOE during World War II. Marks is an engaging writer, who I suspect could talk great piffle–his style actually reminded me a bit of Beverly Nichols. At the same time, he’s quite acutely aware of the realities of the struggle he’s engaged in. There were times I laughed, but other times that were completely heartbreaking (perhaps partly because I already knew a bit about some of the SOE agents and their fates–he talks quite a bit about both Noor and Violette Szabo who clearly both made strong impressions).

So this was an informative and interesting book, although I continue to not understand anything about codes. At the same time, I found myself wishing that I were reading it with a history of the SOE at hand, because it’s so much Marks’s story, filtered through his point of view. It’s a delightful, compelling point of view, certainly, and I found myself thinking about the apparent similarities between the creative writing process and the cryptographic one. And it’s not that I doubted Marks’s achievements, but rather that his experience is a bit, as he confesses a few times, insular. It’s not even a flaw as such, because it does exactly what it sets out to do: Leo Marks gives his experience in the SOE. All the same, I would like to balance it with an overview of the same time and situation.

As a side note, Marks was the son of one of the founders of Marks & Co., better known perhaps as 84 Charing Cross Road, and in fact centers a lot of his experience with and love for codes on the bookstore. It’s a source of income, of status (because so many of his superiors with whom he did battle were also customers), and inspiration.

Book source: public library
Book information: 1998, Free Press; adult non-fiction

book lists

Noor Inayat Khan and the SOE

Caveat to the rest of this post: I am waaay not an expert in this field. I’ve done what I would call a fair amount of amateur reading about WWII generally, and a bit about the SOE and its female agents specifically.

Wartime photo of Noor Inayat Khan, from the Imperial War Museum
Wartime photo of Noor Inayat Khan, from the Imperial War Museum

Since Code Name Verity was published in 2012, I’ve become much more aware of the history of the British WWII spy organization called the SOE. One of the main characters in Verity is an SOE agent and wireless operator, the other is a pilot in the WAAF and ATA. One of the interesting aspects of the SOE is its use of female agents, especially in France. This is, of course, a big part of Verity, but it’s also based in fact.

In following Elizabeth Wein’s blog and Twitter, I discovered that one of her inspirations for Verity was a fascinating woman named Noor Inayat Khan (who, it’s worth noting, was half-Indian and Muslim). I’ve seen several posts on Tumblr about Noor recently, and through them discovered that there was a recent documentary that aired on PBS*. The documentary is called “Enemy of the Reich” and should still be available for online viewing if you’re in the US.

Since there’s a bit of a surge of interest, I thought I would pull together a few resources for those who are interested in finding out more about Noor Inayat Khan and the SOE more generally. Again, see the caveat: if you know of resources I haven’t listed here, PLEASE let me know and I’ll add them!

Wikipedia page
2006 article from The Independent
An essay from the producer of “Enemy of the Reich”
Nice overview profile
The Imperial War Museum’s SOE page
Some more photos from various points of Noor Inayat Khan’s life
(There are also some articles in the Times (London) which I’m not linking to because they’re behind a paywall. If you have access, they’re easy to find by searching.)

A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII by Sarah Helm (my review)**
Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan by Shrabani Basu
The Women Who Lived For Danger: The Women Agents of SOE in the Second World War by Marcus Binney
Churchill’s Angels by Bernard O’Connor (I started this one and somehow O’Connor manages to render his subject extremely dry)
Noor-un-nisa Inayat Khan: Madeleine by Jean Overton Fuller (a personal friend of Noor Inayat Khan in England)

In the end, it’s easy to get hung up on the romantic details of Noor Inayat Khan’s short life. But what strikes me is her bravery, her resourcefulness, and her sheer toughness in the face of conditions that would overwhelm most people.

* I thought it was quite touching and well done overall, although I believe they completely messed up on the fact that Noor was born in Moscow, not St. Petersburg! I appreciated the fact that they were able to get quite a bit of information and commentary from Noor’s family, which gave a very personal sense to the documentary. I did wish they had mentioned Vera Atkins, although I know they were trying to fit everything in an hour.

** Helm is also coming out with a book about Ravensbruck

bookish posts monthly book list reviews

May and June 2014 reading list

Books I’ve already talked about
The Story of Owen by E.K. Johnston
Destroyer by C.J. Cherryh
The Wolf Hunt by Gillian Bradshaw
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
Sun-kissed by Laura Florand
Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee
Clair-de-Lune by Cassandra Golds
The Wall and the Wing by Laura Ruby
The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Torn Away by Jennifer Brown
Pretender by C.J.Cherryh
A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn
The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Kirshnaswami
Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson
Pointe by Brandy Colbert
A Bride’s Story, vol 2 by Kaoru Mori
Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear
Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci
Flygirl by Sherri Smith
My Neighbor Totoro
Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Melusine by Sarah Monette
Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks

Other books
Blood Royal by Eric Jager: Non-fiction account of the murder and aftermath of Louis of Orleans. It’s an interesting book, engagingly written, and Jager manages to make his points without hammering them home too often. It’s also a slightly depressing story; justice was never really done, and the man who pursued it the most lost a lot because of it.

Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan: I enjoyed my re-read of this a LOT, and yet I can’t help feeling that it’s fundamentally the first half of a story, that it needed the unwritten second book to really round it out. As it is, Mel is only just beginning to change, and I can’t quite see where that journey will take her. I know that things happen, and I do very much enjoy what we do have. Especially Kit.

Cleopatra’s Heir by Gillian Bradshaw: Bradshaw takes a what-if–what if Cleopatra’s son had survived the Roman invasion of Egypt–and weaves a very compelling story from it. The sense of a young man who has been used to complete privilege and who must now find his way in the world isn’t a new one, but Bradshaw treats it deftly, with both affection and enough distance to be convincing.

Hunting Eichmann by Neal Bascomb: I read the YA version of this last year and I wanted to see if the adult version presented a more complex version of events. It did and it didn’t–I certainly understood more of what was happening, but that’s simply because it’s a longer book with more information. For me, the most powerful moment is still Gideon Hausner’s spine-tingling speech at Eichmann’s trial.

Hild by Nicola Griffiths: Hild is a much more fascinating and complex book than I can convey here. I may have to come back to it, because I keep musing about a particular aspect. But for now, I’ll just say that it provides a marvelous counterpoint to certain fantasy sub-genres, and does so in a way that doesn’t refute so much as stand outside a certain viewpoint. I loved the first three-quarters unreservedly; the last quarter didn’t quite have the same weight for me, although I wound up still liking the book a great deal. There’s so much more I want to say, but I’ll just leave it at this: if pseudo-medieval fantasy epics always strike you as lacking specificity and reality, this is a book you’ll like.

Sekret by Lindsay Smith: For a book about psychic KGB spies, I found this one a bit tedious. Smith has done her research, but there were a few awkward moments that bounced me out of the narrative (as when Yulia mentions that Masha means Maria, a fact she would certainly know). I wonder if this would have worked better for me if it hadn’t been first person, if we had a little more narrative distance from Yulia’s perspective. Still, it’s overall fairly enjoyable.

Die For Love by Elizabeth Peters: I normally like Elizabeth Peters, but this one came across as less “loving spoof on romance readers and writers” and more “caricature of romance readers and writers.” Compared to, say, Diana Wynne Jones’s Deep Secret, which lovingly and accurately sends up scifi conventions, this one seemed a bit petty and unkind.

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman: I wasn’t quite sure how I would like this one when I started reading, but I ended up liking it a lot. Gretchen came across to me as a young woman very much in her elders’ shadows–both her father, her brother, and her uncle Dolf–and her journey read as believable to me. It did happen very quickly, and I wished there had been a way to slow that down a bit, but overall I found it an interesting and engrossing book.

The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones: Last Diana Wynne Jones book ever, I am so sad. I did like it, which I had worried I wouldn’t; I’m not terribly fond of Earwig. This felt like a return to classic Jones in a lot of ways, and while I wish she had been able to finish it, I am happy with what we got. Did anyone spot the join? I wasn’t quite sure where it came in.

Delancey by Molly Wizenberg: Perhaps because it’s a bit more focused, I enjoyed Delancey more than Wizenberg’s first book. While I did occasionally mutter about getting the point already, it is one that shows how we can have a changing relationship even to things we love, and have to re-find our way to them.

Swift by R.J. Anderson: The last in Anderson’s Knife series. I’ve really enjoyed these books, and I’m so sad they’re not being published over here. Swift seems especially complex and interesting. And I loved that a particular character quotes from Richard III–it fits so well with how {spoiler} is portrayed, as well as being a nice reference.

Curse of the Team Spirit by John Allison: I had read this before, when it was published on the Bad Machinery website, but it was so fun to see the little detectives in their infancy! And while it’s one of the weirder mysteries, it wasn’t at all annoying, which sometimes things are when you revisit them.

The China Garden by Liz Berry: My main reaction to this one was to feel a bit dated. It came out in 1994, when I was seven, but it feels very old-fashioned, in the romance and the attitudes about the world and environmentalism especially. It’s an extremely atmospheric read, but I didn’t find myself really liking it, or the characters very much. Not sure if the fault lies in me or the book–I suspect me as I probably would have loved it in middle school.

Render Unto Caesar by Gillian Bradshaw: I liked this one perhaps a little less than most Bradshaw books; it lacks some of the clear plotting that distinguishes the others, I think. But the setting and characters are, as always, compelling, and she remains practically unequaled in her ability to paint a picture of the ancient world.

