Rebecca Mascull’s third novel reads like an adventure story for girls. And I mean that in a good way.We all need more adventure in our lives sometimes.
Della Dobbs is unremarkable as a youngster, shy and lacking in confidence. But she is inspired by her Auntie Betty, who has been in Carolina where early aviators, the Wright Brothers, were taking to the skies. Using kites to explain aerodynamics and design, Betty gradually cultivates in Della a desire to fly actual planes. Unheard of for a woman in the early 20th Century, but the determined young woman achieves her ambition. She earns a reputation as a respected competition and exhibition pilot. But when the Great War breaks out, she decides to put her flying skills to a far more important test, flying solo across the Channel on a daring rescue mission.
This would be a perfect place to introduce some lovely flight-themed metaphors, about how the plot of this book rises and soars, dips and yaws to keep the reader flying high. How the heroine handles the controls of the plot with perfect ease, rising with the thermals and coping with the turbulence which marks her early romantic connections. But that would be too cheesy. Suffice to say that Della is a credible protagonist, yelling at her Dad, falling in love, following her dreams and making her mark, all in a cleverly understated way. She’s ballsy, but not brash. I liked Della a lot.
I was lucky enough to be invited to the London launch of ‘The Wild Air‘ last year and heard the author speak about her research and sources for the book. She had been taken up in the kind of early plane described in the novel, and was able to describe the mixture of excitement and fear which shines through in all of Della’s flights. She manages to achieve the right balance between enough technical detail to allow the reader to understand the basic mechanics of the plane and flying it, and the story line. This isn’t a Haynes manual.
In 2015 I championed Mascull’s second novel ‘Song of the Sea Maid‘. Although I probably slightly preferred it to ‘The Wild Air‘, the common themes of pioneering, feisty women making their way in a male-dominated world, make both of these works highly readable. I look forward to Rebecca’s next book.