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Code Name Verity
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Past Book Club Discussions > Code Name Verity - Book Discussion Thread (Spoilers, obviously!!)

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Kris | 252 comments Mod
As promised, today starts our discussion of Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book - couldn't put it down, in fact! Even though it was a quick read, I felt completely enveloped by the story, and didn't want it to end.

Of all the turns of events in the story, however, I was thoroughly surprised and taken aback that Maddie kills Julie in order to save her from what will assuredly be more and more painful torture.

So, to start us off, what are your thoughts on torture of spies and war criminals? It's clear that we sympathize with Queenie/Julie, but when the roles are reversed and we're dealing with terrorists, for instance, what is fair? What is too much?

Beyond that, why does von Linden keep Queenie/Julie alive? And, was Maddie's act of love (killing her) something you could ever imagine yourself doing for someone you loved?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts! Have at it!


Alicia | 331 comments Maybe put in the title that this is going to contain spoilers, just in case people haven't finished yet?

I also really enjoyed this book - although there were a few moments where I thought it was going to go Sarah Waters and had to remind myself that as a YA title explicit lesbian sex was unlikely!

I had figured out that Queenie hadn't broken, and hadn't given them anything important, but I couldn't figure out how the information she was weaving into her story was going to benefit the Resistance. I was surprised when the point of view switched characters though.

It was the Scheherazade aspect that I think kept von Linden interested. The school-master side of him was kept intrigued by her story and the literary discussions. The father couldn't avoid seeing a resemblance to his daughter. Not enough to *not* torture her, but enough to spare her the far worse tortures that she would experience if he sent her on to the other camp as ordered. I think the fact that he kills himself indicates the recognition of his own guilt as well as fear of punishment by his superior officers.

As for Maddie killing Julie - I've never thought about doing it in quite that way, but I have contemplated assisting terminally ill loved ones to end their lives. I think I would, and I think I would like it to be done for me.


Elizabeth T | 31 comments Alicia wrote: "It was the Scheherazade aspect that I think kept von Linden interested. The school-master side of him was kept intrigued by her story and the literary discussions. The father couldn't avoid seeing a resemblance to his daughter."

I really like your explanation of von Linden, Alicia--he was the least well-explained character to me, I suppose in part because he's almost entirely offstage.

I was quite sure Queenie hadn't broken, too, because of the underlinings and other clues that someone was reading her manuscript. I'm still wondering a bit about the mistake that got her caught, though: she was so cosmopolitan and well traveled, as well as being so fiendishly smart, it seems an unlikely error for her to make and then to hang a whole plot on. What do you all think? In the same line of thought, the long string of coincidences that unroll in the second half (the guard/brother, the great aunt) are very satisfying plotwise, but maybe a bit too much?

Anyway, I loved the book and am grateful you all motivated me to read it. I had a big fangirl moment in London a couple of weeks ago when I happened to walk by the Edith Cavell monument near Trafalgar Square. My family couldn't understand why I got all squealy.

Did someone say that "Rose Under Fire" isn't as good? It seems to have mixed reviews here on Goodreads, but if it's nearly as good as "Verity" I'm in.


Annalynn | 2 comments I've read "Rose Under Fire" and have mixed feelings about it. If I hadn't read Verity, I would have loved it. Maddie reappears in RUF, and she says a few things that made me feel like she was cheating on Julie (if that makes sense.. I'm trying not to spoil RUF for anyone who might want to read it). I loved the friendship between Julie and Queenie soooo much that RUF killed me. I did like that it answered some lingering questions I had about Maddie's relationships (which is answered withing the first few pages of RUF, so hopefully isn't much of a spoiler).

One thing I've been dying to talk with people about, and I don't see any other reviewers/online discussions going into this - did anyone else think there was something between Julie and von Linden? I felt there was a lot of sexual tension going on. Or maybe I just picture him as a hot Nazi officer? Iv've been wondering if its because I first 'read' this book via audible.com and it seemed to come across more that way to me when Julie was speaking.

BTW - I totally recommend the audio book for a second (or third) read. The voices are great! But I tend to think I would have preferred my first read to be a real book, and not a e-book or an audio book, because this is a book meant to be READ - the visual clues like the underlinings became so painfully obvious when you see a paper book.


Alicia | 331 comments Elizabeth wrote: "I was quite sure Queenie hadn't broken, too, because of the underlinings and other clues that someone was reading her manuscript. I'm still wondering a bit about the mistake that got her caught, though: she was so cosmopolitan and well traveled, as well as being so fiendishly smart, it seems an unlikely error for her to make and then to hang a whole plot on. What do you all think? In the same line of thought, the long string of coincidences that unroll in the second half (the guard/brother, the great aunt) are very satisfying plotwise, but maybe a bit too much?
..."


Muscle memory I think - how many times do you turn on the indicator instead of the windscreen wipers when you get in a car that has them on the other side? I've been looking to the right when I cross the road multiple times of most days my entire life, and even when I go to countries where they drive on the other side, I still do it no matter how many times I tell myself not to. Horrifying that *that* would be the shibboleth that gets you caught though!

I did find the coincidences a bit much. Jamie popped up a bit too often! There were other pilots... And I could have handled Nazi brother or the great-aunt but not both.


Sara | 101 comments I reread the book for this discussion and enjoyed it nearly as much the second time around as I did the first. Even without the shocks, suspense, and mystery of the underlines, it really holds up as a story of deep friendship. I especially loved re-reading Julie's interview with the knowledge of what was really happening. And it's just as gut-wrenching when Maddie has to make her choice.

