Monday, April 28, 2014

Book Review: Code Name Verity

YA Fiction
You might like this book if you like stories about WWII, stories about the intelligence and resistance efforts during that war, or stories about friendship, courage, and loyalty.
I listened to the audiobook read by Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell

Some of my friends found this book so painfully sad that they decided not to finish reading it. Some read it but found it so sad that they cried and cried. Some of my friends just didn't like it. I'm always a bit worried when I don't align completely with anyone in my group of trusted reading friends. Did I miss something? Am I unfeeling or too cynical? Am I too easily pleased and too willing to let a book simply transport me to an alternate reality? Or maybe I'm going too deep because I want books to matter in my life, to help me learn and change and grow and even better live what I believe. My response to this book makes me think these thoughts (Just how weird am I?) Not that it really matters, but I'm still basically insecure about every thought in my head, so it matters a little. To me.

Because I just liked it. I liked the detail. I liked the story. I liked the way the construct of intelligence work and wartime intrigue made the plot into a puzzle. I liked the richly-drawn historical background. I thought it was beautifully written (and the audiobook beautifully read). It was a great story, skillfully conceived and meticulously researched, about a very difficult time in history.

About the sadness. Well, I knew it was about World War II. I am endlessly fascinated by WWII but it would never, ever occur to me to expect a just or even a satisfying story from that horrific monstrosity of the twentieth century. Such would not fit into the zeitgeist. It's just not possible. Evil was afoot. So, I'll agree with my friends that this book does not have a happy, neat ending. But I don't think it was a purely sad ending, either. The events lead to a final feeling of love and the possibility of healing and hope. I thought it was realistic and I have great admiration for the two main characters, each of whom did a thing that I will always secretly wonder if I would have the guts to do. I think the results balance out the horror within the context of this story. I can't even try to judge the events of the story against my experience, so I have to take them as they are within the framework of the created reality, and there, everything fits together, difficult as it is.

In fact, I read it as a tight and clever microcosm of the brutal facts of WWII, and a useful way to perhaps better understand what the mind and heart would rather not deal with. Unthinkable things happened during the war. Sometimes those situations brought out the absolute best in people and there was heroism and unselfishness so supernal as to touch the divine. Sometimes those situations brought about such depravity that the gates of hell opened directly onto the surface of the earth.

So it has always been. So it shall always be. Our job, as indicated by this story, is to crack the code, do the hard things, cling to whatever love and beauty we find and then just keep going.

That has application in my real life, and so I'll remember Kittyhawk and Verity for a long time and think about their loyalty and courage.


  1. YES. Everything you said. I LOVED it. Wonderful listen.

  2. I loved loved loved this book in so many ways. For all the ways you said. I've been recommended it to lots of people. Just so deep and poignant and real yet not so real that I couldn't handle it. After finishing it I just sat there going wow. Then I started reading it again (just a chapter or two to bring it full circle). I think I may use an audible credit to read/listen to it. Have you read Rose Under Fire? I really like how it connected.
    Thanks for the review!

  3. I thought it was beautiful. I read Rose Under Fire too and it amazes me how a concentration camp book can be hopeful and funny and sweet, but it can.

  4. I couldn't believe that only 2 of us who came read the thing. We have cheaters in the SSBC, you know. Just kidding. I kept waking up all night after finishing it with "I have told the truth" and "Kiss me, Harry!" running through my head. It was so well done, I thought. Yes, the research! Crazy. I intend to read Rose Under Fire, but am giving myself an emotional break first.


Thank you for sharing your insights!