I am a coward.
I wanted to be heroic and I pretended I was. I have always been good at pretending.
So begins Elizabeth Wein’s extraordinary Code Name Verity, due out in the US this May. The story of a passionate friendship set in the landscape of World War II Britain, women pilots, espionage, Nazis, the Resistance, and occupied France, it is one of the most remarkable books I’ve read.
The book begins as an account by one Verity — a young female British spy who has evidently been captured by the Gestapo in France and is now being forced to write out all she knows in a brutal situation of torture and misery. Day by day Verity relates both the experiences of her prison (and of those who supervise and manage her) and those of her past. Twisting in and around time, Verity introduces her dear friend Maddie who became a pilot at a time when female ones were few and far between. She tells of their unlikely friendship, of their parallel developments as pilot and spy, and of the events before, during, and after the night Maddie flies her to France for a mission that goes very, very wrong.
Code Name Verity is a harrowing, riveting, and deeply emotional read — harrowing as there are references to torture, riveting as it is a thriller of the sort that keeps you agog to figure out just what is happening, and deeply emotional because of Wein’s brilliant writing. Who is Verity exactly? What was she sent to do? Has she compromised her mission? Her friend? Her country? Can we trust her account? Can we trust her?
Beautifully written from the most elegantly composed sentences to the exquisitely developed characters and the intricate puzzle of a plot, Code Name Verity is outstanding.