Rose Under Fire
Elizabeth Wein




Rose Justice is a young American ATA pilot, delivering planes and taxiing pilots for the RAF in the UK during the summer of 1944. A budding poet who feels most alive while flying, she discovers that not all battles are fought in the air.
This is an unforgettable journey from innocence to experience from the author of the best-selling, multi-award-nominated 'Code Name Verity'. From the exhilaration of being the youngest pilot in the British air transport auxiliary, to the aftermath of surviving the notorious Ravensbruck women's concentration camp, Rose's story is one of courage in the face of adversity.
"You are sucked into the viewpoint and don't realise for a long time that everything is double edged and has a second meaning." Helen Dunmore (author)
"A remarkable book, which had me horrified and totally gripped at the same time." Daily Mail
Andrew, from University College School London

Rose is a young pilot in WW2, and along with a small number of others she is female. She works for the Royal Air Force, piloting planes back and forth to and from the factory to be used or to be fixed. She is from America, and has friends in high places who eventually manage to get her a flight to France. However, the plan goes wrong, and eventually Rose ends up in a ‘women's work camp’, which is not quite a concentration camp, but similar. There, she meets the ‘Rabbits’, a group of young women and girls who have been experimented on. These experiments are for the benefit of the German front line and finding ways to fix their wounds. For instance, a bullet would be put in a girl's leg and the staff would watch to see what happened to the leg. Rose and the Rabbits dream of escape, rescue and telling the world. When the women begin to get executed, that is the message given to the survivors - that they could tell the world, but it is war, and people will do whatever it takes.

This book is both interesting and horrific. There have been many books about concentration camps and work camps from writers such as Michael Morpurgo, so some of the things that should have been shocking didn’t seem quite as shocking as they should have. But one of the things that was new to me was the ‘Rabbits’. Sometimes it is hard to make people understand how it feels, but Elizabeth Wein writes descriptions in a very, very lifelike way and although it was horrible reading those particular parts, it was so engaging as well. 

I am interested by books based around the war, and there are a lot of them. But despite thinking I knew everything about the concentration camps, Rose Under Fire was a eye-opener to the ‘Rabbits’. It was a very mixed read. At times I was glued to it, and the story line was so good even that when I was disgusted I continued reading. But there were other moments when I felt as if I wanted to put down the book and leave it to collect dust on the top shelf. Having said this I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys history, particularly people interested in World War 2 as I enjoyed the majority of the book.

Avani, from Wren Academy Barnet

Elizabeth Wein creates an atmosphere in the book which lets the reader connect to the characters. In the book there is a lot of emotion which the reader has to go through to actually understand the characters and their different emotions. The atmosphere that Elizabeth Wein has created is effective as it helps the reader to empathise with the characters, and bring himself in the same place and think about what he would do in the same situation.

The book is based on the main character, Rose Justice. Rose is an ATA pilot who accidently enters Germany and ends up as a prisoner in a German concentration camp, Ravensbrück. Even in the worst circumstances she finds loyalty, friendship and love. Throughout the book these three are the base of story as it keeps Rose alive in the camp. 

She creates a family in the camp and they welcome her, trust her, and help her to survive. The tension is continuous because her fellow prisoners have to protect her but she has to protect them too. The book always takes turns and risks jerking the characters’ lives into different directions. This shows that Elizabeth Wein has used trial and error to see the way that different circumstances affect the plot and the reader’s interpretation of the on-going story. 

Most of the story is based in the concentration camp with the characters Rose, Lissette (their ‘mother’), Rosá, Karolina, and Elodie etc. A lot of the conflict is between the way that some of them have suffered more and in different ways compared to the rest. It is also because of some of their ages and awareness of this camp even being existent. However eventually it shows that under all that conflict is love, not hatred.

The use of poetry every now and then in the book creates a sense of hope and faith. This is because it shows that nothing can stop Rose from writing or from wanting to write. It also brings the reader back to previous parts in the book like a scene of flashbacks and memories. This is effective as it shows the comparison between her life before and in present time.  

Overall this book is aimed for young adults as some bits can be grotesque and inhumane to think about. For example, the way that the girls (called Rabbits) were operated on with drugs and that they were just left injured with holes in their legs!

I would give the book a recommendation of 4.5/5 stars. 

