Recently, a brick and mortar bookstore closed up shop in my area. A discount store that sold new, overstock hardbacks and paperbacks, the place hadn’t been in business that long. Word is a larger retailer expressed interest in the space, along with the two stores on either side, so the outlet center didn’t renew the leases. I haven’t heard what will be taking over all three spaces, but was saddened to see the bookstore go. Before closing their doors, they had a blow-out sale—paperbacks for $1.00 and hardbacks for $2.00. I bought armloads (as if I don’t already have enough to read).
I couldn’t wait to dive into Flight of Dreams, a fictional account of the Hindenburg disaster. Much like the Titanic, I think people are drawn to exploring the tragedy because it’s so mind-boggling. The Hindenburg was meant to usher in a new age of air travel, but its destruction effectively brought an end to the era of the dirigible. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, I highly recommend this stunning novel which masterfully transports you to an earlier age.
NOTE: The Amazon link at the end of the review connects to the Kindle version which has a different cover. I love the hardback cover so much, I couldn’t resist using that in my post.
FLIGHT OF DREAMS
by Ariel Lawhon
On the evening of May 3rd, 1937, ninety-seven people board the Hindenburg for its final, doomed flight to Lakehurst, New Jersey. Among them are a frightened stewardess who is not what she seems; the steadfast navigator determined to win her heart; a naive cabin boy eager to earn a permanent spot on the world’s largest airship; an impetuous journalist who has been blacklisted in her native Germany; and an enigmatic American businessman with a score to settle. Over the course of three hazy, champagne-soaked days their lies, fears, agendas, and hopes for the future are revealed.
Flight of Dreams is a fiercely intimate portrait of the real people on board the last flight of the Hindenburg. Behind them is the gathering storm in Europe and before them is looming disaster. But for the moment they float over the Atlantic, unaware of the inexorable, tragic fate that awaits them.
Brilliantly exploring one of the most enduring mysteries of the twentieth century, Flight of Dreams is that rare novel with spellbinding plotting that keeps you guessing till the last page and breathtaking emotional intensity that stays with you long after.
Although a fictional account of the Hindenburg disaster, the author of Flight of Dreams uses actual passengers and crew members on the ill-fated zeppelin to tell the story of its destruction. Chapters alternate between the navigator, the cabin boy, the stewardess (the first female attendant on a zeppelin), a journalist, and an American passenger. There are other non-POV characters who populate the story—including vaudeville performer, Joseph Spah—all of whom breathe life into this amazing tale, and all of whom were either actual passengers or crew. Of the 97 people on the fateful flight, 62 survived.
Ariel Lawhon turns a deft lens on the behemoth air ship and the era in which it graced the skies. The pages are soaked with the nuances of history, the shadow of coming war, and interpersonal relationships. Within the pages you’ll find intrigue that often plays out like a chess match as the hidden agendas of various characters overlap.
The chapters are fairly short, which keeps the plot moving at a steady pace. I liked the way each chapter immediately picks up on the one before it, despite a change in POV. Ending chapters are clipped dramatically short to generate maximum tension.
From the start, the reader knows the Hindenburg is slated for disaster, but seeing how the mammoth dirigible reaches that point keeps suspense simmering just below boil throughout. I loved the descriptions and details of time spent on the air ship. Much like the Titanic, the crash of the Hindenburg—which brought the age of the dirigible to an end—remains a fixation for many. Keep in mind this is a novel, and a fictional account of what might have happened, but it is exceptionally well written. The moment I finished the book, I began Googling the passenger and crew list to learn more. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who has an interest in the Hindenburg, the dirigible era, or who simply enjoys good historical fiction.