When ferrying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet Rose Justice is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbruck, the notorious women's concentration camp. There she meets an unforgettable group of women, including a once glamorous French novelist whose Jewish husband and three young sons have been killed; a resilient young Polish girl who had been used as a human guinea pig by Nazi doctors; and a female fighter pilot and military ace for the Soviet air force.---from the book jacketThere are so many books about the horrors of WWII it seems like I should know it all by now. But apparently that is not the case. I knew that Nazi doctors experimented on people but I had no idea what kind of experiments they did. In Rose Under Fire we meet several of the "Lapins" which means rabbits in French. They were the 70+ Polish girls on which the Nazi doctors conducted gruesome experiments. The reader learns for example some of the things they did were to cut out pieces of the victims' bones and transplant new bone fragments from cadavers, or inject gangrene botulism into their private parts. Horrible, mortifying stuff. Though Rose Under Fire is a fictional account, the events in the book really happened.
Visit Elizabeth Wein's webpage. She has a lot of additional information about Ravensbruck, her visit to the concentration camp in 2012, female pilots working in the war effort, and more about the experiments done on the "Rabbits". I followed most of the links and learned even more about events covered in the book. I would recommend reading the book first then visiting all the web pages to augment your learning. Plus, that way the story will unfold for you as it was intended.
Rose Under Fire recently won the 2014 Schneider Family Book Award which is given to outstanding books dealing with the topic of living with a disability. It took me a while to appreciate what the committee members were thinking when they selected this book as their winner because it is so clearly about war. But once the story of the "Lapins" unfolds it becomes evident that they are certainly good examples of how one can live and eventually thrive in spite of a disability.
The main character, Rose Justice, writes poetry about her experiences in the camp. Women were starved for beauty, for the Arts, and so many women would memorize and repeat her poems to others. I really loved this part of the story, that the importance of The Arts in our lives was emphasized. On this teacher's resource guide: Remembering Ravensbruck, Women and the Holocaust (Kennesaw State University) there is a lesson on poetry and another on holocaust art.
I listened to the audiobook of Rose Under Fire read by Sasha Pick. She did a remarkable job handling the accents from all over Europe and the United States. I think she had to be a verbal magician to handle an American, a Scottish, a Polish, a French, and a German accent with correct pronunciation of all the words. And she did it so seamlessly. I know I say this often, but this was the perfect format with which to consume this book since there are so many foreign words used.
I had a dickens of a time starting this book. It sat on my night stand for nearly three months. Then I reread my review of Code Name Verity and I had the same problem starting that books. But once I got going, watch out. I couldn't consume it fast enough. I highly recommend this book with the caveat that you might have to muscle through the first 50 pages or so before the story really takes off. It is worth the effort.
Wein, Elizabeth. Rose Under Fire. Brilliance Audio, 2013. CD.
Wein, Elizabeth. Rose under Fire. New York: Hyperion, 2013. Print.