First Lines: I am a coward. I wanted to be heroic and I pretended I was. I have always been good at pretending.
You guys have been so lovely in the last 24 hours that I wanted to give you a review! And one from a book I thought many of you had heard of, if not read yourself.
On October 11, 1943, a British spy plane crashes down in France. The pilot and her passenger are best friends, but only one will get a chance at survival. When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s given a choice: reveal what she knows or face a ghastly execution. On each scrap of paper she’s given, Verity shares her story, a story of friends, spies, and war.
I read this partly because A) I bought the book a while ago and B) my students are in the middle of a Holocaust unit right now and I thought this would help get me in the right mindset.
But really, I just don’t think this book was for me.
Here’s what I liked. I liked the amount of female empowerment this story had. Verity and her friend Maddie totally step up into whatever role they could to help the British war efforts in World War II. They were dedicated and strong. And the best part was that real women did these things too, though we never hear their story.
I also liked how well written it was. It was descriptive but not overly so. And with it being written almost like a letter (or maybe like someone’s autobiography, if they just wrote down whatever came to mind), there was plenty about the writing style to admire. It was unusual, and it worked out better than I expected.
Also, I never quite had the story figured out. There were so many unexpected twists that it just constantly kept me on my toes. I had no idea how the story was going to end.
Here was my biggest issue with the story: I felt completely lost through most of the story. I just couldn’t pin anything down. For the first 60 pages, we don’t even know who our narrator is or why she’s writing this story about a girl named Maddie. There’s nothing to explain that for 60 pages. It drove me crazy.
I usually rely on the book jackets and back covers to at least tell me what to expect or anticipate in a story, but this had virtually nothing. The back cover tells you enough to jump you into page 1. This made the book feel unbearably long because I never knew what to anticipate. I got bored.
Having this story written in that narrative/autobiography style also means that we’re dealing with an unreliable narrator, which was cool and frustrating. It’s not something I’m used to, so I just assumed our narrator was reliable. Then I got to the end and had to re-evaulate the whole story. I almost felt betrayed because I had trusted the narrator to tell me her story to the best of her ability and she didn’t do that. So while I can appreciate unreliable narrators as an art form, I don’t particularly care for it.
It’s definitely a different kind of story and a different take on World War II. (How many times do we get to read spy stories? Most are about Nazis and concentration camps.) I just found it to be a frustrating read that was hard for me to follow at times. Particularly when the girls started using mechanical/airplane jargon.