RUF isn't as good, but not for lack of strong characters and desperate setting. It's just a much more direct story, without the intriguing puzzle aspect.


message 7: by Martha (new) - added it

Martha (martha_waters) So I listened to it on audiobook, and if any of y'all ever want to re-read it, I highly recommend the audio. I loved it so much that I went ahead and ordered my own print copy (which I'm interested to read based on what everyone has said about the fonts used and whatnot), but the audio is phenomenal.

Anyway, I loved this book to the point that I couldn't stop thinking about it for days afterwards. I also figured that Julie hadn't broken, but I really couldn't figure out what she was writing was true and what wasn't.

The part where Maddie shot Julie truly shocked me -- far, far more than finding out Maddie was alive did -- and I was packing up my apartment (I just moved) while I was listening and when that happened I ended up just sitting down on a box and crying for about five minutes. It killed me. For like two days afterwards I would get weepy just thinking about it.

The friendship between Maddie and Julie was so well-written and well-developed and god, I just loved this book to pieces. I want to read Rose Under Fire eventually, but I'm giving myself a few months because I think that reading them too close together would all but guarantee that I wouldn't enjoy it that much, because I loved this book so much that I feel like RUF would just disappoint me.

Anyway, tl;dr is that Code Name Verity is my favorite book I've read so far this year.


message 8: by Lynn (new) - added it

Lynn Sfanos I didn't love this book as much as others apparently did. It took me a while to get through the Julie-penned section, partly because I was uninterested in many of the military and aviation-related details. I also didn't care for the information about torture methods, although, thankfully, there was not as much detail as there could have been. In addition, when I learned that Julie had been writing about herself in the third person, I found it kind of off-putting, though I'm not sure I could explain why.

Maddie's narrative was much more engaging and pleasant for me. Perhaps I preferred it because it was straightforward, and I didn't need to guess what was really happening (yes, I realize Julie was writing as a spy, ha ha!). I think the book might merit a reread (or a listen), as I will have a better understanding of the hidden meanings behind much of the first part of the book. It will be like watching _The Sixth Sense_ a second time! ;-)

One thing I can't figure out at all is why this is considered to be a Young Adult novel. There isn't a teenager, a romantic relationship, a mystical setting, or simplified language anywhere to be found!


Elizabeth T | 31 comments Lynn wrote: "I didn't love this book as much as others apparently did. It took me a while to get through the Julie-penned section . . . when I learned that Julie had been writing about herself in the third person, I found it kind of off-putting . . .

One thing I can't figure out at all is why this is considered to be a Young Adult novel. There isn't a teenager, a romantic relationship, a mystical setting, or simplified language anywhere to be found! "


I quoted two things you wrote, Lynn, that resonated for me. I wondered about Julie's third-person narration, too, but I assume it was (for Julie) a way of keeping watch on what she was revealing and of concealing who she really was. But it did sometimes ring false for me.

On the YA question: I am about to spend a couple of weeks with my sister and niece (who just turned 13), and they read it earlier this summer for a mother-daughter book club. So maybe they will have some insight. Meanwhile, I teach 8th grade, and I would definitely give it to my stronger (girl) readers, for the female courage and friendship and for the LACK of romance and mysticism and dystopia, which most of them are quite unwilling to venture beyond.


message 10: by Sara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara | 101 comments Elizabeth, I'll be interested to hear what you find out - the YA classification confuses me, too, and I never would have placed it as such.


Alicia | 331 comments The girls are 18-19 when they meet, so I think it qualifies as YA on the "coming of age" criterion.


Janine | 42 comments I really liked it, but as some others here mentioned I thought it really picked up in the second half, when Maddie's POV started - I found Julie's third-person-perspective a bit off-putting as well.

When Julie shouted 'Kiss me, Hardy!' and Maddie shot her, I had to read this part again two or three times to really get it and then I actually gasped and had to put the book away because I was just too sad. What really made me cry was the letter by Julie's mother, oh God..!

As a German myself, I'm also happy that the Germans were not painted as the stereotypical Nazi baddies - both Anna Engel and von Linden were interesting characters.


message 13: by Lauren (new)

Lauren really liked this book - I think my favorite line was about how finding your best friend is a bit like falling in love. Though the circumstances of their friendship were unique (and at the end tragic), Maddie and Julie's relationship and the way it evolved over time seemed very familiar.


Alicia | 331 comments Leesa wrote: "I absolutely loved this book and have decided I would like Matthew Lewis (aka Neville Longbottom) to play Jamie - thoughts?"

Haha - he was Oliver Wood for me! (Sean Biggerstaff)


message 15: by Joanie (last edited Aug 04, 2014 07:44PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joanie (joaniephotos) | 80 comments Lauren wrote: "really liked this book - I think my favorite line was about how finding your best friend is a bit like falling in love. Though the circumstances of their friendship were unique (and at the end tra..."

Yes, their friendship is like falling in love, especially because they are so very different and they come to realize each of their weaknesses are bolstered by the other's strengths. That's the core of all good relationships, I believe. It makes them a powerful team. Their friendship is forged by fire, turned by the lathe.

I very much appreciate how Wein has written each young woman as a fully-fleshed character. They're not just one dimensional characters. Each has her charm, intelligence, inner strength, vulnerabilities. They're quite real. Very human.

And that's another aspect to the writing I am grateful for: every character is more than just a hero or enemy, good or evil. The lone exception would be Ferber, who is completely off-stage. His evil isn't tempered by anything because he ultimately controls Julie's fate of being shipped off to die. (He doesn't bank on her dying before reaching her destination, but that doesn't matter.)

