I spent the summer of 2018 writing my master’s dissertation on the women who flew military planes for the USA and Great Britain during the Second World War. I had been inspired by Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity as her book introduced me to Great Britain’s Air Transport Auxiliary, but until I started my research, I had never heard of the United States’ Women’s Airforce Service Pilots. So, when fewer than six months after I finished my dissertation and my sister handed me an advance copy of The Flight Girls I was simultaneously shocked and delighted that the WASP program would now be introduced to many more people as the women I learned about deserved so much more recognition for their actions during the war.
From the Back Cover:
1941. Audrey Coltrane has always wanted to fly. It’s why she implored her father to teach her at the little airfield back home in Texas. It’s why she signed up to train military pilots in Hawaii when the war in Europe began. And it’s why she insists she is not interested in any dream-derailing romantic involvement, even with the disarming Lieutenant James Hart, who fast becomes a friend as treasured as the women she flies with. Then one fateful day, she gets caught in the air over Pearl Harbor just as the bombs begin to fall, and suddenly, nowhere feels safe.
To make everything she’s lost count for something, Audrey joins the Women Airforce Service Pilots program. The bonds she forms with her fellow pilots reignite a spark of hope in the face of war, and – especially when James goes missing in action – give Audrey the strength to cross the front lines and fight for everything she holds dear.
Shining a light on a little-known piece of history, The Flight Girls is a sweeping portrayal of women’s fearlessness in the face of adversity, and the power of friendship to make us soar.
The strongest part, and my favorite aspect of this book, is the friendships between the women and how supportive they are of each other. Too often, books persist in the belief that women are catty towards each other and will always be fighting over a man. The Flight Girls is far more realistic in its portrayal that women just want their friends to be happy and be there for each other through both good and bad times.
The story and writing are best when focusing on the friendship among the women and the reader feels the joys and heartbreaks of Audrey as she forms these bonds and then, due to the inevitability of war, loses some of them. It was this aspect of the book that kept me from getting too frustrated in the middle section as it floundered a bit with a half-hearted attempt at causing drama in the romance aspect of the story. The main romantic plot of the story is well executed, but (without giving aways spoilers for the book) some of the romantic based tension in the middle of the book was not necessary and did not add to the overall story.
Despite my feelings about that one aspect, the book was still a delight and I wholeheartedly recommend it. I believe it would make the women of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots proud. It conveyed their story – hardships, joys, sorrows, and everything in between admirably, and it was a pleasure to read.
Rating: 8 out of 10 stars
Where to Buy
In the USA, I recommend purchasing through BookShop or your local independent, in the UK, and many other parts of the world, I recommend Blackwell’s, and if neither of those cover where you live, I recommend checking out your local booksellers! Independent bookstores are vital parts of every local community and I wholly endorse supporting your local stores versus Amazon.