Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant was one of those books…
Do you ever read an okay book, then see everyone else praise it? You start recalling the book, trying to see what they see, but instead it makes you hate it even more? That’s what I’m feeling for Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.
Set in WWII, Code Name Verity is about two young women, Maddie, a pilot, and Julie, a spy, both working for the British war effort. From the very beginning we know the plane Maddie was flying goes down and Julie is captured and being tortured by the Gestapo in France. The reason we know this is that the story is being told by Julie through journaling the Gestapo is making her write. They force her to write details about British airfields and planes, but through it all she also writes really long, boring, rambling stories about her childhood and how she met Maddie.
Why would von Linden, the head Gestapo man, allow her to ramble about pointless crap for hundreds of pages? She’d give a few sentences filled with British airfield details and then she’d go on for pages and pages about her past that had nothing to do with what the Gestapo wanted. In order to love this book you have to buy the fact that the Gestapo is willing to read through hundreds of pages of tedious drivel in order to find a few tidbits of valuable information. I didn’t buy it. At all.
I also never liked Julie’s voice, so that didn’t help, but when Maddie starts taking over the story in later chapters it never got any better. And the shocking surprise that everyone is praising wasn’t a shock to me. I saw it coming, and even it doesn’t fully make sense. I can’t say more or I’ll give it away, but I thought it was full of convenient coincidences and utterly unbelievable.
The truth about this book is that I struggled to get past page 40. I kept reading because of all the praise it was receiving, but I should’ve stuck to my 40-page boredom rule and quit. It’s showing up on top ten lists for the year, but it won’t be on mine.