Julie, she's written initially as "good", though she's then shown to possibly be a traitor to Britain. Then we discover she's not. Also, she has the ability to humanize even her captors (with the exception of Etienne). Anna Engel is found to have played along with her prescription silliness even after she has played a role in torturing our young heroine. Of course, Engel also shows she's more than just some puppet of the Nazi regime as she hands over the key and Julie's notes to Maddie.

Amadeus von Linden, while charged with overseeing Julie's interrogation, is loathe to actually watch it happen. Julie is too much like his dear Isobel. And his suicide comes as less a shock once you realize his experiences with Julie have made him think long and hard about how he would face his own child after the war is over. He cannot reconcile his complicity in the torture of others with his role as father, as head master and his only recourse is to never have to face them again.

Maddie, while she hates Etienne, while she is in his room, she discovers his hidey-holes for all his childhood secrets. She's forced to, at the very least, understand that he was once a young boy. His actions as a traitor to his family and neighbors, and his role in torturing Julie (and others) is hard to match up to the boy he once was. That doesn't stop her from hating him and what he's done to Julie, but it does give Maddie pause.

And the Machiavellian SOE officer "bastard" who recruited Julie in the first place, well, Maddie has the opportunity to see him as more than the man who sent Julie to her death. His reaction to the fact that Julie is dead, and how she met her death, is what changes her perception of him. "Without his glasses he could be anyone's father." He is weakened by the loss of this promising young lady who was clever and charming and very, very real.

There are more examples that I can't seem to recall at the moment (my poor book is marked up like crazy with notes of all sorts), but those are the ones I could recall at this late hour.

Annalynn's question about whether or not there was sexual tension between Julie and von Linden: I never felt there was. In typical Julie form, she turns on the charm, she has tried to flirt, but what it comes down to is that von Linden, as he comes to know her, develops almost paternal, protective feelings for her. Again, they are at odds with the task at hand. His treatment of her changes once he realizes this.

I've now read the book three times and can never stop myself from crying when Julie shouts, "Kiss me, Hardy!" The strength it took for her to ask her friend to kill her is unfathomable. And for Maddie, the strength to honor her friend's wish is equally hard to imagine. However, when you love someone, you sometimes have to do the difficult in order to do what is best for them. Parents face decisions like this when it comes to putting their children first. Adult children face such decisions when it comes to their aging parents. Husbands, wives, brothers, and sisters must do this as well. It's what grown ups do. And that is another turning point for both of these young women; despite all they've been through up until that moment, they had retained some of their youthful perspective, youthful dreams. But at that crucial moment, they are thrust into very adult roles. Live or die, they'll never again be young. Their innocence is lost forever.

I've bought three copies of the book to give as gifts. One goes to my darling daughter who has recently crossed the threshold that separates adolescence and adulthood. She's no longer just a young woman with dreams. Now she's a wife. An Army officer's wife. Sure, there's plenty of room and time to play, to dream, but there are now more responsibilities than she's ever known and she must take her husband and his career into consideration before she rushes headlong into some adventure or acts foolishly.

Another copy goes to my mom. My mom was a girl during WWII and she will understand aspects of this book like her children and grandchildren will never know. Friends, family lost to war. The fear of the unknown. Also, as a young woman of 19, she was faced with a very tough and adult decision when she found herself pregnant by a man who was abusive, had no intention of ever helping her, or even staying with her. For the sake of that baby, my mom had to give the child up for adoption. It tore her heart out, but it was in her baby's best interest to be placed in a home with loving parents who had the resources to provide the baby with all she needed. Not an easy thing to do. Add to that her recent failing health and subsequent move to assisted living and she's now having to face a very different idea of what her "golden years" would be than what she had imagined for herself.

And the last copy goes to a friend of mine who has been through hell of late. She's had to come to terms with a very debilitating illness that has robbed her of her livelihood, her education, her goals. She's had to adapt to suddenly not being able to control her body...and worse, she's had to accept that her brain is failing her in unexpected ways, at inopportune moments.

Each of these three women are strong, but everything they have known has rapidly changed. Just as it did for Julie and Maddie.

I know I'm walking away from this book with a greater appreciation for life as I know it. Life is simply too short to lament some losses, and too long not to learn how to cope with those very same losses.

Julie and Maddie are the very ideal of Keep Calm and Carry On. Inside we may quiver like jelly, but you put on your big girl panties and get on with it, don't you? You have to.

P.S. You may all now call me "Wordy Bitch" instead of Joanie.


Erica | 5 comments Janine wrote: "What really made me cry was the letter by Julie's mother, oh God..!"

I just finished the book, and in that final letter from the mother my heart broke for her. I'm suprised that it wasn't mentioned more.

As for the book, I enjoyed the Queenie narrative more than the Maddie one. I think it's because I found the story of the friendship much more compelling than Maddie's experience.


message 17: by Joanie (last edited Aug 04, 2014 07:42PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joanie (joaniephotos) | 80 comments Erica wrote: "Janine wrote: "What really made me cry was the letter by Julie's mother, oh God..!"

I just finished the book, and in that final letter from the mother my heart broke for her. I'm suprised that it..."


Yes, the letter from Julie's mother is enough to make anyone cry. Her forgiveness and understanding of the cost of war on everyone is what really seals the deal. Maddie is allowed to move on and live her life, live it for herself, live it for Julie, and live it for everyone who didn't get to live.


One question I had that was never answered is: what happened to Maddie's parents? Why was she living with her grandparents?


Alicia | 331 comments Joanie wrote: "One question I had that was never answered is: what happened to Maddie's parents? Why was she living with her grandparents? ..."

