My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Haunting. That’s the only word I can truly use to describe it, just haunting. I think my eyes were the size of saucers, bugged out of my head as I flipped through each page of Rose Under Fire and it is no over-exaggeration when I say there were moments when I found myself holding my breath. It isn’t that the material takes your breath away, but more that what you’re reading grows in such intensity you simply forget to breathe. It’s haunting because it’s real. The people are made up and the backgrounds make believe, but the world in which they find themselves… that was real and it’s heart breaking.
Rose Justice is an American pilot who, through the help of her uncle, has landed a job ferrying planes back and forth as a civilian transporter. Everything is going fine, she’s helping with the war effort and she’s getting to fly planes, that is until a fellow pilot crash lands on base after trying to intercept an unmanned aircraft known as a flying bomb. Not long after the funeral, Rose spots a flying bomb during a transport and decides to knock it out of the sky. However, all goes wrong when she is intercepted by Nazi pilots over German territory. That’s when the war changes for Rose and she finds herself in a women’s concentration camp known as Ravensbruck stripped of dignity, name, and even country. Through the guidance of friends, poetry, and hope filled fantasies Rose holds on to life day by day, but will it be enough?
The fact that this is a work of fiction by no means takes away from the truth of which Elizabeth Wein has put in spotlight for readers to remember or learn for the first time – and that very well might be just the thing that makes Rose Under Fire so moving and such a thoroughly addicting read. I would say enjoyable, but I don’t think I truly “enjoyed” reading the book. It was more like I felt compelled to read it as if I owed it to the characters and the real people they represented. I couldn’t stop reading. I needed to keep reading because these characters brought to life the courage, fear, love, and power the survivors and occupants of Nazi concentration camps had. What they endured is heart breaking, tragic, and despicable, but we must read about it so that we don’t forget and so that we don’t repeat it. I know that Wein saved us readers the horrific, in-depth details of which I can only imagine she sifted through during research, but she didn’t spare us completely. I applaud her for her diplomacy.
I loved Code Name Verity and I loved Rose Under Fire. Each is enthralling and honest, but each is different and to compare the two and expect them to be identical is unrealistic and would be a shame if it were true. We each have our own story and perspective of similar or shared events. Wein does an excellent job at differing Rose Under Fire from her first novel in such a way as to make sure it wasn’t repetitive. I can assure readers that Wein is certainly no one trick pony. Although Wein may not be the most fantastic poet on this earth, her use of poetry throughout the book is well placed and informative. It adds to Rose’s character and acts as a central piece of the story. This is a work of literature I would recommend to any and all, but do know there is strong language involved – however, consider this, they are stuck in a concentration camp. I think you would say the f-word a few times, too. Lastly, if you’ve read Code Name Verity there’s an easter egg in Rose Under Fire for you if you’re paying attention.