“Code Name Verity”, written by Elizabeth Wein, is a fabulous, powerful book. It’s a remarkable story between two incredible women and their beautiful friendship. It’s a story about women doing extraordinary things. These two women — one an intelligence officer and the other a pilot– are the central characters. And that’s all you really need to know. Verity is a beautiful woman who speaks German and French and works as a radio operator during World War II. She becomes an English spy and one day in France while crossing the street she looked the wrong way — a very English mistake — and gets taken by the Gestapo. She gets tortured and beaten in order to spill state secrets. I mean, when we first meet her she is tied to a pole in her underwear. She’s totally humiliated. Her German captor and interrogator, Captain von Linden, makes her write her confession in between bouts of torture. As long as she writes she can stay alive. So she gives up codes and aircraft and airports to the Gestapo, but continually gets beaten and humiliated. It’s very dark and dramatic but I laughed out loud several times. Even though Verity is being tortured I was laughing. That’s how spectacular and strong Verity is. While writing her confession she tells the story of Maddie, her best friend.
Maddie is the opposite of Verity. She’s Jewish, plain, not great at talking to men, but is ethical, fierce, loyal, a skilled pilot and a genius mechanic. All she wants to do is fly and serve her country. But when her plane goes down in Nazi occupied France, she has to go into hiding until she can get back to England. And also, she is trying to find Verity before she gets sent to the concentration camps.
Verity and Maddie are two extraordinary women. They are not nurses or women waiting for their lovers to return from war. They actively helped out the war movement and didn’t care about the risk. That’s what I loved most about the book. It’s a story about bravery and loyalty to their country. Or well, since Verity is Scottish, to England. It also made me cry like a mother. The following are some of my favorite quotes that make me cry every time I read the book. Without spoiling anything, please enjoy:
- “‘It is a pity we cannot keep you, Kittyhawk,’ said the man whose house it was. ‘You were born to be a soldier.’
Huh. Makes me quite puffed up with pride and yet fills me with scorn all at the same time – what rubbish! I wasn’t born to be a soldier. There’s a war on, so I’m delivering airplanes. But I don’t go looking for adventure or excitement, and I jolly well don’t go around picking fights with people. I like making things work. I love flying.”
- “‘I’m not blameless,’ said Maddie. ‘Every bomber I deliver goes operational and kills people. Civilians. People like my gran and grandad. Children. Just because I don’t do it myself doesn’t mean I’m not responsible. I deliver you.’ ‘Blond bombshell,’ Queenie said, and sputtered with laughter at her own joke. Then she began to cry.
- “Now they were over the ghostly white cliffs of eastern Normandy. The Seine’s loops shone like a great unwinding spool of silver mesh off the port wingtip. Maddie gasped at the river’s inadvertent loveliness, and all at once she found herself spilling childish tears, not just for her own blessed island, but for all of Europe. How could everything have come so fearfully and thoroughly unraveled? There were no lights over France; it was as blacked out as Britain. Europe’s lamps had all gone out.”
- I am no longer afraid of getting old. Indeed I can’t believe I ever said anything so stupid. So childish. So offensive and arrogant. But mainly, so very, very stupid. I desperately want to grow old.”
- “Don’t know how I kept going. You just do. You have to, so you do.”
- It was a rather extraordinary conversation if you think about it — both of us speaking in code. But not military code, not Intelligence or Resistance code — just feminine code.”
- “It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.”
- “We’re still alive and we make a sensational team.”
- “You ignorant Quisling bastard, SS-Scharfuhrer Etienne Thibaut, I AM SCOTTISH.”
- “I am a coward. I wanted to be heroic and I pretended I was. I have always been good at pretending.”
- KISS ME, HARDY! Kiss me, QUICK!”
- “A raid is actually quite a lot like a battle. It is war. It’s war in miniature, but it’s still WAR.”
- “It is coming down. We are still a sensational team.”