I'd just guessed that her parents had been killed in the previous war.


Joanie (joaniephotos) | 80 comments That's all I could think, too, but it never came up and it bothered me.


message 20: by Lynn (new) - added it

Lynn Sfanos Alicia wrote: "Joanie wrote: "One question I had that was never answered is: what happened to Maddie's parents? Why was she living with her grandparents? ..."

I'd just guessed that her parents had been killed in the previous war."


I no longer have the book available for reference (back at the library!), but I was thinking Julie and Maddie were in their early 20s, so they would have been born after WWI -- not long after, but after. Did we ever get their exact ages? I guess if they were at least 25-26, it would've been possible for Maddie's parents to have been killed in WWI. That's good question, Joanie.


message 21: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris | 252 comments Mod
Joanie,
I love your whole post! And, what lovely rationale for your gifts.

I tell you what, I was waiting the entire rest of the book for Julie to pop back up, not really dead. I was just so stunned that Maddie shot her, I thought it must somehow be a trick. At the end, where it clearly was not, I was still so stunned. She's really dead.
Couldn't get over it.


Alicia | 331 comments Lynn wrote: "I no longer have the book available for reference (back at the library!), but I was thinking Julie and Maddie were in their early 20s, so they would have been born after WWI -- not long after, but after. ..."

Good point. Maths is ever my downfall.


message 23: by Bonnie G. (last edited Aug 04, 2014 04:45PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1296 comments Mod
Erica wrote: "Janine wrote: "What really made me cry was the letter by Julie's mother, oh God..!"

I just finished the book, and in that final letter from the mother my heart broke for her. I'm suprised that it..."


First off, thanks everyone for this great discussion. Joanie, your analysis is brilliant and I nodded along with all you had to say. What made this book so good was the character development, and the unwillingness to create black and white characters. With rare exceptions, people are not unrelentingly good or evil. And war, no matter how noble the cause, has no room for angels. Every person affected by war needs to do some moral calculus.

I also greatly preferred Julie's section to Maddie's. Ironically, though Julie was forced to seed her story with lies I found her words more honest than Maddie's. I think the issue was that Maddie's story has so many convenient coincidences it just rang false. I still enjoyed Maddie's story, I just didn't always trust in the narrator.


Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1296 comments Mod
Oh, I forgot about casting the movie! I mentioned in an earlier thread that for me Julie is Emma Watson. I think Carrie Mulligan would also be a solid choice. If I had a time machine, Maddie would be Helena Bonham-Carter in her Room with a View era, but given the constraints of the space-time continuum, I am going to go with JLaw. For Jaime, perhaps Robert Pattinson? The execrable Twilight notwithstanding, I can totally see him in this role. And for some reason I see Orlando Bloom as von Linden even though he does not look at all Teutonic. Engel and Thibault are, of course, Krueger and Pacey :)


Joanie (joaniephotos) | 80 comments Whew! I'm glad my verbosity wasn't taken the wrong way. I tend to read once for pure pleasure and then reread for nuance and analysis. (My English teachers trained me well, I think.)

One of the reasons for the difference between Julie's story and Maddies, I believe, is their differing educations. Where Julie was prepared by various educational institutions, Maddie was simply your typical school girl with a rather common education. No extra time to focus upon classics, details, and the like. (I'm totally at a loss for words today.) Julie's wordliness vs. Maddie's prosaic upbringing is how I would put it, I guess.

Also, Maddie's grief shades her writing, whether or not it's apparent in every word. It's there. What brings it back around is the letter from Julie's mother. She's actually the bridge between the two worlds. While I haven't yet read Rose Under Fire, I did read the excerpt that was included in my book and know that Maddie and Jamie are engaged and I have to believe that's, in part, due to Julie and Jamie's mother. It's her inviting Maddie into the family that makes it possible.

Bonnie said, "With rare exceptions, people are not unrelentingly good or evil. And war, no matter how noble the cause, has no room for angels. Every person affected by war needs to do some moral calculus." I love this! While I disagree a bit with "no room for angels" (if not during war, when?), I wholeheartedly agree with the moral calculus! One must sometimes do the unthinkable/bad in order to salvage or restore the good.

All I can say is I'm glad I've never had to make the decisions the characters did. I don't know if I'm adequately equipped to solve those equations.

______________

For casting: I'd probably have Emma Watson play Maddie and Carrie Mulligan play Julie (general coloring and "delicateness" and whatnot). For Jamie, I'd likely go Nicholas Hoult. I think he's sufficiently manly AND delicate enough to fit that profile. von Linden, hmmm, I'd have to really give that one some more thought. But for the SOE officer who recruits Julie (and Maddie and Jamie) I could happily place Colin Firth there, though he may be older than the role really calls for.


Janine | 42 comments Casting choices! I do spend about 90% of my life watching British tv shows so I thought of Kimberly Nixon (http://www.entertainmentoutlook.com/w...) as Julie and Ellie Kendrick (http://img4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20...) as Maddie. Their voices and everything fit so well! Anna Engel is of course Diane Kruger and I don't know about von Linden.. I'd take Fassbender if I had to, Sebastian Koch would also be a good choice.


Joanie (joaniephotos) | 80 comments Janine wrote: "Casting choices! I do spend about 90% of my life watching British tv shows so I thought of Kimberly Nixon (http://www.entertainmentoutlook.com/w......."

Love your choices for the girls! Yes, they do look perfect. And I really like the idea of resisting big names for this. I almost think they'd have to go shortrun series with this to do it justice.

