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A Reader of Fictions: The Last Time I Saw Paris - Henry Mancini

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Last Time I Saw Paris - Henry Mancini

Code Name Verity

Author: Elizabeth Wein
Pages: 327
ARC Acquired from: Hyperion via NetGalley

Description from Goodreads:
Oct. 11th, 1943—A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

Harrowing and beautifully written, Elizabeth Wein creates a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other. Code Name Verity is an outstanding novel that will stick with you long after the last page.

First Sentence: "I AM A COWARD."

Getting in to Code Name Verity took me a long time, perhaps 80 pages. In fact, I nearly DNFed this one, since I have plenty enough to read and was not feeling any connection to it. Even once I got a bit more caught up in the story, this book was a bit of a slog for me. I was never swept away and it was not a quick read. Still, I am very glad that I put the time and effort into finishing Wein's novel.

Code Name Verity is INTENSE. It is a novel of war, of interrogation, of women, and, most importantly, of friendship. Verity/Queenie (neither her real name, which you won't learn until about two hundred pages in) and Maddie are best friends. Maddie is a pilot and Verity does, well, lots of things. At the opening, the reader is working through Verity's confession. She has been caught by Nazis in occupied France, and has spilled her secrets. She is committing to paper everything she knows about the British war effort.

Verity's section, the first half of the book, gave me the most trouble. While I did like Verity's humor in the face of awfulness, I had a lot of trouble with the way that part was written. Verity writes in third person and in first person. When writing about past events she mostly uses third person, which is fine and interesting, as it conveys that she no longer feels like the same girl that she used to be. However, she also occasionally uses first person when talking about the past, not just the present, and I found that shift awkward and unrealistic. Maybe it's supposed to be a symptom of the pressure Verity is under or something, but I had trouble with this style.

Maddie's tale comes next, and I found it much more easy to read, even though it lacked the humor and, perhaps, the excitement of Verity's. I nearly made it through this book without shedding a tear, but Maddie got me in the end. I loved their friendship, and getting to see it from both perspectives, especially since it's hard to know what's going on with Verity. You can be more sure of verity from Maddie. Ironic that.

Other than the previously-noted issue, the writing was amazing. The story focused a bit too much on details that didn't especially capture my attention, another reason it moved so slowly, like the different kinds of planes. Oddly enough, this is something I also very much appreciate about the book, because it's so chock-full of history and so different from any other young adult book I've read.

Code Name Verity may not capture you immediately, but it's worth a read if you have any interest in history. It's also wonderful to read another WWII book on women's roles, especially the much more rare of women actually involved in what are more traditionally male occupations in the war machine.

Rating: 4/5

Favorite Quote: "Nothing like an arcane literary debate with your tyrannical master while you pass the time leading to your execution."

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Anonymous Audrey (Bibliosaurus Text) said...

I'm glad you posted this! I'm maybe 60 pages in, and it's a challenge to keep going. I'll stick with it since you promised it gets good :-)

May 19, 2012 at 3:20 PM  
Blogger Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer said...

ooh,...i DNFed it at 55 pages..maybe i will go back and try it again later, since i wanted to like this, i felt like it had elements i would love history, suspense etc. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

May 19, 2012 at 7:30 PM  
Anonymous Christina K. said...

The premise of this one sounded so refreshing and unique, with really strong women and a good historical period.

Thanks for this in-depth review:)

May 20, 2012 at 6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it a little bit funny that you didn't love this book, since it seems like a bunch of people have been raving about its merits. :) It's interesting to hear the other side! I recently got a copy from the library, and I'll be reading it soon; since I'm a big historical fiction fan, I'm looking forward to it. :) Thanks for the review!

June 6, 2012 at 3:59 PM  

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