Takes a deep breath before exploding
Even though I consider Code Name Verity is a waste of reading time, I still appreciate the ability to juxtapose my impression of it next to All the Light We Cannot See and The Book Thief. Both novels use shadows and hints and impressions to create the fear and horror of the war without stooping to the inferior and disgusting method of graphically detailing the abominations for a sort of violence voyeurism. My understanding of all the novels is of course based in in my somewhat different knowledge of WWII. I still prefer The Book Thief. Characterization is FAAAAAR better in this novel. But All the Light We Cannot See is more accurate in reproducing the feeling of surreal horror without graphically painting all the horror.
Code Name Verity is a trivial, insensitive, shallow, silly WWII story. Such a stupid 10-year-old “girl power” story has no place in the gritty, horrifying history of WWII. But the worst of it was that the fantastic plot is INCREDIBLY disrespectful.
I mentioned the disrespect to my sister, and I meant disrespect to the real heroes, the men and women who self-sacrificed to save others in what compared to this ludicrous book would seem a “hum drum” way. My sister thought I meant disrespect to victims. That is true too, for many of the same reasons and more. WWII is not some sort of freak show to watch. *
The author of the book apparently forgets how weak we are when we are merely hungry or frightened. How much more are we when terrified, starving, isolated, sleep-deprived, tortured, depressed, and injured all at once? In such a situation, basic efforts are a struggle. This novel exhibits an incredible level of ignorance of humanity, war, trauma, and history. And yet in this fantastic novel a pampered genius could originate a mind-boggling elaborate plot in code under all the deprivation and trauma. This ridiculously unreal ability devalues the work of the real people who went through real deprivation and real trauma.
I don’t think people really understand or take WWII seriously enough. I am not well-versed in it; I’m not a historical scholar (nor is anyone who does summary “research” for a “historical” novel). I took a lower level class but most of what I remembered was first-hand accounts of American soldiers. The textbook focused on war strategies and battles. I don’t have a good grasp of what happened on the Continent to the civilians, to the prisoners, etc. I don’t know Gestapo methods. I do know much more about the Eastern Front, the history of the horror there that led up to the war because of my graduate level Stalinism class. I know how Stalin and Hitler destroyed people between them. I know some nightmarish stories that are censured from popular history books. I don’t appreciate the gung-ho American attitude. The greatest generation attitude. The mighty heroes. How about we understand the devastation first? War isn’t so clear cut, especially on motivation. People, we weren’t fighting to stop the Holocaust. And yes, people did know it was happening (and I’m skeptical about the lack of knowledge of what Stalin did too; I feel like we should’ve, could’ve seen through the sham tours and show trials). I’m reading a history of Israel now, and the Allies don’t appear like such heroes. Antisemitism is an insidious sin.
*Hogan’s Heroes could be legitimately criticized for disrespect too, but I think that something that purports to be serious is worse.