For the men, if I had to go with NAMES, Fassbender is also a thought, but then I question myself. Christoph Waltz also came to mind. For non-names, Jonas Armstrong for Jamie? Keith Allen for the SOE bastard. (Yeah, I've been watching the awfully and historically inaccurately costumed Robin Hood the last couple of days.)


message 28: by Amy (last edited Aug 05, 2014 01:48PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy A. This is such a fantastic discussion and I can't wait to contribute more, but I'm at work so I'll start with my fantasy casting list.
Julie- Emma Watson
Maddie- Jennifer Lawrence
Engel- Diane Kruger or Jessica Raine (who is my second choice for Maddie if Jennifer Lawrence can't/won't do the British accent)
von Linden- Benedict Cumberbatch or Daniel Craig
Jamie- William Mosely (though he hasn't been in much lately, so if not him then Matthew Lewis)
Thibault- Eddie Redmayne
SOE officer- Colin Firth or Alan Rickman
I had a casting choice for the female pilot who teaches Maddie to fly too, but I can't remember her name or the choice . . . maybe it will come back to me.


message 29: by Lynn (new) - added it

Lynn Sfanos Amy wrote: "I had a casting choice for the female pilot who teaches Maddie to fly too, but I can't remember her name . . ."

Dympna Withenshawe. I can't understand how you'd forget that! ;-)


message 30: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy A. Lynn wrote: Dympna Withenshawe. I can't understand how you'd forget that! ;-)"

Hahaha, now that you remind me of it, neither can I! Though even if I had been able to remember it on my own, I highly doubt I would be able to spell it :-) This isn't my original casting choice (which still eludes me) but wouldn't it be fun to see Michelle Dockery in that role?


message 31: by Lynn (new) - added it

Lynn Sfanos Amy wrote: "wouldn't it be fun to see Michelle Dockery in that role?"

Ooh, I like that!


Janine | 42 comments Amy wrote: "Lynn wrote: Dympna Withenshawe. I can't understand how you'd forget that! ;-)"

Hahaha, now that you remind me of it, neither can I! Though even if I had been able to remember it on my own, I highl..."


Oooh yes, I can really picture Michelle Dockery as her!!

I remembered something I wanted to mention: the coincidences in the book (meeting Jamie, Julie's great aunt) were a bit unbelievable. But this is something I tend to overlook when it propels the story forward.


message 33: by Amy (last edited Aug 06, 2014 05:32PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy A. OK, a few more thoughts-
I love the friendship between Julia and Maddie, full stop. I don't believe in the concept of soulmates, but I do believe that the person who loves you most and understands you best can be a friend, and is not always a family member or a spouse or a lover. I always enjoy reading about female friendships, because, like falling in love, some parts of the experience are universal, and some are unique.

I agree with other commenters about the number and size of the coincidences. They didn't strike me on the first read because I was so caught up in the characters and the plot, but on a second read-through, they stuck out more. I think that the coincidences would make this book a better movie though; I don't know why, but my willing suspension of disbelief is stronger for movies, whereas I always expect books to seem more realistic. Or at least I have those expectations for historical fiction; I don't know that I expect a lot of realism in books in entirely separate universes such as Narnia.

I love Bonnie's phrase, "moral calculus" because that's exactly what it is; you are making high-stakes calls about right and wrong in a rapidly changing landscape. Maddie killed Julia, and that's a horrible, horrible fact. But, in the "moral calculus" of that moment, that choice was probably less wrong than to let her disappear into the death camps, and Julie knew exactly what she was asking. I don't think I could have done it though. In fact, I don't think it ever would have occurred to me.

So here's my bigger question- was Maddie killing Julia at all in character for Maddie? I thought about this long and hard, and ultimately, I'm not sure. It all happened SO FAST, and a month (or so, I don't have my book on hand) before that incident Maddie was a pilot who turned to jelly during air raids and didn't know how to fire a gun! Plus, the whole purpose of that raid was rescue; I think it would be really hard to change from rescuing your best friend to mercy killing her in a matter of seconds. I almost think that Julia would have been more capable of killing Maddie if the roles were reversed and she knew Maddie was destined for a death camp. I was actually really mad at myself for feeling this way yesterday, because this is THE single biggest gut-punch of the whole book. Like someone up above, I gasped out loud when I read it, then I re-read it at least four times to try to comprehend what had just happened. So please, if someone disagrees with me (and I bet someone will), talk me out of it!!


Alicia | 331 comments Amy wrote: "So here's my bigger question- was Maddie killing Julia at all in character for Maddie? I thought about this long and hard, and ultimately, I'm not sure. It all happened SO FAST, and a month (or so, I don't have my book on hand) before that incident Maddie was a pilot who turned to jelly during air raids and didn't know how to fire a gun! Plus, the whole purpose of that raid was rescue; I think it would be really hard to change from rescuing your best friend to mercy killing her in a matter of seconds. I almost think that Julia would have been more capable of killing Maddie if the roles were reversed and she knew Maddie was destined for a death camp. I was actually really mad at myself for feeling this way yesterday, because this is THE single biggest gut-punch of the whole book. Like someone up above, I gasped out loud when I read it, then I re-read it at least four times to try to comprehend what had just happened. So please, if someone disagrees with me (and I bet someone will), talk me out of it!! ..."

Well, I am not going to try to talk you out of it, but here are my thoughts! There was reference to Jamie teaching her to shoot in Scotland on more than one visit. Whatsisname the gropey one was just checking to see if her skills were up to it.

