Imagine what it would be like to fly across the ocean in the most luxurious airship ever built. For the ninety-seven people (passengers and crew) who climbed aboard the Hindenburg in early May 1937, the journey was pregnant with hope, fear, secrecy, freedom, and even love. Not one, however, could imagine that the journey would end in a fiery hell that would consume a third of them, without regard to age, sex, nationality, or prospects.
Day One: 3 days, 6 hours, and 8 minutes until the explosion.—Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon (Doubleday, 2016, chap. 1; uncorrected proofs)
"It's a bad idea, don't you think?" Emilie asks, standing inside the kitchen door, propping it open with her foot. "Striking a match in here? You could blow us all to oblivion."
- Setting: on board the Hindenburg, flying from Germany to the United States, 1937
- Plot summary: A well-researched imagining of the final flight of the Hindenburg. In this novel, we meet the passengers and crew of ill-fated airship, as author Lawhon marries the facts with her imagination to build a plausible scenario to explain the cause of the explosion.
- Genre: historical fiction
- Characters: The book is told alternately through the eyes of several crew members (such as the stewardess, the cabin boy, and the navigator) as well as some of the passengers (including a mysterious American man and a German woman journalist). Lawhon combed through period sources and firsthand accounts of the flight and disaster to develop the characters' personalities and re-create life on board the beautiful ship.
- General thoughts on the plot: Tension builds as we learn the backstory of each character and discover possible motives for sabotage, especially in relation to Nazi Germany. At the same time, we see mistakes, a little inattention, and some relaxing of the rules; could any of these be the trigger to disaster? Lawhorn plants clues to several possible endings, and when the horrible moment comes, it's almost impossible to put the book down until we see what happens and who survives. (click photo to enlarge)
- Things to know: Although Lawhon took a few liberties with the facts and used her imagination (outlined in an author's note), the ultimate fate of the characters and the many vivid details are right out of history.
- Recommendation: Flight of Dreams is perfect for historical fiction fans, history geeks, and readers who like suspense and a little mystery. I was fascinated with the workings of the ship and found several characters to root for. Put this on your reading list.
- Audiobook: I listened to the unabridged audiobook edition (Random House Audio; 12 hr, 45 min) read by John Lee, the king of historical fiction. My full audio review will be published by AudioFile magazine, but the bottom line is this: don't hesitate to listen.
Thanks to the nice people at Penguin Random House, I'm happy to be able to offer one of my readers with a U.S. mailing address a print copy of Ariel Lawhon's Flight of Dreams. All you have to do to be entered for a chance to win is to fill out the following form. I'll pick a winner, via a random number generator, on March 4. Once the winner has been confirmed and I've passed the name and address along to the publisher, I'll erase all personal information from my computer. Good luck!