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.
Code Name Verity is set during the Second World. Split into two parts the first section is ‘written’ by one of two friends, though we don’t find out her name until the end of her section. Captured by the Gestapo whilst in Nazi occupied France, she tells the story of her friend Maddie, and through this the story of their friendship. The second part of the book is told by Maddie herself as she tells her own story in the aftermath of her friend’s capture.
Now I mentioned last week that I had tried to read this book some time ago, but had not managed to finish it. It wasn’t that I hated the book, leaving it wasn’t even intentional, I just put it down one day and then never picked it up again. Since then I have seen countless bloggers and librarians rave about the book, where I was left a little underwhelmed. So expecting the book to be on the shortlist I started it again with a completely open mind, hoping that I could see in the book what everybody else has loved so much. I did find the second reading so much easier, I was drawn into the book to a much greater extent than before. In the writing and the storyline I can see what everybody else has loved, but I still don’t think it’s the book for me.
Code Name Verity is undeniably a well written book, telling a beautiful story of an unlikely friendship set against the hardship of the Second World War. I am left wondering why I just don’t connect with the book. Although I have an interest in history, modern world history has never been my favourite period so that could possibly be an issue for me. I think the main issue for me the first time round was that the book was just not what I was expecting.
The dual narrative of the book works very well. The ‘voices’ of the characters are very different, but entirely consistent with the way that the other friend sees them. It is the relationship between Maddie and her friend that really makes the book. Two girls that would have been very unlikely to meet at any time other than war, just ‘click’ and quickly become very important to each other. They don’t need to see each other every day or know everything about the other’s life; they are just there for each other. The age group that the book is aimed at often struggle with forming friendships, doubts about their own identities come to the surface which affect their relationships with others and this is a really positive relationship that girls can use as an example. Though towards the end of the book something pretty shocking happens, it is completely in line with the friendship that the two young women have.
The book also deals with some very sensitive situations that go hand in hand with war such as death and torture, but these are handled well enough that reading the book is not an issue for younger secondary school students. They may however struggle with the writing style, which in a lot of ways is quite grown up. The Carnegie judges gave the book an age rating of 13+ and I would probably agree with this assessment, though there will of course be many exceptions!
Verdict: A beautifully written story of friendship set against the backdrop of the Second World War.
Reviewed by Alison