I loved Elizabth Wein’s first novel, Code Name Verity, but it wasn’t until I was researching for my post about the covers for female authors’ books, that I realised there was a sequel. Rose Under Fire (published by Egmont) continues the story of Maddie Brodatt, but is mostly about Rose Justice, an American ATA pilot in Britain in 1944. She is captured and ends up in Ravensbrück, a German prison camp for women. The book describes a part of WWII that I didn’t really know much about before: the experiments performed on Polish prisoners, who were nicknamed ‘Rabbits’. The experiments were performed on seventy-four Polish women. The doctors claimed to be improving medical conditions for German soldiers by cutting the women’s legs in different ways and deliberately giving them gangrene.
I was also struck by descriptions of the prisoners ‘organizing’ things, which meant stealing things to bribe the guards with or extra food or newspapers. One thing that really stood out for me was the co-operation and support between the prisoners, who were all in the same boat, as it were.
After detailing Rose’s time in the prison camp, some of the war trials are also recounted, as well as her struggle to return to normal life, still haunted what she has seen in Ravensbrück.
The story is told mostly through Rose’s own writing, first when she is in England, and later in Paris after the end of the war. A few letters from her friends and family are used
As with Code Name Verity, this book has a rather dramatic tagline, which sums up the spirit of the women who suffered during the experiments. In Code Name Verity it was ‘I have told the truth’, in Rose Under Fire, ‘tell the world’. In other words, the world must know what happened in Ravensbrück, of the atrocities and horrors, but also of the bravery and strength of the women who survived, and those who died.
Photo Credit: http://www.amazon.co.uk