Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Rose Under Fire


GoodreadsRose Under Fire
Series: Code Name Verity #4
Age Category: Young Adult
Source: Library
Published: 2013


Rose Justice is an American pilot during WWII, but she is captured by the Germans and sent to Ravensbrück, a concentration camp for women. She will need all her strength, but also the strength of the women around her, in order to survive.

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Rose Under Fire is the companion book to Code Name Verity, taking place a few months after that book ends. Rose Moyer Justice is an American pilot in the British ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary), who finds herself captured by German pilots shortly after the liberation of Paris. She ends up in the Ravensbrück concentration camp, a camp for women that primarily contained political prisoners. Rose Under Fire is a difficult book to read, but an important one. It offers a glimpse at history through one woman’s experiences, encouraging readers to remember the women who suffered at Ravensbrück, and to honor their lives and their stories.

Rose Under Fire is, of course, necessarily limited in its scope. The fictional Rose Justice spends only a few months at Ravensbrück, towards the end of the war and shortly before the camp’s liberation. The book focuses on the Polish political prisoners who underwent medical experiments at the hands of the Nazis–experiments that cost them their lives or resulted in permanent physical damage–though the camp also included Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Roma and individuals considered to be criminals. Since Rose is one person, and does not know everything happening everywhere at the camp, the book largely follows the women she befriends in her bunk and in her work detail, the woman who support and sustain her through the unimaginable.

Rose provides her own unique viewpoint for the story since she is an American. The U.S. joined WWII rather late, and Rose has to grapple with feelings of guilt and horror as she realizes the atrocities that were being committed in Europe while she lived a somewhat oblivious and sheltered life as a teenager in Pennsylvania. Her experiences are still relevant today, as, even with increased globalization, individuals may view events from far away as not their concern. Rose’s story, however, reminds readers that suffering should not be ignored, even if it is not happening somewhere we can see.

Rose Under Fire is an extraordinarily difficult book to read. Elizabeth Wein attempts to lighten it, just a bit, by letting readers know early on how Rose’s story ends. Rose is not Julie, writing with an unknown fate, but, rather, writing from a hotel in Paris once she escapes. The flashes forward to her time at the hotel give readers just a tiny, tiny bit of comfort to hold on to as they read about her time in Ravensbrück.

But the strength of this book is that Wein does not allow readers to believe that escaping physically is the end. Rose is still traumatized from her experiences, and she has difficulty adjusting back to “normal life,” even years later. The story carries forward to the trial where the Nazi doctors who performed the medical experiments are confronted with their crimes. The story shows how the women who were experimented on and who were imprisoned at Ravensbrück have to live with the past. How even the trial, supposed to give them justice and tell the world their story, increases the trauma by making them dredge up terrible memories and place their bodies on display for evidence.

Rose Under Fire is a heartbreaking book, one that blends unimaginable horrors with the light of friendship and the strength of human resilience. It is a hard book to read, but an important one.

5 stars

8 thoughts on “Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, Code Name Verity feels more experimental, and that sort of makes it feel special in a way. This one is more straight-forwards, but also gripping and powerful.


    • Krysta says:

      Yes, it was so difficult! I’m reading The Enigma Game now and, though I imagine some readers won’t like it because it’s not like Code Name Verity, I’m really enjoying a “lighter” take on the war.

      Obviously, war is still bad and people get hurt, but the plot follows Jamie, Ellen, and a new character named Louisa as they find an Enigma Machine and use it to decode enemy messages to keep Jamie’s unit safe. So there’s a lot of following Louisa and Ellen around on the homefront and some hijinks from Jamie and his fellow airmen. And I’m pretty sure they’re all going to make it to the end of the book alive, and that’s a relief.


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