Saturday, 30 August 2014
Rose Under Fire, by Elizabeth Wein, reviewed by Pippa Goodhart
This is an exceptional and wonderful book. I was given it as a prize on the History Girls blog but had resisted reading it for some weeks because the blurb made clear that this was a story that took us into a Second World War concentration camp, and I had a suspicion that it was going to be a harrowing read.
It is harrowing, but so very rewarding that I urge you all to take a deep breath and read it. How does it reward? With wonderful characters one believes in and cares about, and who reflect that war is never a simple matter of goodies versus baddies. With a plot that surprises even when we already know what happens in the bigger picture. With detail about life in one corner of one horrific Nazi death camp history that came as news to me (I'd no idea, for example, that manufacturers such as Bosch and Siemens used slave labour in camps to manufacture the very bombs, gas and gas chambers with which that slave labour, and their friends back home, were being killed). And with beautiful writing that includes some very accessible and moving poetry, along with descriptions of flying by an author who knows about that first hand.
Rose Justice is a young American woman who has come to England to work in the ATA delivering planes and personnel for the RAF. Chasing a doodlebug in the hopes of bringing it down before it reaches Britain, she loses her way over France, lands in Germany, and is captured. She is sent to the Ravensbrook camp for women. There she meets a range of women from a range of countries who meet a range of fates, but the ones who most stay with us are the Polish 'lapins'; the 'rabbits' that Nazi doctors experimented on. I'm not going to give away what happens, but promise that we finish the book with damp hankies but feeling energised to make our world better. I felt uplifted by it.
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