I think you are right that Julie would have been more capable of it, but Maddie always just needed someone to prod her in the right direction. I don't think she would/could have done it if Julie hadn't asked her to. On the other hand, Maddie was Jewish and seems to have had a pretty solid understanding of what the Nazis were doing, so maybe she could have done it without prompting.


Ariana (arianajoyb) For what it's worth, to those wondering about Rose Under Fire, I actually liked it better than Code Name Verity. I like them both very much, but I believe I gave RUF 5 stars and CNV 4 stars. (Though they probably both deserved 5.) Don't be scared to read it! It's different but wonderful.


Louise In answer to Amy's question about whether or not it was in character for Maddie to shoot and kill a person - under any other circumstances, no, but given the exact situation the girls found themselves in, then yes, absolutely. I agree with Alicia - Maddie was only able to do it because Julie asked her to.
Maddie did receive shooting lessons from Jamie, and when she's hiding in the barn she does a fair bit of shooting too and turns out to be very good, despite her previous cowering under gunfire. In fact, Gropey Paul even says at one point 'you're a crack shot, but nobody's expecting you to kill anybody' (foreshadowing!).
I think the question really is not whether it was in character for Maddie to shoot a person, but whether it was in character for her to do whatever her best friend asked of her. And the answer, obviously, is a resounding yes. She doesn't even think, she just knows that's what she has to do and she does it instantly. When she blurts out the truth to Jamie, she says 'she asked me to, I couldn't let her down'. It really speaks to the strength of their best friendship that when Julie shouts out 'kiss me Hardy', Maddie a) knew what she was asking, and b) did it faithfully, regardless of the unending pain she would cause herself.
And Julie, too, she didn't doubt that Maddie would do it for her; I think that's why she laughed and lit up when she heard Maddie's crying, because she knew she was 'saved'. She had been unsuccessful in goading the guards into going her a quick death, but she absolutely and completely trusted that Maddie would, if Julie asked.


Third March Sister (thirdmarchsister) | 62 comments As I read Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity, I expected to hear that it would be made into a film or a mini series on cable. Playing the casting game, I keep thinking of Cristoph Waltz for von Linden and someone really good looking for Jamie, like Tom Hiddleston (but he might be too old? how old is Jamie supposed to be?). For Julie, I wish Romola Garai was young enough to play Julie. I think Jennifer Lawrence could play Maddie if she could get the accent. Kimberly Nixon and Ellie Kendrick--would they get attached to a film if Hollywood is making it, or would Hollywood insist on someone hugely popular and well known and American to play the leads? I hope Britain's film community makes it instead.


Janine | 42 comments BBethB wrote: "As I read Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity, I expected to hear that it would be made into a film or a mini series on cable. Playing the casting game, I keep thinking..."

Ooh, yes, Romola Garai would also be a great choice! If they made it, I'd hope they'd do a mini series and not a movie, and hopefully British actors as well (it's a pet peeve of mine when they cast people who don't have the right accent or can't manage to do a convincing one - The Book Thief, I'm looking at you! but that's a discussion for another time).

I thought at first that it was a bit out of character for Maddie to shoot Julie, but when I thought about it it's just another proof of the friendship and love between them that she, as Louise said, knew exactly what Julie wanted and did it without question, almost out of instinct.


Joanie (joaniephotos) | 80 comments Louise wrote: "I think the question really is not whether it was in character for Maddie to shoot a person, but whether it was in character for her to do whatever her best friend asked of her. And the answer, obviously, is a resounding yes. She doesn't even think, she just knows that's what she has to do and she does it instantly. When she blurts out the truth to Jamie, she says 'she asked me to, I couldn't let her down'. It really speaks to the strength of their best friendship that when Julie shouts out 'kiss me Hardy', Maddie a) knew what she was asking, and b) did it faithfully, regardless of the unending pain she would cause herself.

And Julie, too, she didn't doubt that Maddie would do it for her; I think that's why she laughed and lit up when she heard Maddie's crying, because she knew she was 'saved'. She had been unsuccessful in goading the guards into going her a quick death, but she absolutely and completely trusted that Maddie would, if Julie asked."


This is it , perfectly stated. Especially when you think of the horrors awaiting Julie. And how her efforts to get the guards to kill her failed. She had but one final card to play: Kiss me, Hardy! Kiss me quick!

Putting this into perspective in today's world, in our lives, I have had to contemplate end of life decisions for my parents as they asked me to discuss this with them in depth. It's hard to think of it when someone is so very present and alive and lively. But then my nurse training and experience kicked in and I recalled how hard death can be, how drawn out it can be, how painful and lonely and sometimes unnecessarily undignified. When I thought in those terms, I very easily agreed with my parents' end-of-life requests. If nothing else, I want them to have that last measure of say in their lives. No matter how reluctant we kids are to say goodbye, it's not about us! It's about what our parents have specifically stated and put to paper as their final requests. Of course, I beg them daily, pray to God daily to keep their health stable and to give us more time with them. When the time comes, my moral calculator will have to get to work on the toughest equations of my life and I will have to do what has been asked of me. (Don't worry! None of it is illegal! It's just hard to consider doing when you don't want to let go.)

So, when my mother says, "Kiss me, Hardy!" I shall be there for her and hold her hand as she takes her final breaths. Same with my dad. I'll not like saying goodbye, but I will cherish every moment I have with them.


Third March Sister (thirdmarchsister) | 62 comments Joanie wrote: "Louise wrote: "I think the question really is not whether it was in character for Maddie to shoot a person, but whether it was in character for her to do whatever her best friend asked of her. And ..."

