After enduring long hours of torture, Verity, a prisoner in an abandoned hotel in Nazi-occupied France, promises to tell her German captors everything she knows. She begins with recollections of her best friend and pilot, Maddy. As Verity writes Maddy’s story, she recounts the early days of friendship and recruitment as a wireless operator in England. Life for Maddy, a simple country girl with a gift for mechanical engineering, drastically changes on the day she meets a bold woman pilot whose plane needs repair. For Maddy’s friend, a lost German pilot becomes the catalyst that sets in motion her own transformation.
While some of the content definitely places this novel in a category for older teens, it is a powerful story brilliantly told. Author Elizabeth Wein brings to life the story (inspired by history) of two courageous women who served England during World War II. Wein captures not only an intricate physical description of the places in the story, but the desperate, patriotic feel of war-time existence.
On a Personal Note
My grandfather served the US as a flight navigator during World War II. Though he rarely spoke of this period in his life, I was always proud to know that he served. Additionally, I’ve always treasured the story of a dear family friend. She lived in France, and during the war she helped a young Jewish girl escape the country with her. Reading about Verity and Maddy brought those stories along with the love and pride I feel for my family members back fresh and new. As time marches forward, and the veterans and survivors of World War II reach the end of their lives, it is so important for us to remember the sacrifices they made and the reasons they made them. Reading historical accounts and novels is one way to bring this period in history to life for our children.
Rumors and brief comments suggest that Verity seduces war prisoners and guards in order to gain favors or information from them. As a prisoner, she allows a man to fondle her breasts in exchange for supplies for which she is desperate.
Early in their friendship, Verity and Maddy discuss assisted suicide and whether it’s selfish or noble to refuse to aid someone in ending his or her life.
As a war prisoner, Verity receives brutal treatment. Most of the torture is not described in the story. In a frantic attempt to rescue prisoners en route to Nazi concentration camps, soldiers and Resistance members face off, and several are killed.
References to alcohol (though all characters may be of legal drinking age) and cigarettes.