Friday, May 27, 2011

Review - Wings: A Novel of World War II Flygirls by Karl Friedrich

Author: Karl Friedrich
Publisher McBooks Press
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
Year of publication 2011
Subject: World War II, WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) program
Setting: Sweetwater Texas
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Early Reviewers program -
Rating 4.1 of 5
Recommended? yes

As a former servicewoman myself, I was thrilled to get this one to review from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer (ER) program.  Although fictionalized, the author does an excellent job of telling the story of this courageous, often misunderstood, and too long forgotten group of women.  In the early phases of World War II, the US had far too few trained pilots, and too many airplanes that needed to be flown from point A to point B. Using a trained pilot (who could be in combat helping to win the war) to ferry these planes around just didn't seem to make sense to the majority of forward thinkers.  Under the leadership of Jackie Cochran, the army airforce was persuaded to make use of a large number of women who already held private pilot licenses and who could free up men to fight the enemy.  One of their early promoters was Eleanor Roosevelt:
"This is not a time when women should be patient.  We are in a war and we need to fight it with all our ability and ever weapon possible.  WOMEN PILOTS, in this particular case, are a weapon waiting to be used." Eleanor Roosevelt, 1942
Friedrich tells their story through the eyes of three or four fairly stereotypical women from various backgrounds, experiences, and regions of the country.  By adding in a villain looking for revenge and out to keep 'the little women' in the home cooking and cleaning where they belonged, he gives us a very true picture of the mood of the country while this program was formed, pursued, and ultimately disbanded.  As civilians, these women had no benefits, no recognition, no ability to qualify for any further VA care, and were paid exactly half what men were paid for the same job.  Hmmmm.....wasn't this still where the world was when I went to college in the 60's?

This one is a hard review for me to write because this attitude was still astonishingly prevalent when I joined the Navy in the mid 60's.  There were still many assignments and bases where women were not allowed.  Many civilians automatically assumed we were 'loose women' (or when they saw us in uniform they assumed we were airline stewardesses).  We certainly have come a long way, and these early pioneers were groundbreakers for us all. The heartbreak and hardships these women endured through the training segment of their program is very well done. I wish the book had been able to carry the story beyond Sweetwater, but perhaps that is for another book.

When I had finished reading this the other night, my husband came running in to tell me that there was a show on TV based on the WASPS...I believe it was a PBS special, but by that time of night I was too tired to do too much but note that whatever was being said on TV did match what I had just read, and NPR website does show a good story about them. The book does a credible job of telling an incredible story in a very entertaining way.  I think most readers will enjoy it, will learn something from it, and will want to learn more.  Here's another good place to start: The Official WASP home page

Many thanks to and to McBooks Press for making this review copy available.


  1. I recently added a guest post by the British author of a new book on a similar topic, the female pilots in WWII. The title of the book is The Beauty Chorus. Interesting that they are written about the same time.

  2. Book Dilettante - thanks for the heads up on another good book. So often I seem to find one book cascades into another of the same theme or setting in my reading. I've probably read about 10 books with WWII settings these past two months and it wasn't a conscious choice on my part. They just seemed to appear in my hands. LOL

  3. I have this one on my list. Entered to win in on LT but I wasn't as lucky as you. I remember all too well the attitude you write of. When I was 18, I wanted to join the Navy, but in 1958 my mother wasn't having any of that ("You know what they say about those girls!") and I didn't have the courage to defy her. One of my many regrets to this day.


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