To enjoy this book, you’ve first of all got to accept the central premise that Joel has foresight: he can predict what’s going to happen to his friends and family in the future. If you’re going to spend the whole time yelling at the pages ‘but this is ridiculous, no-one can predict the future‘, I suggest this may not be the novel for you.
Once you’ve got that sorted, there is a lot to enjoy. Which is not what I was expecting to say, as romance is not usually my thing. In books I mean, not in life!
The love story between Joel and Callie is a slow burner, but I found it more credible as a result. The couple meet when Callie is working in a cafe and Joel is a customer, noticeable because he falls asleep at the table. Unbeknown to Callie, his night-time dreams of the future are so all-consuming, he tries to avoid them by surviving on as little shut-eye as possible. The main reason for the romance developing slowly though, is that Joel knows something bad is going to happen and, as a result, he doesn’t want to commit to the relationship. To add to the tension, the reader has no idea what Fate has in store. Joel’s advance warning causes him to take a drastic, heartbreaking decision.
As a story, I was swept along by this writing and really cared about the characters. The plot is simple with an ambiguous ending, which wasn’t a problem for me. What lingers after the last page though, is the searching question about whether you’d embark on a love affair, knowing when and how it would end. Not a vague notion of maybe it won’t work out, but the specific time, date and reason.
Of course I don’t know what other readers’ answers will be: but I can’t help thinking that we all know a romance is going to end. Whether that be in a few weeks, years or even decades, it will come to an end. Whether you part amicably or acrimoniously, for any number of reasons, or till death do you part, nothing is forever, not even the love of your life. Yet most of us take that risk time and time again. Maybe the truth is in Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s words that ultimately, “’tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”. I, for one, have always been willing to take that chance on love.
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.