you had devoted your entire life to helping your brothers achieve fame,
supporting them in multiple spheres: domestic, professional, legal, and
social. Now suppose that as you faced your later years you fell in
love. Which would you chose? Family or passion? This is story of
Katharine Wright, sister to the Wright Brothers of aviation fame:
What I remember best about that winter in Pau is the bitter cold. If you ask me, all that talk of "sunny southern France" is a delusion and a snare. Orv and I practically froze in our beds! Will had sworn up and down that the Gassion was the best hotel in town, but I never was so uncomfortable in my whole life, not even in the icy grip of an Ohio winter—and that is no picnic, I assure you! Luckily, I came prepared for the worst. When Will took me up in the flying machine for the first time, I was all trussed up like a turkey, with my overcoat bound snug around my ankles and a long scarf looped over my hat to keep it tethered down.—Maiden Flight by Henry Haskell (Chicago Review Press, 2016, p. 3)
- Setting: early decades of the 20th century, mostly various places in the United States
- Circumstances: The novel focuses not on the Wright Brothers'
invention of a working airplane but on their sister, Katharine, and how
she helped them in their work, in proving their claim as aviation
pioneers, and in their public life. It is also the story of her renewed
acquaintance and then relationship with Harry Haskell, a newspaper man
she knew from her college years. It's the story of a vivacious,
independent woman who was eventually forced, as the prologue says, to
choose between love and duty.
- Genre: historical fiction; adult audience
- Themes: women's issues, history of flight, love, family, siblings
- Main characters: Katharine Wright, college educated and devoted to her brothers; Orville and Wilbur Wright, the first men to fly; Harry Haskell, a newspaper editor who stole Katharine's heart; various people from the press, aviation, museums, and history.
- Some things to know: The novel is told from three points of view—Katharine's, Orville's, and Harry's—and reads like a trio of interwoven memoirs. At the end of the book, you'll find a cast of characters, an author's note revealing his artistic decisions, and a few endnotes with fuller explanations of the story.
- About the author and his sources: The book's author is the grandson and namesake of the same Harry Haskell who married Katharine Wright. Author Haskell relied on family letters and documents and various archival material found in library, museum, and university collections to round out the true events and the personalities of the people involved.