I’ve read and loved all of Rebecca Mascull’s novels, but The Wild Air was my favourite yet. Set in the Edwardian era and the world of early aviation, it is the story of Della Dobbs and her extraordinary flying adventure.
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.
Although it doesn’t have a particularly fast paced plot, this novel is a page turner. One thing Rebecca Mascull does exceptionally well is characterisation. She has us fall in love with a character, hooks us to their situation or predicament so intensely that we have no choice but to read on until the end. For me, the protagonist, Della, was so real that she walked right off the page, as did Betty, Pop, Dud, Mam and Cleo. The relationships between the characters are complex I could almost feel the emotions pass between them.
Della encounters obstacle after obstacle on her quest to become a pilot, and the authenticity of the era and setting reveals the shocking reality of the sexism and violence that aviatrices had to face for simply wanting to fly. Della is an intriguing character. While it’s great to have gutsy, ‘tomboy’ female characters, these days this can be overdone. Della was a breath of fresh air- she is a quiet, dutiful daughter who tinkers with bicycles in her spare time. It made her defiance, and her journey to self discovery, all the more satisfying. I felt like I was watching her grow as a person with my own eyes, and I found myself rooting for her from the very first page.
The writing, as usual, is exquisite- especially the flying descriptions. A blend of poetry and aviation jargon! The novel is written in the third person but Rebecca has still managed to capture Della’s voice. She doesn’t speak as eloquently or as metaphorically as the protagonists of previous books, but this reflects Della’s social class, upbringing and beautiful simplicity. “Della talked aloud to herself. She did that when it was marvellous and she revelled in the complete wonder of flying, the secret joy of it. Or when it was bad. When the mist came down or the wind got up something terrible and she was fighting the weather in order to come back alive.”
Also intertwined with the main plot is a beautiful, very pure but not at all cheesy love story, through which Rebecca contrasts the freedom of the skies with the despair and horror of the war. I also love how she included some research at the end of the book about female aviatrices of this era so as to bring their stories to light.
I was captivated by this novel and I’ll never look at an airplane the same again!