I totally agree with Louise on why Maddie shot Julie. And Joanie, beautifully put. I only wish my in-laws and my mother would be able to be that honest and forthright about what they want, and be willing to discuss this terribly difficult topic. I am going to have to have this discussion with my self and my husband for both of us, too, just in case!


message 41: by Bonnie G. (last edited Aug 07, 2014 07:29AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1296 comments Mod
Joanie wrote: "Louise wrote: "I think the question really is not whether it was in character for Maddie to shoot a person, but whether it was in character for her to do whatever her best friend asked of her. And ..."

First off, Joanie, I am sorry these are questions you have to deal with for you parents. I have been there. Everyone's experience is different, but at least for me it turned out to be far less soul-wrenching at the time than it was in the years in which I contemplated the end. My parents were each ready when the time came, and I trusted them to know their limits. That was enough. My feelings really truly did not matter. I wish you peace.

Back to book stuff, I have not had time to post for the last couple days (back to school time ) so I am responding to one thing you mentioned a couple days back. I said there was no room for angels in wartime, and you said that wartime was where angels were most needed. I don't disagree. War provides opportunities for great heroism. That said, warriors need to make choice that may be necessary and right and may save some lives, but which also cause suffering and loss of other lives. In wartime there are acts of pure goodness and beauty, but any soldier intent on staying perfectly pure is unlikely to make it out of battle.

Finally, (sorry, you miss a few days and these posts get LONG), thank you Louise, your take on the women's friendship. You expressed perfectly how that love and kinship meant Maddie had no choice but to shoot Julie. That shot was a kiss, it was the hardest and most loving act a friend could perform.


message 42: by Kris (last edited Aug 07, 2014 09:41AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris | 252 comments Mod
Joanie,
This is a timely topic. My grandmother's sister Margaret is 91. When her husband died a bunch of years ago, she hooked up with an old friend who had lost his wife. They've been living together in NJ for almost a decade. The rest of the family lives in MD. Aunt Margaret recently got stuck in the bathtub, and Mickey, having had his legs amputated 2 years ago, couldn't help her out of the tub. He called the EMTs. Well, it was discovered that Aunt Margaret is really suffering with dementia, so they have kept her in the hospital for a variety of reasons, and now they are going to move her to a nursing home back in MD.
Well, her boyfriend, who really only had her left in his life, when he realized that Aunt Margaret wasn't coming back decided to kill himself. As I said, he had diabetes, and a few years ago, they had to amputate his legs when he got gangrene. Since then, they haven't been able to travel like they were - they went on cruises and stuff all the time. So, when he found out that she was really gone, he told his closest thing to a daughter (he never had children) that he was just going to stop taking his insulin, go into a diabetic coma and die. She, feeling that he was of sound mind, got him steamed crabs and beer (an East Coast thing) for them to eat together, at his request, and when she left, he started (or rather stopped) the process. And then, he died. This was last week. He basically had no one without my Aunt Margaret.
So, for now, she's in a rehab facility, and comes in and out of knowing that he's dead, and they'll be moving her back to MD here shortly. I don't think she'll last 3 months. SHEEEEEEESH. What a way to end things!
I can respect his wishes, but what a sad way to die.

Sorry for the tangent, it was just so coincidental that this topic would hit so close to home.

As for me, I don't know if I'd be able to help someone take their own life. It would really and truly depend on the situation.


message 43: by Lara (new)

Lara Allen | 5 comments "That said, warriors need to make choice that may be necessary and right and may save some lives, but which also cause suffering and loss of other lives. In wartime there are acts of pure goodness and beauty, but any soldier intent on staying perfectly pure is unlikely to make it out of battle."

Bonnie, this is right on. To it, though, I would add that in war it's tough to separate the angels from the devils as it's happening. Nobody knows which they will be until they're called upon. It's all so terrible; most people just want to survive. That's the difference.

I, too, thought it was a little too coincidental with the SS brother and great-aunt. But Maddie shooting Julie...well, Julie asked her to. By that point Maddie knew what the SS was capable of, and what Julie's transfer meant. When Julie asked her, and Maddie *knew* she was asking...she made a quick decision. It was that that allowed her to do it. She saved her friend from a horrible fate. And the letter from Julie's mother just cemented that it was the right thing to do. To hear that, about your sister/daughter, and then say it's ok...that is incredible.

Has anyone else seen the old BBC show Wish Me Luck? It's based on wire operators and female spies--exactly what Julie did. I'd recommend it.

I agree with a lot of folks on here who are wondering if this is really a YA. I think maybe it's the language that made it so. Also, I don't have the book with me, but I think there was a line or two in passing about Maddie's parents and World War I. I may not be remembering right, though.

Just a note to Joanie about your grandmother's sister: I've often thought that the difficulty with death isn't with the person dying--they make peace, often, or at least have no control--it's with those left behind. I don't think her boyfriend thought it was a sad way to die. He was thinking your Aunt Margaret is already gone. He wanted to choose how it all ended for himself. Your poor Aunt Margaret, though...her love is gone, and that's something she actually *knows* once in a while. In addition to knowing (at lucid points) that she's losing her mind. That is a tragic thing.


Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1296 comments Mod
Lara wrote: ""That said, warriors need to make choice that may be necessary and right and may save some lives, but which also cause suffering and loss of other lives. In wartime there are acts of pure goodness ..."

Lara, thank you for saying what I was about to post to Kris about her great aunt and her boyfriend. His decision not to stay alive for the sake of being alive is not sad for him. Beer, blue fins, time with a loved one, and peace. I am not criticizing anyone for making a different decision, I am just saying that it sounds to me like he lived as he wanted and stopped on his own terms through no affirmative act, just giving in to nature.

