Sunday, July 17, 2011

Velva Jean Learns to Fly by Jennifer Niven

Velva Jean Learns to Fly: A NovelFirst of all, I didn't read the first one, Velva Jean Learns to Drive. There was nothing in a premise about a girl learning to drive a truck and sing in the Grand Ole Opry that appealed to me. However, I must read any women in aviation book I can get my hands on, especially concerning the WASP, the Women Air Service Pilots. So I got my hands on this one thanks to LibraryThing and despite the fact I didn't know much about Johnny Clay, Harley, or the history of Velva Jean, I loved it. 

The book begins with a Velva Jean driving her yellow truck away from her husband and family. She don't like being tied down. She's not cut out to be a preacher's wife... she has dreams that extend beyond her little town. She's gonna make it big in Nashville and sing. She thinks, however, that a business card given to her long ago is gonna lead to fame and fortune, but the entire city of Nashville is filled with wanna be country singers... Velva Jean doesn't make it big, but she makes some terrific friends while trying to.

And then thanks to her brother is going to be a paratrooper and head off to war, she learns to fly and her dreams of being a singer are replaced for the moment with dreams of being a pilot. And she joins the WASP despite the fact she never made it past 8th grade and is only 19 years old. She excells, she flys to Mexico for a quickie divorce, she finds love again only to lose it, she makes friends and watches them die... and she sings the entire time even if there is no one there to hear her. 

Velva Jean is a remarkable character. She has thoughts that make me stop and think myself.. and ponder things I've never pondered before. Like the blues....

"Right now I had the kind (of blues) he (Daddy Hoyt) called the Gentle and Wholesome Blues-not the type, like the Mean Devil Blues, that made you kick the door or break someone's window. The Gentle ones were quieter, but they were just about the worst kind because they sat around you and on you and in you, just like a headache or a bad winter cold, and wouldn't leave you alone."

Or being told you can't do something...

"If there was one thing I hated in this world, it was folks who told you that you couldn't do something. That was worse than being told you shouldn't do it. I knew she meant well, but a person had to believe in herself even when no one else did."

The baggage we carry...

"The more things that happened to me, the more I thought it was like carrying a suitcase-you kept adding things to it.........You just started adding these things to your suitcase until the case got heavier. You still had to carry it around wherever you went, and even if you set it down for a while you still had to pick it up again because it belonged to you and so did everything inside it."

I felt myself growing up with Velva Jean. I only have quibble, but not a big enough quibble to take away a single star. Velva Jean ends up on the cover of Life magazine. Though I know this is historical fiction, I felt this was kinda wrong cause every WASP fan knows that Shirley Slade was on the cover of that magazine and I kinda felt that putting VJ in her spot wasn't right. It's not Velva Jean's accomplishment, but Shirley Slade's. 

Favorite quotes:

"Some fellas have a hard time with the fact that women can do the same thing they can, and better even."

"Women pilots are a weapon waiting to be used."

"When it comes down to it these women are perfectly capable of flying combat missions. After all, when aroused, women make the nastiest fighters."

Hell yea!!!!! 


  1. Thank you so much for this wonderful review! I'm happy you enjoyed the book and that you like Velva Jean. This is especially lovely to hear right now as I work on book three in the series (in which she learns to spy...). Thank you for making my day! :)

    Jennifer Niven

  2. Oh! I'm going to have to read that one as well. I love woman spies! I will be on the look out for the third installment.