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Literature / Code Name Verity

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

Code Name Verity is a 2012 young adult historical novel by Elizabeth Wein set in 1943 Occupied France. Queenie, a British secret agent, has been captured and tortured into giving up the code sets to the wireless radios she was supposed to be transporting to the French Resistance when her plane crashed. Now, the commander of the prison where she has been held, SS-Haupsturmfuhrer Amadeus von Linden, wants her to write down every detail she can tell him about the British war effort. But Queenie has a rather different idea: she'll give up the details, but only by telling the story of her best friend, Maddie Brodatt, who was the one who flew her to France. And Queenie may not be telling the truth about everything she writes....

Has a semi-sequel, Rose Under Fire, which ties into the events of the first book. The Pearl Thief is a prequel starring Queenie. The Enigma Game is a companion novel that occurs directly prior to Code Name Verity, and features Queenie's older brother, Jamie, along with characters introduced in The Pearl Thief.

Note: This story is full of many sudden plot twists, meaning spoilers may occur below.

Code Name Verity contains examples of:

  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: invoked Elizabeth Wein in her afterword is quick to point out that, yes, both the SOE and the ATA were documented to have female agents and pilots in their employ during the Second World War, although very few of them, and she does admit that a female ATA pilot would almost certainly not be allowed to fly to France.
  • Anachronic Order: The confession quite deliberately explains its writer's current life in prison among its stories of the past. Then Maddie's story begins in her crashed plane, just after the end of the story Julie told, but over a month before the 'present day' when Julie finished her confession.
  • Apologizes a Lot: Maddie, when she's in France.
  • Berserk Button: The very Scottish Queenie is extremely offended whenever one of her captors refers to her as "English".
    • Maddie very nearly kills one of the prisoners the Resistance frees when he mocks Julie as being a collaborator.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Maddie makes it out of France alive and manages to complete Julie's mission, but Julie herself is killed.
  • Blitz Evacuees: The Craig Castle Irregulars.
  • Blue Blood: Queenie is the daughter of an earl.
  • Brave Scot: Doubly subverted. Queenie initially appears to be a cowardly collaborator who cracks under torture. By the end of the book, she faces death bravely, and The Reveal proves that she gave the Nazis false information.
  • Catchphrase: Queenie declares "I am SCOTTISH!" quite a lot.
    • And Maddie likes to tell herself "FLY THE PLANE, MADDIE!" whenever she gets too emotional.
    • "Kiss me, Hardy!" could also qualify.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: In a conversation about fears, Queenie says that she is afraid of killing someone. Maddie says she's afraid of letting people down, which could include killing someone. Queenie points out that it could also include not killing someone, if you'd be "doing them a favor by killing them", and they talk about Queenie's great-aunt and -uncle who were in such a situation. Later Maddie finds herself in a situation where she'd be doing someone a favor by killing them. It's Julie, and she does go through with it.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Queenie's scarf, the number code written at the top of some of her pages, the occasional underlined passages in Queenie's account, Georgia Penn saying she was "looking for verity" in her interview with Queenie, and a few others.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Maddie's shooting ability.
  • Classified Information: Most of the events of the book. After all, careless talk costs lives.
  • Les Collaborateurs: Queenie is loathed by her fellow prisoners because she's collaborating with von Linden. It is later revealed that all of the important information she divulged was for nonexistent wireless radios, in order to hide her actual mission in France.
  • Coming in Hot: Maddie's landing in France.
  • Cover Identity Anomaly: Queenie probably could have bluffed her way out of her initial questioning if she had had her identity papers.
  • Cunning Linguist: Queenie uses her knowledge of German to talk down and interrogate the German bomber, and she later uses her fluency in French and German to become a spy.
  • Defiant Captive: Queenie struggles against her captors, tries to escape, and feeds the Nazis false information.
  • Delayed Narrator Introduction: Queenie, as narrator, introduces Maddie to her narrative before introducing herself. When she does introduce the character of Queenie, she initially does not reveal that she is Queenie.
  • Double Tap: The SOE can't take prisoners, so they use this to make sure their targets are killed. Maddie uses it to kill Julie.
  • Driven to Suicide: Von Linden.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Von Linden, Queenie's interrogator, has a daughter named Isolde. Queenie brings her up several times to unbalance him.
  • Everybody Smokes: Not surprising considering that the novel is set during World War II.
  • Fake Defector: More like Fake Collaborator, as it's revealed that the information painfully tortured out of Julie is in fact worthless—the codes she gives correspond to radios that don't exist, and this covers up what she was actually transporting—explosives.
    • Georgia Penn, a Nazi radio announcer, fits the trope as well. She is American but works for the Nazis while also spying for the Allies.
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: Maddie and Jamie, to cover up Jamie starting to say Maddie's real name.
  • Famous Ancestor: Queenie is proud of her descent from William Wallace, Macbeth, and Mary, Queen of Scots.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Maddie and Queenie become friends during the Battle of Britain.
  • Given Name Reveal: Queenie does not mention her real name until the end of her section of the novel. Her name is Julie (or more properly Lady Julia Lindsay MacKenzie Wallace Beaufort-Stuart).
