Friday, November 23, 2012
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
If you like: war * friendship * flying
Code Name Verity is the story of Queenie and Maddie, two best friends fighting in World War II. The first half is told from Queenie’s point of view as she confesses the story of how she came to be a spy in France to her captors. Later, the story is told from Maddie’s perspective. The two share an incredible bond, even though they only see each other intermittently on their missions, and secrecy is of the utmost importance at all times.
The truth is integral to Code Name Verity, and conversely, so are lies. As a spy, Queenie must constantly mask herself in illusion, both meticulously constructed and whipped together on the fly. So many of her interactions are a facade, yet her friendship with Maddie is the ultimate truth. Neither woman needs to know the details of what the other does to have an instant connection that transcends all duty. They become an interdependent team, supporting and rejuvenating each other with a single look, touch, or phrase. The two might never have connected were it not for the war, but ultimately the same circumstances that brought them together also serve to keep them apart. The truth of their bond is the focus of Queenie during her confession and interrogation. Photos of Maddie’s wrecked plane are an elemental tool used against Queenie, but her love and friendship give her the strength to endure. Her quick wit allows her to always get the truth back to her Circuit, and her lies allow her to manipulate the enemy.
The most striking question of Code Name Verity is that of life and death. At what point are you better off dead, better off killing someone you love than letting him or her be taken? In her internment, Queenie is tortured, starved, and nearly frozen. She continues to hold on and fight to survive, but wonders if it is worth it. As her future being experimented on in a concentration camp comes closer to realization, Queenie takes many actions that could lead to her immediate death. Though that would obliterate the chance of rescue, it would also circumvent unknowable suffering. The longer she is held captive the more her Circuit begins to hope that they do not find her alive, since that will mean weeks of sustained torture, and possibly worse. Knowing that death is better for a loved one than life is a difficult concept to embrace, but Wein does a wonderful job leading the reader to empathize with their plight. It is not out of bounds to understand that choice and feel as though you could be brave enough to wish for it in the same circumstances. Trust in knowing that the story is best in its pure and unspoiled form; it will leave you haunted, but better off for having read it.
If keeping secrets is second nature, read Code Name Verity.
Wein, Elizabeth. Code Name Verity. New York: Hyperion, 2012. Nook edition.