It seems I’ve run into a string of WWII era novels of late but I never tire of them, especially those featuring the brave women who did their part in the war effort and those who gave their all and paid the ultimate price. “The Flight Girls” by Noelle Salazar zeroes in on Audrey Coltrane who earned her wings at the tender age of 14 at her father’s small airfield in Texas. All she’s ever wanted is to fly and hopefully, one day buy a little airfield back in Texas and build it into something better. So when the war breaks out in Europe she signs up to train military pilots in Hawaii.
As a military flight instructor Audrey had the opportunity to fly all types of aircraft; single and twin engines, transports, cargo planes, and even the fighter models. Audrey had the good fortune to be flying on December 7, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked, for had she been on base, she most likely would not have survived as the airfields were brutally strafed and she would probably have been on the flight line.
When the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) was formed Audrey was in the first group to sign up. The varied aircraft she had flown gave her a leg up on many of her compatriots but they all helped each other in the areas they needed. It was a true sisterhood. However, her male counterparts were frequently scornful, often disrespectful and disbelieving that “mere women” would be taking to the air in “their” planes. Audrey and her sky sisters had to fight for recognition and respect for their skills but the WASPS hung in there doing their jobs, working harder and longer, training and re-training, many times with better results than the men.
Ms Salazar has breathed life into these remarkable women and the bonds of friendship that formed between them. Those friendships were forged with the steel from their spines and further tempered by their courage. A touch of romance was added by the presence of Lt. Hart but it never took over the story. It was a meaningful love interest in Audrey’s life but never the focus. In fact, neither of them were interested in a “relationship”. Or so they said.
The author does a good job playing up the camaraderie of the group, letting little tidbits of each personality shine through while Audrey relates the narrative in first person. The emotional depth of this story is compelling and if there’s anything I could change it would be to discourage the use of redundant phrasing (drop down, stoop down, etc) and eliminating trite phrases such as “with every fiber of my being”. There are so many fresher ways to say that you want or believe deeply in something or someone. The English language is as rich as a mine that never plays out. Why waste it on stale, overused phrases? Four and a half stars.
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