  • Hands-On Approach: Paul to Maddie when he's teaching her how to shoot a gun.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Anna Engel is revealed to have been suffering pangs of conscience even before she meets Julie, and eventually fully assists the Resistance and Maddie in destroying the Chateau de Bordeaux.
  • Heroic BSoD: Queenie suffers from it after seeing the photo that supposedly shows Maddie's corpse. Maddie suffers a rather severe version of this after having to shoot Julie in order to keep her from being tortured to death.
  • How We Got Here: The novel begins with Queenie already in a Gestapo prison. Much of Queenie's narrative involves her explanation of why Maddie flew her to France and how she was captured by the Nazis.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Maddie does a lot of this.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Jamie nearly gives away Maddie's real name, but quickly changes it to "Ma chérie!" and kisses her to make it credible.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Von Linden edges toward this thanks to his ability to get whatever he wants to know from his prisoners, through a combination of torture and subtle manipulation. The only thing that stops him from fully being one is that he is implied to actually dislike his job, and thus is more of an unusually interesting Punch-Clock Villain than anything else.
    • Queenie might actually fit the description of a Manipulative Bastard better; she weaves an elaborate lie throughout the narrative while fooling Von Linden into keeping her alive to finish said lie (which he thinks is the truth), manipulates von Linden masterfully several times using anything from his daughter to subtle body language, and carefully orchestrates the destruction of the Chateau de Bordeaux from inside a cell.
    • Her plans continue even beyond the grave thanks to Maddie.
  • Meaningful Echo: Intentionally by von Linden: "Je vous souhaite une bonne nuit."
  • Mercy Kill: Maddie kills Julie to save her from further torture.
  • Nom de Guerre: While in France, Maddie exclusively goes by her aerial callsign "Kittyhawk". This is to hide her last name; she's in so much danger already without anyone knowing she's Jewish.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Queenie invokes this towards von Linden as she too was an interrogator.
  • Odd Couple: Maddie is a middle-class Jew from Stockport, and Queenie is a Scottish aristocrat.
  • Oh, Crap!: Queenie when she tells the French resistance girl being tortured in the room next to her to "just lie!" about the information the Gestapo are looking for, as it reveals that she herself lied about the wireless codes, and her actual mission in France.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Queenie only ever refers to herself by her nickname throughout her story, until the very end. However, subverted in Maddie's part of the story, where she refers to her friend exclusively by her actual name, Julie.
    • Queenie claims she never knew the real name of the agent she worked for, and only ever refers to him as the Machiavellian Intelligence Officer. Maddie reveals Julie actually did know his name, as did Maddie herself, although Maddie doesn't reveal his name either, referring to him as John Balliol, the Scottish king who William Wallace died defending.
  • Overt Rendezvous: Maddie and Anna Engel walk around Ormaie speaking English and discussing their plans to blow up the Ormaie Gestapo headquarters.
  • Plane Spotting: There are descriptions of military aircraft throughout the book.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Maddie.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Queenie is the Red to Maddie's Blue.
  • La Résistance: The Trope Namers are mentioned throughout the book, and Maddie and Queenie's mission was to deliver explosives to them. In Maddie's part of the story, she is taken in by a Resistance family, and essentially becomes a Resistance agent in her efforts to complete Julie's mission.
  • The Reveal: Maddie and Julie's mission wasn't to deliver wireless radios to the Resistance, it was to deliver explosives in order to destroy the Chateau De Bordeaux, and the occasionally underlined parts of Queenie's account are actually instructions for how to break inside long enough to set the charges.
  • Scheherezade Gambit: Queenie relies on this, knowing that she'll be kept alive to finish her report as long as von Linden continues to find it satisfactory.
  • Scrapbook Story: The novel is composed of Queenie's confession, Maddie's writing, and a few other letters and notes.
  • Shameful Strip: Part of Queenie's torture at the hands of von Linden.
  • Spotting the Thread: Queenie looked the wrong way when crossing the street, which made a German official suspect that she was British.
  • Spy Speak: Happens most notably when Queenie talks to Georgia Penn.
  • Survival Mantra: "FLY THE PLANE, MADDIE!"
  • Take It to the Bridge: The book's climax takes place at a bridge.
  • That's an Order!: Queenie to Maddie when they're firing an antiaircraft gun during an air raid.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Von Linden, a member of the SS, is a combination of the first type and the ninth type.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Maddie reveals in her section that a lot of what Julie wrote in hers was inaccurate, to say nothing of the fact that she lied about what her mission was in France.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Queenie isn't from Glasgow, and she can be quite refined, but when thrown into a corner she can and does fight in a rather undignified fashion.
    • Queenie makes an offhanded comment about a previous British POW who was the epitome of the Stiff Upper Lip trope, and how because of him her captors were legitimately shocked by how uncooperative she was.
  • Vulnerable Convoy: The Resistance attacks a bus transporting prisoners, including Julie.
  • Wham Line: So many. The one that supplies the final reveal: "Eleven code sets—eleven dummy code sets, ONE FOR EACH OF OUR DUMMY WIRELESSES..."
  • Wicked Cultured: Von Linden quotes (and possibly took his daughter's name from) an opera, appreciates the narrator writing her story in literary style, and takes the narrator's reference to a certain work as a recommendation to read it himself.
  • World War II: Set largely in Occupied France, with flashbacks to wartime England and Scotland.
  • Wrench Wench: Maddie.