Eighteen year old Rose Justice volunteers as a civilian pilot in England during World War II. She works alongside Maddie and other young female pilots transporting planes and personnel to assist military forces. When an enemy aircraft draws Rose off course during one of her transport flights, Rose finds herself captured in enemy territory. Her troubles have only begun. Soon after German forces arrest her, she is sent to Ravensbruck, a German concentration camp. Rose faces brutal treatment at the hands of her captors. Her love for poetry and bonds with other prisoners challenge her to survive.
Readers of Wein’s novel Code Name Verity will recognize Maddie and Jamie. Their story continues in Rose Under Fire, though neither are main characters. The use of poetry and song quoted throughout the story add even more beauty to what is already a poignant, rich tale. The poetry Rose shares as a prisoner of Ravensbruck offers an intense contrast: the beauty of the words and the stark horror of the concentration camp.
Wein’s cast of characters evoke both wonder and grief. Yet again readers will find themselves wrapped up in a moving tale that educates about a lesser known group of people during World War II. This time Wein introduces characters representing young Polish girls whom the Nazis used for medical experiments. Through this story, we are again reminded of the value and beauty of each human life. I loved that Rose wasn’t perfect, and neither were the other prisoners. Each character bore deep complexities.
I kept hoping for more connection between Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, particularly through some other minor characters appearing in both stories. It’s been so long since I read Code Name Verity that there really could be more overlap than I noticed. I’d be interested to know if other readers have made additional connections between the two stories. Over all, I really enjoyed this story. I’d like to learn more about the Polish girls imprisoned at Ravensbruck, and I look forward to more fiction from Elizabeth Wein.
The first half-ish of the book is pretty clean, profanity-wise. Then Rose meets a saucy young Polish girl who has quite a foul mouth. Extreme profanity with mild frequency through the second half of the story.
Brief reference to Maddie’s wedding night. Not at all explicit.
Rose is captured by German soldiers and transferred to Ravensbruck where she and other prisoners are brutally mistreated. Brief descriptions of violent treatment and humiliation appear throughout this portion of the story.