One of my friends stumbled upon this book (and two others in the series), and knowing I’m writing a historical novel about a female bush pilot, she lent them to me. I have a feeling my Sally will be a big fan of them!
In this book, the first in the Linda Carlton series, the protagonist of the title learns to fly, gets her own plane, and saves several of the men in her life from arrest and death. She may be a sweet and polite society girl, but she knows her own mind.
Definitely a dime-novelesque story of its time, this book was published in the early 1930s. But what is so great, is that it is an adventure story for girls in an era when so many books – and society generally – didn’t always think it appropriate for women to fly planes and be the hero. It makes me so happy to think of young women picking up this book several generations ago and being inspired to be a pilot or follow their career dreams – over an unquestioned march into marriage after high school.
My friend gave me this book awhile back and while the cover immediately grabbed me, and I’d heard great things about the author, I didn’t pull it off the shelf until last week. I’m glad I did!
This was a wonderful, odd little book. It follows a young couple on their wedding day in a small seaside town in England in the 1960s. The main tension is about their unconsummated relationship and their individual, unspoken worries about the wedding night. There are some flashbacks to give us their back stories (childhoods, courtship, etc) but the focus is small – two people, one place, a short period of time – and it is mostly the narrator “telling” in expository prose. Nevertheless, in McEwan’s expert hands, it works. I really enjoyed this book but gave it four stars instead of five because I found the ending didn’t quite satisfy me. But given the topic of the book and the way that wedding night plays out, maybe it wasn’t supposed to!
The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
I had read an excerpt of this book in O magazine a couple of years back and remember being fascinated, but life got in the way of me tracking the book down. Then, in a a book universe twist of fate, I saw a well-worn paperback copy on the shelf in my friend’s guest room in Yellowknife in September when I was there to launch my book. I started reading it there and was completely hooked and luckily my friend had already read it and released it to my care. I kept reading it through my travels to Whitehorse and back home to Edmonton, where I may have neglected my family a bit to finish it.
This is one of the best books I have ever read – full stop. I was captivated by the narrative, dialogue, and the honesty of Skloot and the people she wrote about in this creative nonfiction look at the life of one woman, Henrietta Lacks, and the immortal cells her cancer provided for the world. The author adeptly shows how intertwined race, science, medicine, ethics, and culture are – and how we as writers are part of the story of every article, book, or piece we create. Skloot’s empathy is palpable for all the people involved but she never lets anyone off the hook for their actions (including herself). It’s no wonder this has received so many accolades; they are all richly deserved.
I met Elinor Florence online through a mutual acquaintance months before her book was released by Dundurn this year – the same publisher that just put out my latest book. We hit it off and ended up doing two ‘War Birds’ events in Red Deer on Remembrance Day weekend, where we traded copies of our books. It’s been sitting on my to-read pile ever since, and I finally got to it this past week. As is often the case with books, it was perfect timing.
It seems like several key points of this sweeping, World War II-era novel take place around Christmas and New Year’s, and I certainly appreciated my family, friends and the peace and plenty that surrounds me as the book’s narrator and protagonist, Rose Joliffe, experiences the horrors and privations of war.
Florence, who has decades of journalism and editing work to her credit, really knows how to bring Rose’s story to life. Rose starts out in a small Saskatchewan town called Touchwood working for the local newspaper. She has just graduated from high school and is naïve, idealistic, but smart as a whip. She is determined to join up and so goes overseas to be part of the Royal Air Force and is quickly assigned to the photographic interpretation section where her skills and intuition prove invaluable. Unfortunately, her instincts fail her a bit when it comes to her dashing superior officer.
While I wanted to take her by the shoulders and give her a good shake sometimes, I really rooted for Rose, and by the end of the book she – like so many who lived through the war – is changed, in many ways for the better. She certainly doesn’t take anything for granted in life and love, and I think she, along with the reader, is reassured by humanity’s amazing resilience in the face of tragedy.
I was very moved by this heartwarming novel, and Florence is an excellent writer whose clear storytelling really pulls you along. I disappeared into the book for hours at a time and stayed up too late on more than one night reading it, but it was worth it.
The holidays are here and I’m feeling extra merry, so I wanted to share a free download of my first book, For the Love of Flying for the next few days! Please click on this link to be taken to the PDF and feel free to share the URL with your friends and family. (Please note: I had to make the images low-to-medium resolution for file size)