The Bride’s Story, vol. 1 by Kaoru Mori
Lulu and the Mysterious Mission by Judith Viorst
Saga, vol 2 by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond
Blackwood by Gwenda Bond
Forget You by Jennifer Echols
The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E Smith

bookish posts reviews

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

rufuk Today is the UK release date of Elizabeth Wein’s new book, Rose Under Fire, a companion to Code Name Verity (link goes to my review). If you’ve been around here at all for the past year, you have probably discovered that I’m a huge fan of CNV. More than that I’m a huge fan of all Elizabeth Wein’s books, and have been ever since I discovered her through a recommendation at Sounis. So when I found out that Rose was coming out in June in the UK, and September in the US, I promptly ordered a copy of both editions. And then I was lucky enough to read it through NetGalley*.

I suspect that many reviews of Rose will focus on the differences between this book and CNV. And that’s fine–they are definitely there, and significant. For instance, the plot of Rose is not nearly as twisty as Verity; in some ways the book is much more straightforward. But I really want to talk about some of the similarities I can see.

First, these are both books that I really wanted to avoid spoiling. For different reasons, sure, but I don’t even want to say exactly who from CNV you see in Rose. I believe the fact that Maddie is there is public knowledge so, yes, Maddie is there, and Maddie and wonderful. (I just started crying over Maddie.) But I’m not going to tell you anything else! And while you could find certain pertinent details if you dug around on the internet, I’m not going to tell you the plot either. Because this book is so much more than any plot summary could convey.

You see, just like CNV, this is a book about female friends who survive incredibly difficult circumstances because of each other. No one ever says the phrase ‘sensational team’ and it’s not even exactly right for this story, for these circumstances. There is no chance of glory, no great game, only a struggle for survival and sanity. But make no mistake: the bond between Julie and Maddie is here too, in some ways all the stronger because it is quieter and grows in more imperceptible ways. rufus At one point, Rose calls the women she knows her “more than sisters” and over the course of the book we begin to see how that has happened.

But there’s another thread running through both books, which is that of bravery, and fear in the face of impossible situations. Of course, what is the first line of Code Name Verity? “I am a COWARD,” which then proves again and again to be false. Like the thread of friendship, this is perhaps quieter in Rose Under Fire, but no less incredible. II don’t even know how to describe it; it has a quality that I recognize from the Soviet prison memoirs I’ve read. All I know is that they are all so brave, humblingly so, in a way that involves but is not limited to physical courage.

Also like CNV, though even more so, is the sense of reality. When I read either of these books, I completely believe in them; I forget that this is fiction. And in Rose Under Fire, this is even worse because some of these people are not fictional. The things that happen at Ravensbruck actually happened. The Rabbits are real (here is a picture of them in California after the war). The camp is still there, cell blocks and all.

And so, for me, there is this kind of burning rage and sorrow, and also a wordlessness. How can I speak–how can I review this book? I can only hold it out and say, “Read this. Tell the world.” And at the same time, if the story were not so well told, I couldn’t have that reaction.

The truth is, I don’t know how other readers will react to this book. The ones who disliked the flying bits in CNV will be faced with more flying bits. The ones who thought CNV was too full of coincidences to be plausible will be faced with more coincidences. The twistiness of CNV, the spy thriller aspect, is not here. On the other hand, the bravery, the complexity of the characters, the brilliant descriptions of flying–those are all present. And I suspect that the readers who love this book will love it fiercely.

As for me, I was in tears most of the time I was reading. There’s not a “Kiss Me Hardy!” moment exactly, though at one point I couldn’t see the words because I was crying so hard.** More than that, though, I resonated with Rose in a way that, much as I LOVE them, I don’t quite with Maddie or Julie. But Rose is a bookish American who loves England, with German heritage, from the Midwest. I’m don’t know that I have her courage–no, let me change that. I know I don’t have her courage, but I feel a connection to her, a kind of kinship.

Unlike Maddie, I think that Rose is a pilot second and a poet first. She loves flying, but it’s not who she is. And I was amazed at the poetry; unlike a lot of books that use poems as a device, I believed in that she reads it and writes it. The way other poems, especially Millay’s, are woven into the story is beautiful and right every time. And Rose’s own poems get better as the book goes on, which from a technical writing side I am simply in awe of. How do you do that?

So, in the end what I can say is that I loved it, that just like Code Name Verity, it broke my heart again and again. It’s a book that will probably stick with me the rest of my life. I am on Rose’s side, and Roza’s, and Lisette’s, and Karolina’s. And I won’t forget.

Book source: purchased (twice); NetGalley
Book information: Egmont, UK, June 2013; Disney Hyperion, US, September 2013; YA historical fiction

* Note that this has not made me any less excited to hold the actual finished book in my hands. I will always be a print girl at heart.
** “Dirge Without Music”

NOTE: I edited this review slightly because I had never been entirely happy with the original version.