A new month, a new review for Barrie Summy’s Book Review Club. My reading lately has been a little choppy. Lots going on and reading opportunities are coming in little snatches. So, in some ways, my April pick was perfect. May I present (ahem, review…) Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon.
On the evening of May 3rd, 1937, ninety-seven people board the Hindenburg for its final, doomed flight to Lakehurst, New Jersey. Among them are a frightened stewardess who is not what she seems; the steadfast navigator determined to win her heart; a naive cabin boy eager to earn a permanent spot on the world’s largest airship; an impetuous journalist who has been blacklisted in her native Germany; and an enigmatic American businessman with a score to settle. Over the course of three hazy, champagne-soaked days their lies, fears, agendas, and hopes for the future are revealed.
Flight of Dreams is a fiercely intimate portrait of the real people on board the last flight of the Hindenburg. Behind them is the gathering storm in Europe and before them is looming disaster. But for the moment they float over the Atlantic, unaware of the inexorable, tragic fate that awaits them.
I will admit that it took me a little while to really get into this book. As I mentioned above, I really wasn’t dedicating my full concentration to the story, and I think you need to, particularly at the beginning. Right out of the gate, Ms. Lawhon is immersing you in the Hindenburg experience. All manner of people are scurrying around, interacting, while at the same time, absorbed in their own thoughts and problems and secrets. Because everyone (more or less) has a secret. And each mini chapter is designated by the label of its focus: The Stewardess, The Cabin Boy, the Journalist, etc. The beautiful thing about this book is that, much like a well-crafted mystery, all of those characters, and all of those secrets slowly–over the course of three days on a flying airship–become entwined, to create a desperate, suspenseful climax.
But beyond the mystery lies the backdrop of history–the true events of the “flight of dreams.” I can’t claim to have known the real historical details of this flight–but I was truly fascinated (and even more impressed) when I read the Author’s Note, in which Ms. Lawhon held her story up against reality. Flight of Dreams is built on a solid foundation of nervous tension. Hitler has already begun his persecution of Jews, and Europe is tumbling inexorably toward war. And even if the reader is unaware of the outcome of this luxury trip from Germany to New Jersey, Lawhon drops sinister hints early on: Something explosive is going to happen. This book is a powder keg, ready to blow.
It didn’t take long before I was hooked. I wanted to see how the romance would play out between the two crew members, I wanted to know the story behind the American’s diabolical determination, I wanted to know what sort of trouble the twitchy, feisty journalist was going to get into it–and with whom! And while this wasn’t (almost certainly) the real story of this Hindenburg flight–but it COULD have been. And I’m quite sure that in future, when a reference to the Hindenburg crosses my path, I will remember these characters and the interactions Ms. Lawhon imagined for them as real.
Recommended for fans of historical mysteries, fiction set between the World Wars, suspense novels, character-driven novels, or a solid good read.
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