I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.
That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine – and I will do anything, anything to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.
He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France – an Allied Invasion of Two.
We are a sensational team.
This was an audiobook I downloaded last summer from SYNC. It is narrated by Kevin T. Collins and Eve Bianco. It was paired with Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca. Both narrators were enjoyable to listen to. Usually I have issues more with the narrators and I tend to not get into the stories, but this was the exact opposite. The smooth, clear voice let the story flow and I absorbed each moment of it.
Despite the historical setting of World War II, the book presented the roles of the female pilots during the time. Due to this, there are numerous references to Peter Pan and Neverland in the book. The two main characters are extremely brave young girls working for the Air Transport Auxiliary in German-occupied France. The Auxiliary was formed by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) – which is referenced as Churchill’s Secret Army – to conduct espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance in occupied Europe.
A British spy plane crashes in the fictional town of Ormaie. On board are two best friends, a pilot (code name: Kittyhawk) and a spy (code name: Verity). The latter is soon captured by Nazi authorities, detained in a former hotel, and forced to write a confession detailing the British war effort, which she decides to write in the form of a novel. Through her confession, she tells the story of her friendship with Maddie, the pilot, and how she came to enter France in the first place. She was always doing the unthinkable. She was fixing engines, and flying planes. She used to be graceful and a woman that all the women radio operators envied. The guard who translates is really offput by this woman who was nicknamed Queenie by women operators, and who never gives up her name to reveal that she is Lady Julia Lindsay MacKenzie Wallace Beaufort-Stuart from Castle Craig.
In the second part of the plot, the story is told from Maddie’s point of view, and reveals the events that transpired after the plane crash that left both girls in France. Maddie takes on the name and the papers of Katharina. She takes up an elaborate plan to free her friend and lays low on a farm with Resistance army members – including the family of one of the Nazis who tortures Julie.
Even though they are separated, the two meet again under tragic circumstances. Prisoners are being transported to concentration camps for experiments.
- Queenie/Julie (code name Verity) – a Scottish spy who has been caught by the Gestapo who works for the SOE; a whiz at languages; can pass as a German native
- Maddie (code name Kittyhawk) – an English farmer’s daughter who is also Jewish; she becomes an ATA pilot
- Captain Von Linden – Verity’s captor at the hotel-turned-prison; he refuses to watch her be tortured
- Anna Engel – an operative under Von Linden; constantly undermining Verity’s story
- Etienne Thibaut – a young man under Von Linden; interacts and tortures Verity
- Mitraillette and La Cadette Thibaut – sisters of Etienne; they help Maddie in her efforts to find Verity
- Jamie Stuart – Verity’s brother, also an ATA pilot
A whore, we’ve established that, filthy, it goes without saying, but whatever else the hell I am, I AM NOT ENGLISH.
But I have told the truth. Isn’t that ironic? They sent me because I am so good at telling lies. But I have told the truth.
A part of me will be unflyable, stuck in the climb.
Kiss me, Hardy. Kiss me, QUICK!
The Highs and Lows
- + Point of View. The first-person POV made the story so much more emotional for me. I felt closer to Maddie and Queenie. Their emotions and fears became my own. I didn’t want to stop listening to their story.
- + Format. The stories are told through series of letters and journal entries. Typically I tend to zone out with these type of reads because I feel like I’m missing some important element – whatever the author is really trying to portray is not getting across to me. But this was not the case in Code Name Verity. The story felt more historical, documented.
- + An Incredible Friendship. Sometimes it is difficult to fully reveal all the facets and intricacies of a friendship, especially between girls. Maybe it’s because we’re more complicated. Wein finds a way to overcome these issues and reveals the beauty of Queenie and Maddie’s friendship. It’s like I knew exactly who Verity was, even with all of her pseudonyms and covers, and who Maddie is through her eyes.
- Historical Accuracy. Elizabeth Wein has a fabulous afterward about how the book came into creation, in which she explicitly explains how historically accurate the book is. She spent an incredible amount of time researching and the dedication to detail shows in the story.
- Maddie. Maddie LOVES Julie. She is her friend beyond all reason. Surely the ends she goes to proves that. More, she is put in very compromising positions. One being hiding out on the Thibaut family farm. She faces the unimaginable and must make a decision that leaves her utterly heartbroken. She proves just how much she loves her best friend and it made me wail and keen, hiding in the bedroom bathroom, tears streaming down my face. I cannot say that I am as good a friend as Maddie.
- Julie. She is such a mix of a person, described in so many ways. She is a Scottish Lady, who dressed smartly and waltzed at large parties at Castle Craig. She is Queenie, a girl interested in mechanics and engines and flying. She is Eva, an SOE spy. She is a living contradiction of herself, and yet she is every woman. Every woman she describes herself as. Everything except a coward.
- The End. The Peter Pan references are sprinkled throughout the book, but it meant the world to me that Julie’s mother tells Maddie she is always welcome in their home, to come back to Scotland, and the window would always be open.
I don’t think I can articulate one singular thing I liked about this book the best. I thought it was so incredibly well-written and researched, and with the relationship Wein intertwined with Julie and Maddie is so strong and so everything that I couldn’t help but fall in love with each of them and their friendship. I couldn’t keep myself from hoping beyond hope.
Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip?
Buy it. Read it. Be moved. Talk about it. Read it again, to your children and grandchildren. It is a story worth telling. It is a story worth sharing. It is a story worth remembering.
Elizabeth moved to England when she was three and later to Jamaica at age six. It was in Jamaica that she first started reading and writing. At the age of seven, she and a friend completed a “book” called The Hidden Treasure as part of a “mystery series” based on the Hardy Boys.
Following the death of her mother, books became Elizabeth’s lifeline, particularly fantasy. Inspired by JRR Tolkien, Alan Garner and Ursula K LeGuin, Elizabeth completed an epic fantasy novel, By Sunlight and Starlight, at 14. She discovered King Arthur (through Mary Stewart, TH White, and Susan Cooper), and at 15 started work on the characters and storyline which eventually became her first published novel, The Winter Prince.
Elizabeth attended Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania, where she met her future husband. In 1995 Elizabeth moved to England with him, and then to Scotland in 2000, where she has lived for over 15 years and where all but one of her novels were written.
Elizabeth also writes short stories. She and Tim have two children.