★ ★ ★ ★
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein | Disney Hyperion | September 2013 | Hardcover $17.99
While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?
The author of best-selling WWII thriller Code Name Verity has produced another work of the same impressive quality. Fans of Verity will find Rose Under Fire very much to their liking.
Rose Under Fire is the dairy style first-person narrative of Rose, a young American woman who is working for the war effort in England during the 2nd World War.
She flies military planes as a transport pilot; though women at the time were not allowed to be actual fighter pilots or bomb droppers, moving planes and occasionally people from one Allied airfield to another was considered a relatively safe job for them. Of course, this occupation still involved some definite dangers, like malfunctioning equipment and rough weather conditions — not to mention the bombs that rained down on Britain in a near-constant storm of explosive destruction.
The book is split into two parts. The first is a diary of a young woman who is far from home in a war-torn land, who experiences fear and thrills and romance and grief and every other kind of thing you might expect a person in her situation to experience. Rose is brave and perhaps a little overenthusiastic, but she’s certainly a relatable character. She’s an aspiring poet and her poems add a special something to this book-as-journal interpretation of her story. Everything seems normal, or at least as normal as an expat wartime pilot girl can expect… until Rose crash lands behind enemy lines.
The second part of the book is told primarily in retrospect, as Rose remembers and comes to grips with her experiences at the Ravensbrück concentration camp prior to escape and rehabilitation in Paris. This is some real punch-in-the-gut stuff, made all the more startling by being based on actual historical events. Our protagonist meets girls and women who have been experimented on and horribly abused by Nazi guards. Rose herself is soon subject to the kinds of cruelties that are so astonishing that the real concentration camp survivors upon whose own experiences this part of the story is based were accused of exaggeration or outright lies even by their rescuers. Rose struggles to heal, both physically and psychologically, as she relives her POW experience and tries to reclaim her own life.
Though powerful in its treatment of WWII Nazi atrocities, this book isn’t exactly a tear-jerker. Recommended as a companion read for The Diary of a Young Girl (The Diary of Anne Frank) or for folks interested in realistic early-mid 20th century historical fiction.
- Official website of author Elizabeth Wein
- US Holocaust Memorial Museum — Ravensbrück
- Brandenburg Memorial Foundation — Ravensbrück (German)
This is a partial draft version of a full review that was submitted for publication to the Galveston Daily News in October 2013. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer.
Publication information: Wein, Elizabeth. Rose Under Fire. New York: Hyperion, 2013. Print.
Source: Public library
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.