Thursday, December 31, 2015

REVIEW: Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon

Flight of Dreams
by Ariel Lawhon

Publisher: Doubleday
Page Count: 336
Release Date: February 23, 2016
Format: Kindle

How got: ARC from NetGalley

First attention getter: exploration of little known history


From GoodReads:

With everyone onboard harboring dark secrets and at least one person determined to make sure the airship doesn't make the return trip, Flight of Dreams gives an utterly suspenseful, heart-wrenching explanation for one of the most enduring mysteries of the twentieth century.

On the evening of May 3, 1937, Emilie Imhof boards the Hindenburg. As the only female crew member, Emilie has access to the entire airship, from the lavish dining rooms and passenger suites to the gritty engine cars and control room. She hears everything, but with rumors circulating about bomb threats, Emilie's focus is on maintaining a professional air . . . and keeping her own plans under wraps.

What Emilie can't see is that everyone—from the dynamic vaudeville acrobat to the high-standing German officer—seems to be hiding something.
Giving free rein to countless theories of sabotage, charade, and mishap, Flight of Dreams takes us on the thrilling three-day transatlantic flight through the alternating perspectives of Emilie; Max, the ship's navigator who is sweet on her; Gertrud, a bold female journalist who's been blacklisted in her native Germany; Werner, a thirteen-year-old cabin boy with a bad habit of sneaking up on people; and a brash American who's never without a drink in his hand. Everyone knows more than they initially let on, and as the novel moves inexorably toward its tragic climax, the question of which of the passengers will survive the trip infuses every scene with a deliciously unbearable tension.
With enthralling atmospheric details that immediately transport and spellbinding plotting that would make Agatha Christie proud, Flight of Dreams will keep you guessing till the last page. And, as The New York Times Book Review said of her last novel, "This book is more meticulously choreographed than a chorus line. It all pays off."

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 5

It took me awhile to get into this book; we’re talking days to weeks to really get drawn in. I think it was the multitude of POVs. That took some getting used to. There also aspects of some of the relationships that seemed very sudden and overly melodramatic. Nothing will turn me off faster than melodrama. So why the five star rating you ask?

Let’s just say that after I finished, I had to take a moment to ponder the wonder I had just finished. The author is able to pull all those POVs into a cohesive whole, bringing to life one of the biggest unknown tragedies in history. I’ve met people today who have never heard of the Hindenburg; long less explored all its implications and human drama. I’m glad the author decided to explore this story.

I have to give kudos to the research that went into this book. The author brings the ship to life mechanically, to start with. Through various crew member POVs, we get to see how the ship was built, how it operated, the involved command structure, and how the very nature of the ship itself led to its doom.

She also pays as much attention to the personalities of the people involved. As the author’s notes mention, there aren’t any big biographies or works devoted to the people involved in the Hindenburg. She had to rely on sketchy background details and hints to personalities. I also really enjoyed the fact that Lawhon didn’t alter any fates; everyone who died, died or everyone who survived, survived in the book. Every character is a real person who was really there.

Lawhon takes the little known tidbits and creates characters as grand and vivid as the ship they flew in. Every single POV was rich with motivations, aspirations, dreams, and thoughts. I actually grew to love and enjoy the various POVS, making it an asset by book’s end rather than a liability that it was in the beginning.

All that melodrama and relationship stuff that was originally a burden actually turned into quite an asset. As the tension grew and grew closer to ship’s destruction, all those relationship woes turned into painful, tragic yet beautiful reminders of human life and existence as fire rained from the heavens. I think I got drawn into the lives of these characters more than I originally anticipated as by book’s end, I was actually crying.

The author has created a true gem of historical fiction in this work. She takes a dramatic story and makes it very human. By breathing life into little known people she does what historical fiction should do, bringing the past to life and making it very relatable to a modern audience. I loved her attention to detail; it paid off immensely in the emotional impact at book’s end. So I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s a true treasure of historical fiction and I look forward to exploring more by this author.

Note: Book received for free from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for honest review.

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