Hannah, from Jewish Community Secondary School

Rose Under Fire is about a girl called Rose Justice. The book tells of her experiences as an American ATA pilot during the Second World War.

I did not really enjoy this book as I didn’t think it had a good storyline. It started badly and slowly and never really got any better. It never gripped me; therefore, I took a long time trying to finish it. Nothing in the book made me want to continue reading it to find out what happened next and there was nothing that stood out as exciting or interesting. It was sometimes hard to follow and I didn’t always understand what was going on.

I think it would be better if the action started earlier in the book so it would hook people. I also think if it had a more basic storyline with fewer things going on, it would be easier to follow and therefore more effective.

Overall, I did not enjoy Rose Under Fire and would not recommend it.

James, from Jewish Community Secondary School

There are some books that are so slow that there is little suspense and therefore you do not have the patience to read them. However, there are also some books that start slow in order to increase empathy and sympathy towards the characters. Rose Under Fire is one of those excellent stories. By beginning slow and then accelerating, like a plane does on a runway, Elizabeth Wein has used this to her advantage. This horrific novel is unique in the way it is written and flows perfectly. When I read this paperback, my only objection to it was the title’s word “fire”. This suggests battle and, despite it being set during the time of World War II, Rose is not on the battle-ground for the entirety of the book. Perhaps the author could change the title to something like ‘Wartime Horrors’? Other than that, Rose Under Fire is pitch-perfect.

Millie May, from Copthall School, Barnet

Rose Under Fire is not simply a war story – it is the most remarkable showcase of friendship put into words that I have read in such a long time. It’s a powerful book, a beautiful book, but you couldn’t call it a happy book (however much you may want to at some points) – this sort of tale never could be. Nevertheless, Wein’s words depicted light where they shouldn’t be any, and shocking strength where there should be nothing but exhaustion. 

This novel is about the importance of friendship even in the darkest of times. It presents characters with passion and showcases the unfair imperfection of the world, woven into one of the darkest circumstances the human race has ever got itself into. Also showing us how our experiences affect us, reminding us the importance of remembering and “telling the world”. 

Rose Justice makes a likeable heroine, she has a vulnerability to her that makes her understandable, but she is not too vulnerable, if a little ignorant. But it’s the people who surround Rose who in my opinion made this novel – the tales within a story. You feel you should cry whilst reading them, but Wein is clever, she has this constant sort of support unit for Rose, despite this she makes it clear that Rose is lucky. I suppose war shows both the best and worst aspects to humanity.

The poetry throughout this novel, accompanying the tale, is simply the icing on the cake – I hope other readers appreciated this aspect as much as I did. I suppose the whole concept has a bittersweet air to it. The way Rose saw the luxury and privilege to writing after what she experienced was comforting in a way. As with all good stories it underwent a circular motion and the way Rose was evolving as a human being interested me. 

There were many scenes of violence, terror and despair, moments full of desperation, longing and animosity, but never really loneliness – the characters were that strong. There are vivid descriptions of torture and other unbelievably shocking treatment and how this affected those on the receiving end. But it’s an optimistic novel, I suppose words affect us all differently and I believe Rose Under Fire shows two sides to humanity, whilst educating others about a past we must never forget.

I felt unable to resist comparing this to Elizabeth Wein’s previous novel Code Name Verity. Rose under Fire is by far the superior novel. It feels more polished and controlled, more flowing, less wordy, more powerful really. Whilst I loved the concept of Verity, I don’t think there was anything I didn’t love about Rose.

Five stars for the most shockingly powerful novel I have read in a while.            

Nicole, from Wren Academy Barnet

This book has a very sentimental plot - the deep feelings of the main character (the diary entry of) Rosa. Her passion for riding a plane is fantastic - how she feels proud for riding the plane.

I love how Rosa makes poems of her experience but it’s quite sad that at first whenever she writes her poems it talks about bombs - she was so affected with the war - even if she was one of those who delivered. 

Also, I love how it started with the poem “to the young poet” to get the reader involved. The poems were enjoyable to read even if the meaning was very depressed. 

The language is basic and the plot has many actions to show the reader how she feels and make the reader know what the current situation was for Rosa. 

