Friday, November 23, 2012

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein

I swear, I was going to do a middle-grade book next. I went to the library and got several out that have been on my TBR for a while. But I also got out Code Name Verity, and I read the first page, because I always read first pages along with book flaps to see what I'm in for, and I was so impressed and compelled that I had to keep reading. And now I have to do a review, because YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK!

Deep breaths. I'm calm now. But seriously, this is the most amazing, brilliant, wonderful, beautiful, suspenseful book I've read in a long time. I had to read some pages with a bookmark below the line I was on so my eyes wouldn't skip ahead to the end of the page and ruin the scene for me. Maggie Stiefvater calls it a "three gasp" book, and there were at least that many gasps for me. More, I think. (But read her review, and then you probably don't have to read mine.)

Other reviewers have commented that it's a very difficult book to review, because you can hardly say anything about it without giving away spoilers. I can't even tell you the main characters' names! But it's about a female pilot and her best friend a female spy, during WWII, and if that doesn't make you want to read it already. . . even if you don't like historical fiction, you've got to admit that spies and the French Resistance and Gestapo torture sound pretty exciting, right?

The people who didn't like the book complain that it's too slow, that they were actually bored for the first hundred pages. Come on: the narrator is writing her story with her feet tied to the chair and a guard jabbing his cigarette into her neck. How is that boring???!! Okay, so maybe it takes a while to get to the --never mind, I can't tell you what it takes a while to get to--but aren't you dying to know what happens to her from the very first page?

The story she tells is a story of friendship--supposedly she's revealing all the secrets of the British War Effort (that's not a spoiler, you find that out on the first page), but really she's telling us about two incredible personalities who meet because of the war and become the unlikeliest of friends. And the personalities just shine out. The narrative voice is so vivid and funny and unexpected you want to read on just to see what she'll say next. Which is why the Hauptsturmfurer (sp??) keeps giving her more paper, and more days alive to write. Scheharazade, he calls her.

Oh, the allusions. And the metaphors, and the symbolism. This book is so rich, so interwoven with plot and meaning and connections. Everything is connected. EVERYTHING is significant. I can't tell you any of the significant things, but PAY ATTENTION TO EVERYTHING. It will make you gasp, the way some little thing will keep coming back and gain new significance every time.

MMmmmgahlslflargllmpgl. That's me not saying all the things I want to say about this book because I don't want to give away ANYTHING. The way it reveals itself to you is so brilliant and I would hate to ruin it for you. I've said too much already. Careless talk costs lives.

I thought I recognized the name Elizabeth Wein, and then I discovered that she wrote the Lion Hunters series, which I read a long time ago and really liked. The five books, starting with The Winter Prince, are a very, very different take on the King Arthur story, with really, really interesting characters. I don't remember them well enough to say more, but I'm going to go back and reread them.

Code Name Verity is the full-meal-deal: your grandmother's best meatloaf, with garlic mashed potatoes and creamed corn, all washed down with a pint of something bitter and British (for me it will be malted chocolate milk, but you could have Guinness if you like).

PS: I won't be doing any blogging for a couple of weeks, because I'm off to Buenos Aires to tango! Perhaps I'll post some pics when I get back. Now I have to load up my iPod with books for the long, long plane ride.

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