Also Lara, I need to track down Wish me Luck. Sounds great.


message 45: by Lara (new)

Lara Allen | 5 comments Bonnie, exactly. Sounds like he died on his own terms, and very few of us have that choice.

Wish Me Luck was streaming on Netflix about six months back--that's how I found it--but it's gone from there now. It has a lot of plot similarities with Verity, though the women were older.


message 46: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris | 252 comments Mod
I definitely agree that it was fine for him to end his life on his own terms. I think the overall sadness comes from the fact that it's rough to age and see your world reduced as you lose mobility and more and more of your friends and relations die. I feel sorry for Aunt Margaret, coming in and out of the realization of what's happening around her. For real, if I ever get dementia, I want someone to pull the trigger for me, if I don't get to it first.
On another related note - my favorite aunt is currently dying from ALS. She can no longer speak and her body is breaking down by the moment. She is in a motorized wheelchair. Her brain/thinking processes are still working, though. So would you rather be trapped inside your body, knowing what's happening, or would you rather lose your mind and not really know it??
These are the questions I think about...

Circling waaaaay back to the book, I am very pleased that we've been having such great responses and conversations! Thank you all for participating! This is not to say that the conversation is over, I just wanted to express my gratitude!


Alicia | 331 comments Kris wrote: "Circling waaaaay back to the book, I am very pleased that we've been having such great responses and conversations! Thank you all for participating! This is not to say that the conversation is over, I just wanted to express my gratitude! ..."

I was just thinking that for a group of people who came together through mocking the fashion choices of celebrities, I am quite humbled by how intimate this conversation has become. It's quite lovely!

I spent some time with my grandfather last year, having not seen him in 5 years, and it was really hard. He's had a series of mini strokes which mean he can't read any more and can't always follow speech on the radio, so while he's physically extremely robust he's just so bored. He's outlived his wife, all his siblings, all his friends and just kept saying that he doesn't value his life any more. Another side effect of the strokes is that he cries. A lot. This completely stoic stiff-upper-lip Englishman just spends hours sitting in a chair crying. Heartbreaking. He has been very clear with his end of life directives - we will not be trying to make him stay.

One of the good things about getting to spend time with him was being able to ask him things. There is a family story about how he'd tried to enlist for the war while he was underage, but as it was the local recruitment office the officers knew him and sent him home to his mother. But I'd wondered how he'd ended up in the navy, when his brothers were in the airforce (shot down, POW), army and entertainment corps. Turns out his favourite uncle had been in the navy. It's strange reading a book like Code Name Verity and realising that your grandmother could have been Maddie.


Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1296 comments Mod
Kris, just so you know you are not the only one who thinks about those things. Most of us old enough to have elderly relatives have thought about this I reckon. I have no question in my mind that being of sound mind and ruined body is the worst punishment in the world. I hope I have a triggerman in place should it happen to me. My 90 year old aunt died a few months ago after a 10 year battle with Alzheimer's. I was talking to my cousins, who were really relieved to have this end and one of them said, "you know it makes you feel like such a shitty person to wish for the end because we may have been miserable, but she was happy." Dementia is horrible for the families, but once past the point of no return it is perfectly fine for the demented.

Also making that sweeping circle to the book, I want to join the chorus of praise for this group in general and for this group read in particular. I hope we pick another book and do this again in 2 months time. This group has been so good for me. I work from home and for myself so you women are my watercooler and you are the BEST watercooler group I can imagine. Everyone is smart and has good taste and a sharp wit, and I never have to listen to long discussions about The Bachelor. True story, I worked in one office where the secretarial manager always introduced me to new employees by name and then said "and she refuses to shop at WalMart, can you believe that?!" It was as if she had just told them something interesting, like I juggled knives with my feet, or spent weekends hunting Bigfoot. Anyway, I digress. The point is...thanks for being so cool.


message 49: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris | 252 comments Mod
OK, Bonnie, I just did a big guffaw at my desk. Good thing I'm working from home today!! What do mean, you don't juggle knives with your feet??? LOL!! And, I agree. We are a cool bunch!

My grandmother IS in moderate dementia due to TIAs, and she is mean as shit. (Forgive the language, please.) She was never the sweetest person, but now that she's losing it, she's MEAN. Very difficult. She wishes she were dead, and we're right there with her. I feel very little guilt about saying that. I love her dearly, and I pray that she will find peace and find it soon. She is 10 years younger than her sister Margaret but has lived an entirely different life.
Writing it all down, seems we have quite a bit of crap going on with our family right now. Shoot!


Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1296 comments Mod
Kris wrote: "OK, Bonnie, I just did a big guffaw at my desk. Good thing I'm working from home today!! What do mean, you don't juggle knives with your feet??? LOL!! And, I agree. We are a cool bunch!

My gr..."


Of course I juggle knives with my feet, she just didn't tell that to others :) In all seriousness though, you do have a lot going on and you need to let yourself express thoughts both uncharitable and profane or you will go mad. Your mom sounds a lot like my dad. He was a handful, and once the dementia started he was horrible. He was so angry that his life had gotten where it was, and his anger made him so unpleasant that all of his friends eventually abandoned ship. These were friends of 50 and 60 years standing, and they tried, but he was a bully and complained all the time. They stuck around for my mother's sake, but she died a couple years before him, totally unexpectedly and then everyone dispersed. Thankfully my sister and I had each other to vent to. Do the right thing, let yourself feel what you feel, and just press forward. You can love someone and not like them and you are still a good person.


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