I enjoyed this book and how it showed historical events - even though she was accidentally involved - as I see it just misfortune but she makes friends and her talent of writing poems gives some credit to her. However, it makes you realise in a first perspective view how the people (Jews) were treated with such cruelty. Also, how Rosa at first couldn’t tell her mum and lied so her mum didn’t feel much anxiety and she couldn’t physically talk to her because Rosa thought that her mum wouldn’t believe her even if she told the truth. 

Her light, through this misfortunate happening, was the boy she loved, Nick, and even though she really loved him she declined his offer to their engagement because of the war. However, I found it very annoying when Nick got married to another girl when Rosa was in difficulty in the concentration camp - of course without him knowing - when she was always thinking about him. 

I love how she tries to learn everyone’s name so she can tell the world and I love how she cares so much for them.  

Overall, this book shows the historical events and makes it enjoyable to read.

Sophia, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

Having not previously read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein I was completely oblivious to the sheer genius I was about to face in her follow-up novel Rose Under Fire. My words alone cannot do justice to this book. It was an exceptional read that kept me awake through the hours of the night. I only put this book down for the vital things such as food and school, but it was otherwise firmly glued to my hands.

Rose Under Fire tells the tale of a brave young pilot who proved to be strong whilst facing the worst adversities. It is a compelling novel, exploring the strong friendships that can grow from times of despair. The book and the characters grew on me the more I read. The deeper I delved into the book, the closer I felt to them, and ultimately the greater my despair in their situations. I felt like an additional character in the story, and it is so refreshing to read a book that truly makes me feel a part of it. 

Despite the dreadful circumstances we face in the story, this book has an optimistic message. We currently do not have to face the atrocities that Wein so strikingly describes, but a lot of people did. This book truly makes us realise just how lucky we are. 

It takes great skill to write about a subject that you have never experienced yourself, because it makes the challenge of writing an evoking piece even more difficult. Wein undertook this challenge and ended up creating the perennial piece that is Rose under Fire. A beautifully tragic and heart-wrenching narrative, this tale entwines tremendous research, seamless writing, and extraordinarily resilient characters to create an entrancing tale. One of my favourite features of the book was the poetry that contributed to the lyricism that pervades the novel.

I have only praise for this book. It made me smile in joy, gasp in horror and cry in pain. This story stayed in my mind long after it was over, and only an exceptional writer can create that sort of bond between their book and the reader. Touching a reader’s heart in this way is a true achievement and I commend Wein for creating this beautiful tale.

Stuti, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

This story is about Rose Justice who is an American pilot. It is set during World War II. The story is rather emotional and would most certainly make the reader cry at some point. Rose’s greatest passion is flying her plane. She makes a mistake by accidently flying across towards the enemy territory and is captured and taken to Ravensbruck concentration camp.

The book is divided into three sections. Rose’s world crashes along with her hopes in section two where some awful things happen to her.  Despite the sad plot, I look up to Rose Justice’s brave character in the story. She is the type of person who finds light in the darkest of times. Her poems and songs which she wrote helped the people around her in the camp. Perhaps this story tries to imitate the situations which actually occurred during the World War II time. My most enjoyed part of the story is how friendship is represented in the story.


My Rating: 5/5

Tal, from Jewish Community Secondary School

Rose Justice is an eighteen-year-old American pilot who travels to England in August 1944 and joins the Air Transport Auxiliary. Rose, a budding poet, is in love with words and exhilarated by flying, and she is thrilled when the chance comes to fly a transport plane to Paris. But on the return flight she disappears and is feared dead.

The story resumes eight months later in Paris, where Rose is writing down her traumatic experiences. Her plane went off course and was brought down by the Luftwaffe, and she was sent to Ravensbruck as a political prisoner. She struggles to survive along with other women – mainly French, Polish and Russian – whom she befriends. Some of the details of the women’s suffering are horrific, and yet this is an uplifting story of the prisoners’ determination to survive, using humour, ingenuity and courage. They have no means of writing, and Rose, as a writer, feels this keenly. The book is interspersed with poems, not only Rose’s, but Edna St Vincent Millay’s. The women learn many poems by heart and memorise the names of murdered prisoners; those who survive will tell the world.

This is a beautifully constructed novel about the resilience of the human spirit, and the poetry adds an extra dimension which lifts it out of the ordinary. It’s a worthy successor to Code Name Verity. Although this is a stand-alone novel and not a sequel to Code Name Verity, I would strongly advise reading Verity first.