Why I Read It: Jacqueline Carey (one of my all-time favorite authors) recommended it in an Q&A session.
Where I Got It: The library.
Who I Recommend This To: Folks interested in women pilots, WWII, Nazi prisoners, women spies.
Publisher: Hyperion Books (2012)
Length: 343 pages
Maddie Brodatt loves to tinker with anything mechanical. Her first love is a motorbike that she keeps in good running order. Then one day she is witness to a small plane crash, and she pulls the pilot out of it and discovers the pilot is female. From that point on, her goal is to become a pilot. Eventually, she becomes part of the ATA (Air Taxi Auxiliary) ferrying broken planes and passengers around England. She also spent time as a wireless operator. During that time she met her best friend. Now her best friend doesn’t get a real name until halfway through the book, so I will use her nickname, Queenie, here in this review so as not to spoil anything.
This book is told in two parts, each through the writings, almost a diary of each of these ladies. The book opens with the writings of Queenie as she writes out her traitorous confession to the Nazis, who have captured her. Quickly it becomes apparent that she was on a spying mission when captured. But then she takes us back in time to tell us about Maddie and how she became a pilot. The second half of the book is told through Maddie’s writings as she puts together her reports for her English superiors.
This book was so intense, I did not want to put it down. I instantly connected with Queenie as she was so desperate and beaten down in her circumstances. The entire book I wanted things to miraculously change for the better for her. As she described Maddie and her life as a pilot, I became very attached to the both of them. Their friendship came about in an unusual way as they are from different classes. In fact, that was one minor point made in the book – how WWII started the break down of the class differences in England as all sorts of folks mingled together in their war efforts. Elizabeth Wein wove together enough fact in this historical fiction to make me believe that a story like this actually took place.
Even though there was heart break in this book, I truly wanted to read it all over again as soon as I completed it. It was simply written, yet so full of human spirit that it captivated me. While the story focuses on these two women, there are other men and women who play significant roles that coalesced the story into perfection for me. Even if you have never had an interest in WWII fiction, this is an excellent read. If you have a heartbeat, then this book will grab a hold of you and hold you close until the very end.
Wht I Liked: Lead women without all the pomp; WWII pilots; espionage story; the description of the Nazi torture methods was absolutely chilling; the continued resistance of the British, English, and even some Germans was inspiring.
What I Disliked: Not a dislike per se, but I would have enjoyed a few notes from some of the key Nazis to get their perspective.