Female aviators are one of the focuses of this blog. So when I won a copy of Crossing The Horizon by Laurie Notaro from Goodreads, I knew that I'd be reviewing it for Flying High Reviews. This novel deals with three women who wanted to be the first to fly across the Atlantic. All three really existed. Two of them were female aviators. We know that Amelia Earhart is credited with having been the first woman to have accomplished this goal. So why should readers invest their time in a book about women who were also rans? Well, I was interested in the stories of the two women who could fly a plane.
As far as I'm concerned, the aviator protagonists were the only ones who counted. They were British Elsie Mackay and American Ruth Elder. I absolutely loved both of them. Elsie was a courageous rebel against the expectations of her aristocratic family. Ruth was a pragmatic survivor who could have made a success at any career given the opportunity.
Unfortunately, it seems to me that the third woman included weakened the book. Not only couldn't she fly a plane, but pilots refused to work with her. Frankly, I think that Crossing The Horizon viewpoint character Mabel Boll had a personality disorder, and that she didn't belong in this novel. Wanting to be the first woman to fly across the Atlantic isn't enough. I might want to be the first woman to fly to Mars, but I have no space training or any skills relevant to such a mission. So I wouldn't expect NASA to accomodate me. At the time, flying across the Atlantic was just as dangerous as a flight to Mars would be now. Mabel Boll was also surplus weight. An extra fuel tank would have been more valuable for an Atlantic flight than a passenger who couldn't pilot the plane in an emergency. Notaro thinks that Boll provided comic relief, but I found her an irritant. I am not the only one who thinks so. I've encountered other reviews from readers who could have done without Mabel Boll.
Although Amelia Earhart's 1928 transatlantic flight made Elsie Mackay's and Ruth Elder's 1927 attempts seem irrelevant, Notaro does point out in an interview that Earhart was a passenger on that flight. Amelia Earhart's solo flight across the Atlantic in 1932 was much more significant for the history of aviation. Yet it seems to me that Elsie Mackay particularly ought to be honored for her flight because not only was she an actual pilot of the plane, her east-west transatlantic attempt was more challenging. It wasn't until 1936 that Beryl Markham managed to become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in the east-west direction.
I feel that it was important for me to learn about the existence of Elsie Mackay and Ruth Elder through the pages of Crossing The Horizon. I'm glad that Laurie Notaro chose to remember them in her first historical novel.