Wednesday, September 4, 2013
ARC Review: Rose Under Fire
Scheduled to release September 10
Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I adored Code Name Verity, which became my favorite read of 2012. I encouarged others to read it and of course they loved it. Thus I was thrilled to discover that Wein had written a companion novel of sorts, again set during World War II but focusing on new characters. However I tried to temper my expectations because Code Name Verity was so amazing, how could anything else live up to that?
Well, this book didn't quite match my experience with CNV being a rather different tale though there are several superficial similarities. For example, both are set during WWII, focusing on young women pilots. There are even a few overlapping characters that led me to suggest you should definitely read CNV first. Both are told in journal/letters tracing an intense experience of confronting villainy up close. And both are based on real plausibilities even if not every event is exactly true.
But whereas CNV had a killer twist about halfway through that left me dying to reread the book, I don't think I could ever read Rose Under Fire again. It was such an intense read covering Rose's experience at Ravensbrück, a German concentration camp; the story of the "Rabbits", young Polish women who were experimented on by Nazis; and a peek into the Nuremberg trials with their intricate examination of how to assign blame and punishment in an attempt to get justice. I mean, I'm drained just thinking back on this book and I am a bit more nervous about recommending it, just trying to make sure the reader is careful when s/he embarks on the journey because it will wring you out.
I don't want to go to in depth about plot but there are some general themes I'd love to touch on briefly. Memory is one of the main themes explored. One of the things about genocide is that we don't really know how many people were killed. How many people were taken from their everyday life and just killed as if that life meant nothing, as if they didn't have parents, siblings, lovers, friends, coworkers, etc. who wondered where they were and will never have an answer. Maybe the person did manage to survive but chose not to return to her original home and you will never know. Or, more probably, the person did die and the date and cause of death won't ever be known by loved ones but they will instead live forever hoping against hope that the person somehow did escape the horror. It's just heartbreaking to me especially thinking of today's current events-why can't we learn? So many lives just thrown away. I'm going to move on before I'm emotionally destroyed AGAIN.
A second element is friendship and bonding in the most horrific circumstances. Rose is taken in by the Rabbits basically without question and they share their meager resources with her just as she does what she can for them. It gave me such hope that people could still care about each other even when in situations designed to completely dehumanize them. They sacrifice so much for each other and dare too to get their names and their stories out there so the world will know. I'm not trying to go back to the memory part but I'm thinking about how every generation gets more and more removed from the Holocaust and WWII-will our children understand what happened? Or will it be something they see as happening just in the old days? Something abstract, kind of like my view of the Black Plague so many centuries ago?
I think my review kind of went off the rails...I really don't know what to say and am trying not to ramble. So for you I have included links for a few reviews below and I strongly urge you to consider giving this book a read, even if you don't tend to read historical fiction. Even if you don't usually read YA. Just give this a shot and then come talk it out with me.
A Reader of Fictions
Bananas for Books
Blood, Sweat and Books
Good Books and Good Wine
The Overflowing Library