Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Experience the Life of Barn Stormers in The Flying Circus by @SusanCrandall

The Flying CircusThe 1920s was not only about bootleggers and flappers; it was a time for barnstormers in their Jennies. Aviation was changing. Curtiss Wright was doing his thing, making better engines, planning for the future: commercial flight. Records were being made and broken.

I wanted to read this novel because of its heroine: Cora Rose Haviland, a socialite turned daredevil wing walker. As far as heroines go, she doesn't disappoint. She rides around on a motorcycle, jumps it through hoops of fire, gives men what for, and all this with a cute little dog in tow. Though fictional, she could be any number of women who really existed, like Mabel Cody, or Blanche Stuart Scott.

The story is really focused on a young man named Henry though, a German forced by a prejudiced society to deny his heritage. It's just after The Great War and emotions are still running high. Though in third person POV, it follows solely Henry. I disliked this method of narrative. I had expected that the story would follow all three of them equally, perhaps alternating POVs, giving equal page time.

Henry is on the run from the law for reasons not revealed to us fully until the end, so I will say no more about that. He's an insightful young man though who is an aircraft mechanic and pilot (after he meets Gil). I liked him, but for a main character, he's very subdued, rather "overcome" by the other two characters.

Gil is a former WWI pilot who flew reconnaissance. He has no interest in doing a flying circus and both Henry and Cora rather force the whole thing on him. In my opinion, he's the most sympathetic character. Cora, while I loved her, got on my nerves at times. She goes from brave to stupid rather quickly. I wish the novel had had alternating POVs so that perhaps we could have gotten in her head and found out what exactly was motivating her to be this way. Her brief bits of explanation to Henry, I simply found unsatisfactory.

These three travel town to town, promoting, flying, coming up with stunts--and in Henry's case, safety features--drinking, saving lives, being hit by tornadoes, all kinds of things. And unavoidably, there is a love triangle, though I don't feel there's any real romance in this. The triangle is brief and feelings are never fully reciprocated at the same time, not until the very end. Cora seems to "love" the one who's there or more exciting at the moment. I don't feel this should be in the romance category (which is where Amazon Vine placed it).

It addresses many issues though as well as fully immerses readers into the early days of aviation: shell shock, shame, prejudice, and just what makes a person "free". It's a fun book; the characters grow on you (the reader), and the story will not quickly leave your mind after you're done, like most books nowadays. There's a lot of uniqueness within its pages. And the ending was well done.

I received this ARC via Amazon Vine. Quote may not be exact in the the final printing.

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