I’m so thrilled that the day has come to take my turn on this blog tour – it might prevent me embarrassingly stopping people in the street and saying “you must read this book”. The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull will be published by Hodder & Stoughton in hardback and for kindle on 4th May, and it’s one of the most stunning books I’ve read this year. Don’t wait for the paperback – although, if you must, it will be available in September – because this is a book you must have on your bookshelves, and in your hands, as soon as you can possibly manage it.
Here’s the story:
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.
Uplifting and page-turning, THE WILD AIR is a story about love, loss and following your dreams against all odds.
Are you getting the feeling that I’m going to gush a little about this one? Quite unashamedly, I most certainly am – this book was wonderful. I’ve often said that a book I truly love must win my heart, and that’s what this book did. I read the first third of the book in frustrating fits and starts, as life intervened – my mum feels like she’s read it too, because I kept telling her about the twists and turns of the story. I was completely immersed in the early 20th century coming-of-age story of young Della from Cleethorpes, speeding around on her bike, being drawn out of her usual silence and away from the oppressive presence of her father by the magnificent Great Aunt Betty. She discovers a passion for flight that gives her life meaning – I loved the experimenting with kites, the infectious enthusiasm for everything flight-related, and when she finally manages her first flight as the passenger of a pioneering aviatrix my heart flew with her.
To read the book to its conclusion – and I just had to, without interruption or distraction – I fell off the radar for one glorious afternoon and remained in Della’s world. The characters were just superb – Della is the magnetic focus of the whole story, and will henceforth feature as one of my favourite heroines whenever I may be asked. But I have to say that Great Aunt Betty runs her a very close second. Every single character invokes strong feelings – Della’s father and his horrendous behaviour will take your breath away, her mother and the hardship she endures will give you pain, her brother’s experience at the Front will break you. Then Della’s young sister will lift your heart, and I absolutely guarantee that you’re going to love Dudley every bit as much as I did.
The story’s backdrop – although “backdrop” isn’t really the right word, as it forms the whole substance of the story – is a vast and sweeping one. We leave Cleethorpes and visit the airfields of Britain and Europe where brave early aviators risked their lives every time they took to the sky, and into wartorn Europe during the First World War with scenes of graphic and exceptional emotional intensity. The wartime letters – for public and private consumption – were a quite wonderful way of capturing the unspeakable horror, and again, very deeply moving.
The research that went into creating this book must have been immense – and the book’s fascinating author’s note tells us a lot about it. The book wears it lightly though – although the facts about early aircraft, the maintenance of their engines, and the lives of those who flew them are described in fine detail, it all only serves to enhance the mesmerising story and to give it breath-taking authenticity. The central love story – and the dramatic story that gives the book its climax – was convincing and all-consuming, and totally beautiful.
This book is a magnificent tribute to every woman who has set her heart on something seemingly unachievable and succeeded against impossible odds. It’s also a wonderful story, quite perfectly told by an exceptionally skilled writer and story teller, that will leave you indelibly marked by the experience of reading. I really don’t need to say “one of my books of the year”, do I?
My thanks to the author and to publishers Hodder & Stoughton for my advance reading copy. Please follow the rest of the tour – and I’m sure you’ll find many more equally enthusiastic reviews of this stunning book.
About the author
Rebecca Mascull lives by the sea in the East of England with her daughter Poppy. She works in education, and has a Masters in Writing. The Wild Air is her third novel.