Code Name Verity

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This is an attempt at reviewing Code Name Verity without giving too much of the plot away.

Code Name Verity is a novel by Elizabeth Wein which was pointed out to me by Cari Hunter in the interview I posted on this blog a month ago. It has been categorised as a YA novel but I honestly believe it is a very restricting label. Code Name Verity deserves a wider and older audience and has the potential of a classic.

‘I am a coward. I wanted to be heroic and I pretended I was. I have always been good at pretending.’

These are the opening lines of the novel. The narrator is Queenie. She’s a Scottish aristocrat who was arrested when she looked the wrong way (left, in true British manner) before crossing a street in France. She is now detained by the Gestapo in a former hotel near Poitiers, and forced to write a confession detailing the British war effort.

Through her crafty and witty confession, she tells the story of her friendship with Maddie, a working class Mancunian of Jewish descent and the pilot who dropped her in France, and the saga that brought her to France.

In the second part of the novel, the point of view shifts to another character and the story takes on a totally different meaning.

Code Name Verity is not just a war story. It is primarily a book about friendship, about love, about the powerful and mutual attraction, the gut-wrenching trust and the unfailing loyalty between two young women who in normal circumstances would never have met.

If you like good and well-researched writing, clever humour and strong heroines, you will love Code Name Verity. But be warned: it is a book that will bring tears to your eyes and will still haunt you long after you have read the last page.

Quotes from Code Name Verity:

It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.

‘We’re still alive and we make a sensational team.’

I am no longer afraid of getting old. Indeed I can’t believe I ever said anything so stupid. So childish. So offensive and arrogant. But mainly, so very, very stupid. I desperately want to grow old.

Hush: a Short Book Review

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Hush by Eishes Chayil is a novel for young adults about sexual abuse in the Hassidic community of Boro Park. The story is told from the point of view of Gittel who – as a child – witnessed her best friend being abused. The narrative goes back and forth between the child-Gittel and the teenager who is about to get married.

This novel is quite subtle in that it is not a downright criticism of ultra-Orthodox Judaism but of the cover-up of such stories. Thus the guilty brother is sent to Israel and the narrator is prevented from testifying by her own mother. The narrator’s father is a complex character who obviously loves his daughter but fails to help her when she most needs it.

It is a powerful novel and one which stays with you for a long time after you have read the last page.

More thorough reviews:
Rabbi Fink’s review
Velveteen Rabbi’s review

A very poignant post: A Note From a Victim of Abuse

Yearly Review: Selected Posts of 2010

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It is this time of the secular year again, when people ponder on what they have done (or not) or, in my case, on what I have written. Selecting one post for each month was sometimes a bit hard; there were times when I could have chosen two or three and months for which finding a decent post that was neither a recipe nor a photo was quite hard.

January: Jews in Postwar East Germany

February: Kosher Products in HK

March: Poor Teacher: Surviving Panic

April: Parshat Acharei Mot – Kedoshim

May: Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran

June: Organ Donation

July: Commemorating the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup

August: Jewish History in Hamburg – part I and part II

September: Training a Trainee

October: And They Shall Be My People

November: Mitzvah Girls

December: Sign Language for Babies

My interviews of 2010

My Students Review Books

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After having studied a number of texts where authors and narrators dealt with the books they like best, my students had to write a short piece of writing about one of their favorite books. Here is what they wrote about and what they had to say:

Candide by Voltaire. Maybe I should add they had to read it for French classes. I don’t suppose it is a book many would pick out by themselves. This book is apreciated because of Voltaire’s use of humor to denounce XVIIIth century French society.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. My student liked it since it is a short novel.
The Royal Game by Stefan Zweig. For the student who reviewed it, this book is a disturbing tale with fantastic elements.
Le Horla, a collection of short stories by Guy de Maupassant. More fantastic and exciting stories that deal with the narrator’s own fears and anxieties.
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. Here again my student was transported into a fantasy world she enjoyed.
Animal Farm by George Orwell. The review hints that the denouncement of communism is quite effective.
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. An interesting novel with a lovely main character.
Hunting and Gathering by Anna Gavalda Two students reviewed this one. They enjoyed the characters, the complicity between them in spite of their differences and the narrator’s sense of humor.
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. A fanatstic book for people who like enigma and suspense.
No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War by Anita Lobel. A novel which enebled the critic to know more about WW2.
Will You Be There? by Guillaume Musso. For this book, my student forgot to mention why she liked it.
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Well-liked because it is a mixture of fantasy and love story.

Have you read and enjoyed any of these? What do the teenagers around you read?