This is one of those books you want to read while knowing the least possible amount about the content. If you do know more, it won't ruin the book, since I think the book will stand up well to multiple readings, but it is a spy narrative.
As a note, potential trigger warnings for oblique interrogation details, along with wartime violence.
For people who want to know more, this book has amazing female friendship (SO SLASHY), excellent characters, Nazis in WWII who are genuinely terrifying and prosaic at the same time, plots within plots, and given how in love I was with stories about the French Resistance in WWII, this would have been my absolute favoritest book EVAR EVAR EVAR if I had read it as a kid.
Not that it isn't a favorite now, but younger me probably would have made up stories and fic and enacted key scenes and made her friends play different parts and such.
SPOILERS LIEK WHOA
I picked up on some of the things fairly quickly, such as the underlining indicating important tactical bits. But I remembered being confused when I started reading; I didn't quite believe the narrator was a captured spy or had been tortured that badly because of how breezy the narration felt. And Julie never quite lets the reader know just how bad it is, even when I figured out that she was somehow secretly signaling to the radio reporter lady.
But mostly just... Oh Julie. Oh Maddie. I didn't believe Julie was dead until the book had ended without her magically being saved, just because she couldn't be dead. Not like that, not after everything.
I love how Julie writes about herself as Queenie, the way she deliberately uses markers of stereotypical femininity to get both her readers in the text and her readers as in us to underestimate her. And the best part of it is, she's not lying, not really. She is, in many ways, the upper-class Scottish lady, but what makes her so good is that it's not all she is. I have noodling thoughts about performative femininity and the difference (if there is one) between our roles and who we are.
And the best bit is, instead of only having one model of a female character, we get the wonderful interplay between Julie and Maddie. Maddie's section of the narrative was less fun for me to read, largely because Maddie doesn't have the same need or desire for narrative flair that Julie does. But I love also how steady and steadfast she is, I love the difference between how she sees herself and how Julie sees her.
I also heart Anna Engel, who was completely unexpected to me.
I don't really have a conclusion, since my main reaction is to flail and wave my hands and tell people to read it so I can talk about it with them. But this is definitely on the "best books I've read in 2012" list, and I knew it even though I finished it back in May.
(all links go to the day post to preserve spoiler cuts)
- skygiants' review
- musesfool's review
- rachelmanija's review (no spoilers in post or comments)
Assume spoilers in comments!
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