I found ROSE UNDER FIRE on Net Galley and thought it sounded intriguing. While presented as a YA read, this book was quite intense emotionally and I thought could be enjoyed by adults as well. In ROSE UNDER FIRE, WWII courier pilot Rose Justice finds herself downed by Nazi aircraft into German territory. Terrified, she realizes that they don’t intent to harm her, per say, but keep her in a work camp. That camp turns out to be Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Rose spends several months there, through the winter, before she is liberated in a harrowing escape.
I could not put this book down. While it was suspenseful and “exciting” (notice quotes), it was haunting and disturbing, and really painted such a vivid picture of Ravensbrück that I had nightmares (full disclosure: I’m a pretty sensitive person). The book starts with Rose’s daily diary of events. She’s a courier, an American actually, working for the British. Her life has been pretty innocent up until the war. She is only nineteen. She flies to Paris on a job and has a wonderful day there, including “buzzing” the Eiffel Tower. She is scheduled to fly back to England the next day, but then we realize that Rose is classified as “missing”. Family and friends try to be hopeful but presume she is most probably killed. The book then is Rose’s writings of her memoir of the time spent in camp as she stays at the Ritz in Paris to recuperate. The end of the book is in Rose’s present time, as the war ends in Europe.
Before reading this book, I had little knowledge of Ravensbrück. I knew it was a concentration camp and I thought it was for women. The portrayal of the camp in this book is really remarkable. I could see it so vividly. As with a lot of WWII literature, the resiliency of the prisoners to stay alive was incredible and awe-inspiring. I know it’s fiction, but people experienced what these women did, and it is both fascinating and horrible. A large portion of the book centers on the Polish girls in the camp who were used for experiments by the Nazi’s. Called “the rabbits”, they were experimented on so that the Germans could figure out how best to treat war wounds and infections. Wish I could say Ms. Wein made this up, but she didn’t. Wein is the author of CODE NAME VERITY, which I have not read, but which I purchased so that I could.
Highly recommended if you are a reader of this genre, but be prepared. YA doesn’t mean this book is just for the kids. In fact, I would hope that if young people were reading this book (which would be an excellent hs classroom choice) that adults are talking to them about it and discussing it with them.
Thanks, Net Galley and Miramax Publishing, for my copy!
ROSE UNDER FIRE publishes 9/10/13.