Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wings: A Novel of World War II Flygirls (Review)

Title: Wings: A Novel of World War II Flygirls
Author: Karl Friedrich
Publication Information: McBrooks Press, hardcover, 2011, ISBN 978-1-59013-570-9
Genre: Historical Fiction

Plot: Sally Ketchum was taught to fly by a man called Tex, who brought love and excitement into her dreary life in Texas before he died in a fluke crash, which she survived. When World War II creates a need for women pilots, Tex’s aviation lessons enable Sally to escape the poverty and misery of her home by joining the U.S. military’s Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program. Although she turns out to be one of the most gifted pilots (and better than some of the instructors!), various men plot against the success of the WASP program and against Sally, in particular. Ira Waterman, a high powered Washington lawyer, has been authorized to shut down WASP. In a different type of book he would be won over by these determined and patriotic women and doubtless become the hero, but this is not a romance. Waterman is a bitter and unbalanced man who becomes Sally’s worst enemy. However, Sally grimly overcomes every obstacle put in her way and as she gains confidence she will do whatever it takes to make flying her career.

What I liked: I have always been fascinated by women’s contribution to war, so the plot of the book appealed to me right away. The author brings to life all the details of the WASP training from the hideous, badly fitting clothes to the exhilaration these women feel when they are flying, and how little the US military values their dedication and service. However, the book most comes alive when Sally’s friend Dixie appears. Dixie is an ex-model of flexible morals and has all the sophistication that Sally lacks – she tells Sally she’s the daughter of a man who could sell ice to Eskimos. Behind her brash personality, Dixie is a surprisingly loyal friend to Sally, when she’s not sneaking out for illicit rendezvous with men the WASPS are forbidden to socialize with. Both mature over the course of the book, and I hope the author is planning a sequel as readers will be eager to know what happens to them next.

What I didn’t like: The book is very dark. Three years after the tragic death of the man she loved, Sally is still recovering, and she is wary and, for much of the book, lacking in confidence. While conveyed realistically, this made it hard to embrace her as a character. The irrational hatred of Ira Waterman and his vendetta against Sally became somewhat ridiculous but it was comforting that some of the dour men assigned to work with the WASPS take her side against him.

Recommendation: Fans of vivid historical fiction, of WWII settings, and of coming of age novels will enjoy this novel as much as I did. And you’ll love the beautiful cover! 4.4/5. Source: I received this book from TLC Book Tours, which you can visit to find other stops on the tour. I have one copy to give away - please leave a comment if you'd like it! If there's more than one request, I will do a lottery.