Friday, 13 April 2018

The Wild Air - Rebecca Mascull

We are nearing the end of a four year remembrance period for WW1. Reading this book, I found it an excellent way to learn about a small part of that war as well as the early days of flight. Of interest to me as my father's only cousin and "best pal" was a flier in the RFC (Royal Flying Corps) and lost his life in that war.  

This book covers a period from the turn of the 20th century until 1920 or so, and is the story of Della, a quiet mousey child, beloved by Ma, dismissed by Pa (after all, she is just another girl) and is "lost" until the return of Aunt Betty from North Carolina where she lived for many years. Whilst there she saw the early fights of the Wright Brothers, and because she can see Della's worth, takes her under her wing and teaches her the rudiments of flight by building kites with her, to fly along the beaches of Lincolnshire. As Betty has some money, she pays for flying lessons, and up there in the sky, Della finds her true self.  A fascinating section of the book shows her at air shows, here and in Europe (plenty of aviatrixes then) making some money, and knowing that flying is what she wants to do for all of her life.                                                                              
 And then WW1 arrives.  Women will not become fliers for their country.  They need to be at home, keeping the home fires burning. People die, hearts are broken, and the best Della can do is to be a motor mechanic working for a woman who's husband and son are both at war.  And there is a marvellous love story here too, for those who like them, though it does not detract from the tale but only enhances it.  And - there is just one big adventure still to come.  

A wonderful book with a female heroine - and heroine she is, learning to fly when women should know their place, which is at home and certainly not in the skies . Don't forget the Author's Notes, where she points out how few female pilots there are, even in  2017.  She also has lots of info about avaitrixes at the time depicted in the book.   Research for this? Impeccable. Knitting this together with fiction? Fabulous.

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