Julie’s Book Club: Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity was on the shelf of recommended reads at my most-frequented library, so I picked it up thinking that I don’t read enough YA. The novel tells the story of two girls and their unlikely bond forged in wartime England during World War II. Maddie is a woman pilot. “Queenie,” as her best friend is called, has a much more mysterious job.

The book begins in diary-like entries penned by Queenie, describing their friendship up to the night Maddie delivered her to occupied France and her plane went down. Queenie, the reader learns, is being held and tortured in France and these are in fact passages she’s writing for the head interrogator as a way to avoid further torture. She’s “selling her soul,” she writes, by giving the Nazis bits of wireless code and information on airfields. She’s also buying herself time.

Author Elizabeth Wein does great things with perspective and information here. What Queenie, a non-pilot, knows about planes, for example, is limited. But she is imaginative in her descriptions, and her tandem flights with Maddie are some of the loveliest sequences in the book. The further Queenie gets into her tale of friendship and survival, the higher the stakes, as it becomes apparent that she soon will be shipped to a camp for experimentation and execution.

I read the last 200 or so pages of this book in a rush, because I had to find out how it ended. It unfolds brilliantly, with carefully plotted reveals (especially as Queenie doles out information to her captors bit by bit), and the friendship shared by Queenie and Maddie is sweet enough to make you weep. (There may have been a few tears shed by the time I closed the book.) I don’t pick up a lot of historical fiction, but in this case the setting of wartime England, with high suspicions, rationed food, and women’s work often seen as secondary, was multifaceted and vibrant. Wein really makes history come alive in this book (despite making up several town names, locations, and details of the characters’ work), and the illusion of reality was strong all along. I suspected nothing. A pilot herself, all of the flying sequences Wein described were written dreamily–coming out of the pages, one can tell the author is passionate about being in the sky.

I highly recommend Code Name Verity, and I think the reading experience will make me eager to try other historical fiction novels.

“The Woodpile” by Frightened Rabbit Inspires Audrey

Ridgemoor Manor

Ridgemoor Manor is supposed to be empty. I mean it’s also supposed to be haunted so I don’t think it can be both. Empty and haunted.

Mama went to school with Jonathan Ridgemoor so it hasn’t even been that long. It’s just the weeds and peeling paint that make the house look so decrepit.

“Martha, this is so stupid,” I say crossing my arms over my chest.

“Oh come on, Betty. Don’t be such a Fuddy-Duddy!” Martha replies pulling my arm off and looping it with hers as we walk, our Mary Jane’s tapping in synchrony along the street. “And, Jimmy said he’s bring Roy.” She nudges my side with her elbow, like Roy means something to me.

“It’s just an old house. What’s the big deal?” I whine, my voice high and pitchy.

Martha shakes her head while she laughs, her blonde curls bouncing. “If it’s just an old house, Betty Marshall, then a quick gander won’t hurt nothin’. Oh look! There they are!”

She squeals at the boys and I think she looks like a pig as she prances over in her pink gingham dress, smudgy black lines up the back of her legs. I sigh and follow. Martha and I have been friends since we could walk, but lately she’s been completely khaki-wacky, especially when it comes to Jimmy.

continue reading …

Anne’s No Rules Friday 01

Read Part I

黃金比例
(The Golden Ratio)
Part II

With dragging steps, I entered our shop’s darkened door. A rush of air hit me. It was heavy with smoke, yet everywhere clung traces of her perfume: orange, plum, clove, jasmine, peach, and vetiver. Eager to find Māmā inside, I tripped over an overturned clothing rack, and my knees slammed into the floorboards. Come morning I was going to be a solid bruise. Crawling on hands and knees over the wreckage that had been a successful dress shop hours ago, I made my way behind the counter.

I brushed against an assortment of scissors, bobbins of thread, and stacks of price tags before locating a zhǐ xīng jí. The paper crinkled between my fingers. I prayed it was one to light the oil lamp, but couldn’t see my hand in front of my face let alone the number written on the delicately folded paper. It took most of my strength to heft the oil lamp off the counter. I managed to bang it against the counter with a metallic clunk. The inky black of the shop pressed down around me.

The world shrank until all it contained was the hand that held the zhǐ xīng jí and the oil lamp. Even my steady breathing had ceased to exist inside an endless night. I snapped my eyes closed and squeezed them tight, sucking a quick breath and holding it, I lifted the thick glass shade and gave the wick raiser a quarter turn. I sent a quick prayer to Māmā and our ancestors for luck.

I gripped the very edge of the zhǐ xīng jí and said, “Flame!”

A small burst of light shone pink through my closed eyelids as the paper caught immediately. I smiled and held the dancing flame to the wick, a warm glow greeted me like an old friend. I replaced the shade and yanked the lamp back onto the counter. Shadows remained in the corners. The upended mannequins resembled bodies, causing me to shiver violently.

continue reading …