Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Book Review: "Rose Under Fire" by Elizabeth Wein

Rose Under Fire Elizabeth Wein
Published: September 2, 2014
ISBN: 9781423184690
Genre: Young Adult Fiction / Historical Fiction
Source: Book Club
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: WWII fiction, young adult fiction with strong female characters, survival stories, stories about writers,

While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbruck, the notorious women's concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that's in store for her?

My Thoughts:
I approach books about concentration camps with great caution as I find few things in Historical Fiction more disturbing than the Holocaust--and I tend to get nightmares from them.  Which, admittedly, meant that this was not a book that I would read before bed.  As far as concentration camp stories go, it is far from the most graphic...but still!

Also, while this is the second book in a series, it can very easily be read as a standalone.  I have yet to read Code Name Verity and I had absolutely no problem following this novel and I never felt like there was some part of the story that I was missing, which is what usually happens to me when I don't start with the first book in a series.

I am, however, a sucker for a book with a well-crafted, strong female character and this book definitely delivers on that.  Rose is immediately likable--an American young woman who is flying transports for the British.  She's also a writer--this book is told as she writes it--and a poet.  When she accidentally veers of course while returning to England and is intercepted by the Luftwaffe near the end of World War II, she is sent to Ravensbruck Concentration Camp where, ultimately, she finds herself among a group of "Rabbits" or Polish Prisoners who were used for medical experimentation.

I have few, if any, complaints about this book and I think the story, while fictional, could really only be told as a Young Adult novel.  Otherwise, the plot would mostly likely have been lost under the unbearable realities of the Concentration Camp.  There are things a reader would expect in such a book--friendships among the prisoners, drastic measures to survive, evil guards.  But there are also things that surprised me: the "forewoman" who took an unusual route from prison employee to prisoner, prisoners willing to die to save others, and the desperation of the Nazis as the war was coming to an end.

The other thing I found interesting about this book is that there are no Jewish characters.  I think a lot of people think of concentration camps as being only for Jewish prisoners, but that was not the case.  as Wein explains in her afterward, there were Jewish prisoners at Ravensbruck, but Rose--given who she was--would not have been with them.  Instead, she is among Polish intelligentsia, French Resistance fighters, and Russian Night Witches.

There were things in this book that I found unbelievable--such as prisoners propping up corpses for the roll calls so that other prisoners could escape their deaths.  That, however, actually did happen.  In fact, most of the more unbelievable things were based completely on fact.  There was one major plot point towards the end of the book which would also fall in the "unbelievable" category (and it is fictional), but it didn't bother me as it fell in line with the way the characters were developed.

This was a fascinating and, at times, disturbing read.  However, it is written so that it should appeal to just about anyone,  I highly recommend it!

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

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