I have read quite a few books about women pilots in recent months. I find this topic fascinating. For this post, I gathered books about early women aviators--1930s and earlier. (Find World War II aviators here.) These women are flying all over the world. Some are based on real-life women. Others are based on real historical events.
Flying in Kenya:
Circling the Sun is the story of Beryl Markham's youth. Coming of age after the First World War in Colonial Africa, Beryl chafes against the constraints of womanhood. Paula McLain transports her readers to another time and place with her lush language and engaging storytelling. I love reading about women who shirk convention, and Beryl is absolutely fascinating. Her resolution to carve a place for herself in a man's world, whether it be in horse-training or flight, makes for a terrific tale. Beryl, in Ms. McLean's hands, is a sympathetic character. She makes many mistakes and struggles just to survive in a world that wants her to be something she isn't.
It's 1922 and Grace Lafferty is the star wing walker of her uncle's ragtag flying circus. Grace is desperate to get the money needed to enter a aviation show in Chicago where the grand prize is a contract with a fledgling Hollywood studio. With a new mechanic on the team, Henry Patton, things seem to looking up. But, between the dangerous tricks, the old planes, and the over-zealous recruiting techniques of a rival team, nothing is a sure bet in the stunt flying business. Nothing But Sky is solid debut with great characters. Grace is full of determination, and Henry gives us a glimpse into the challenges World War I veterans faced. I love that Amy Trueblood tells the story of a woman wing walker. Out March 27th, 2018. Review copy from NetGalley.
Flying in Ethiopia:
Emilia and Teo's mothers were Black Dove, and White Raven--stunt flyers who dazzled audiences until Teo's mother died in a plane crash. Emilia's mother, determined to raise her best friend's son in a world that won't discriminate against him because of the color of his skin, takes the children to Ethiopia. Their peaceful existence is soon threatened. Italy has its eye set on Ethiopia. Emilia, Teo, and Rhoda will need all their wit and skill in the air to survive the Italian invasion. I loved this addition to Elizabeth Wein's Young Pilots Series. The setting in Black Dove, White Raven is so alive and the writing so rich. I loved learning about this moment in history from the eyes of these beautiful characters.
Flying with Lindbergh:
The Aviator's Wife is the story of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of Charles Lindbergh. Anne was an aviator and navigator herself and did much traveling with Charles in the early years of their marriage. Later in life she turned her attention to writing, receiving national acclaim for Gift from the Sea. In the novel, Anne has a strong voice and is a sympathetic character. However, I found myself wishing that Charles could be a more fully formed character. Charles is drawn so unsympathetically that it was hard for me to understand why Anne fell for him in the first place. I really liked learning about the Lindberghs through Melanie Benjamin's historical fiction account.
Flying in Damascus:
City of Jasmine stars aviatrix Evangeline Stark. She is on a tour of the seven seas in her airplane when she receives a mysterious photograph of her husband Gabriel Stark taken near Damascus. Everyone thought that Gabriel drowned with the Lusitania. Evie makes a detour from her tour to head to Damascus and put to rest her feelings for Gabriel once and for all. City of Jasmine is kind of cross between Indiana Jones, Lawrence of Arabia, and Amelia Earhart. My favorite part of the novel was the time spent in the Bedouin camp. One of the central issues of the book was the intervention of western Europe in the affairs of the Middle East and its outcomes.