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The Wild Air

The Wild Air

Blurb

The Wild Air is about a young girl named Della Dobbs whose whole life is changed when her Great Aunt Betty comes to stay with them from America.

Della has always been somewhat of an outsider in her family and feels like she is plain, uninteresting and has no skills. Aunt Betty shows her quite how wrong she is.

Through Aunt Betty Della discovers a love of building kites which gradually builds into a love of aeroplanes and the desire to be an aviatrix.

Della doesn’t count on the resistance she will face from her own family and from men in the profession. Just as it seems that Della is making progress War comes along and interrupts everything she has worked so hard for.


Our Review

I have been looking forward to reading The Wild Air since I heard Rebecca Mascull talk about it at Newark Book Festival earlier in the year. Unfortunately, my pile of book I want to read on my bookcase is enormous so it took me until now to find time to read it and then it was only because I was going to hear her talk again last night.

Some of the things covered in last night's talk had been covered at Newark Book Festival but a lot of the information was new. I loved hearing about the process she goes through when she is writing a book and about the various methods of research she uses. I found myself thinking whilst I was listening to her how lucky her students are because she really knows how to make a topic come alive. 

The prologue of The Wild Air is set in 1918 and features the first of many vivid descriptions of what it is like to fly.

“I’m not going to die here”, she said.

Della talked aloud to herself. She did that when it was marvelous and she revelled in the complete wonder of flying, the secret joy of it, or when it was bad. When the mist came down or the wind got up something terrible and she was fighting the weather in order to come back alive.”

I loved Rebecca Mascull’s writing style from the beginning and once I started reading it I couldn’t put it down.

The Wild Air is about a young girl named Della Dobbs whose whole life is changed when her Great Aunt Betty comes to stay with them from America.

Della has always been somewhat of an outsider in her family and feels like she is plain, uninteresting and has no skills. Aunt Betty shows her quite how wrong she is.

“Auntie Betty arrived in the first week of 1909, a cold, crackle-foot day when the sea was sorely vexed with the land.”

Through Aunt Betty Della discovers a love of building kites which gradually builds into a love of aeroplanes and the desire to be an aviatrix.

Della doesn’t count on the resistance she will face from her own family and from men in the profession. Just as it seems that Della is making progress War comes along and interrupts everything she has worked so hard for.

Della is probably one of my favourite characters from any book I have read this year. Perhaps because one of the initial descriptions of her could have easily fit me at her age:

“It was true she was taciturn, unlike her family, who talked incessantly, all over and under and inside each other’s conversations, fighting for sound-space, until her poor head throbbed with it.”

Another character I found intriguing was Della’s father. A man who had once been well-known on the theatre circuit and was larger than life until a car accident reduced him to a shadow of his formed self. A man characterised largely by his absence from family life other than to impose a cloud over his family.

“He was a bear in his cage, was reduced to his rage, had only rage left in him.”

Della’s father disapproves of Auntie Bettie’s presence in their house and then later of her influence on Della. He has traditional views on how women should dress, behave and occupy their time. 

In fact, he has little time for Della and her interests in general and this lends a distinctly fractious element to their relationship. Particularly, when Della comes her relationship with her to dad to that between her brother Puck and her dad.

“Boys were everything, and girls made a good marriage, or went on the stage, or helped Mam. There was no other definition of a girl in pop’s mental dictionary, whereas to be a boy was an open-ended existence of highways and skyways, as free as the gulls.”

One of the things I loved about The Wild Air is that it highlights something I had never though out before: the lack of female pilots. It wasn’t until I started reading about Della’s troubles that I realised in all the flights I have taken I have never heard of a female pilot or co-pilot.

Literature set in World War 1 has never really been for me, with the exception of Siegfried Sassoon it has just never captured my attention the way World War 2 literature does. I tend to bypass books set around this era but this book was fascinating. The depictions of the horrors of war were so vivid and shocking but without being over the top. You could tell the depth or research Rebecca Mascull puts in to researching her books. 

Additionally, in many war stories I find that any romance is simply used just to highlight the losses that can occur in war and is the main focus of the book. I liked that the romantic angle was there but it didn't take priority. 

I would definitely recommend this book and I am so pleased I decided to pick up a copy at Newark Book festival.

 

Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

  • Currently 5/5

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