Back in January I was gifted a subscription by the Rare Birds Book Club and was kindly sent their monthly pick, The Wild Air. I’ll be honest I hadn’t heard of the author Rebecca Mascull before I received the book and having read the blurb realised I probably wouldn’t have chosen the book for myself. This however is one of the aims of the book club, to introduce subscribers to books they may not have heard of before, in my case successfully achieved!
In Edwardian England, aeroplanes are a new, magical invention, while female pilots are rare indeed.
When shy Della Dobbs meets her Mother’s aunt, her life changes forever. Great Auntie Betty has come home from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, across whose windswept dunes the Wright Brothers tested their historic flying machines. Della develops a burning ambition to fly and Betty is determined to help her.
But the Great War is coming and it threatens to destroy everything – and everyone – Della loves.
Set in Cleethorpes in the early 20th Century this story follows introvert Della Dobbs. As the third daughter in her family she is expected, as women were, to marry and have a family, however when her Great Aunt returns from America to live with them her dreams and ambitions are ignited, and the course of her life changed. Aunt Betty is a head-strong lady much different to any other Della has encountered in her life and despite warnings from her overbearing Father Della forms a strong bond with her.
Having regaled Della with tales of the Wright Brothers early flying machines Betty offers the support and encouragement for Della to hone her skill and talent for making and fixing things and together they begin designing and making intricate kites to fly on the beach. It’s here that they meet Dudley Willow for the first time, a quiet 15yr old boy who has a keen interest in aviation the pair form a strong friendship over their shared interests. Over the subsequent years Della and Dud exchange letters cementing their friendship.
With Betty’s financial and emotional support Della steps into the ‘man’s world’ of aviation, however she must deal with the sexist attitudes and prejudices of the male pilots at every turn. Against all the odds she follows her dreams and gains her pilots licence, becoming one of a small number of Aviatrix’s at the time. Living the dream Della travels all over Europe flying and competing, that is until the declaration of war which sees her grounded and returning home to the life she thought she had left behind. With her beloved brother Puck and best friend Dud called up to fight in the war she is left behind with nothing to do but wait for news….. We can gain a real insight into warfare and the effects that is had on the soldier’s during this latter part of the book, it is so well written it drew me in and I truly felt like I was there and could envisage the scenes Mascull described.
Historical novels aren’t my usual genre, however this one is amazing I just didn’t want it to end – despite wanting to see what happened in the end! With well written believable characters this book sends a fantastic message to women out there to be strong, like Della and Betty, and to follow your dreams even if the odds seem to be stacked against you.
This is a superb story about family, relationships, love and overcoming the odds with a strong female heroine at its heart. I fell in love with this book and was so enthralled I found it hard to put down. Not only that the historical detail the author has researched to produce this novel is immense. There is a whole chapter at the back of Author’s Note’s explaining that factual details about the planes of the era were used throughout, real places of the time in Cleethorpes were used and that real-life Aviatrixes are featured. Meaning not only have I had the joy of experiencing a top-notch story, but I have also gained some historical knowledge along the way, how fantastic!
You can buy The Wild Air from Amazon..
We were gifted this book as part of a subscription, however all thoughts and opinions expressed are our own.