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The Woman in the Wing by Jean Sheldon

The Woman in the Wing

by Jean Sheldon

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I am so excited by this book and very pleased to recommend it. It is well-written, intense, and true to itself. Jean Sheldon really knows how to tell a story. Taking place after the attack on Pearl Harbor, it is a work of fiction in a very realistic presentation. Based on the work of women in the United States during wartime, it centers around the work of the "Rosie the Riveters" as they came to be known, and the women pilots in the WASP. Jean Sheldon has given us an insight into the personal and work lives of these women, reflecting the attitudes of the time, and giving us a good dose of sabotage and espionage as well.

"The Woman in the Wing" grabbed my attention and held it until even after I finished the book. I think this is the longest I ever sat with one book trying to read it all at once. If it weren't for requiring nourishment and sleep, I'm sure I would have done just that. This is not something I say often.

There are not many works of fiction that feature the women, although the author gives some references on-line for non-fiction resources at the back of the book. I even found myself looking up some of the planes mentioned after reading the descriptions! The story primarily follows the paths of two very good friends and neighbours who want to fly and manage to get the training for it. But Char, our chief protagonist, has run into the male-domination theme so prevalent in the this era, and she is told she will not get her wings because of something distasteful to her which she flat out refuses. I, being a child of the 1940s, applaud Ms. Sheldon for incorporating this imbalance of humanity that was very current at that time and still persists in some ways today.

Enter the FBI searching for Nazi spies in the warehouses and hangars. There appear to be a number of them sabotaging the planes being built and those in use. Since Char is being "punished" for her refusal of the Major's proposal, she has been sent to be a riveter, along with her friend Max. They are soon required to watch out for suspicious behaviour and report it to the FBI. They know there are FBI agents working in the facility too, but they don't know who they are.

Accidents have increased in the facility over the past 3 months and are becoming more personal than just slowing production. It soon escalates to planes crashing, equipment falling, and murder, with deaths and injuries piling up, building from fear to terror for the women. Character-driven, the plot accelerates through the whole book until the reader may find he/she is out of breath. I highly recommend this book for its research, subject matter, characterizations, and its exciting, suspenseful finish. ( )
  readerbynight | Aug 29, 2010 |
Set in Chicago during WWII and focusing on the female contribution to the war effort, `The Woman in the Wing' is a finely crafted suspense thriller that had me turning the pages at a furious pace.

It's the summer of 1944 and Char is getting ready to graduate from Woman Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) training when she gets reassigned because she won't sleep with the Major. She finds out she will be working undercover at a defense plant with FBI agent Eleanor Frazier in an effort to locate some German spies that may be working at the plant. There has been an increase in "accidents" at the plant and the FBI believes the Germans may be trying to sabotage the war planes being built there. Char and Ellie become riveters at the plant alongside many other women, one of whom may be the ringleader of the German spies. Will they uncover the identities of the spies before it is too late and, if they do, will Char finally get her wings?

Author Jean Sheldon has written a well-researched story set in a period of US history that many people probably know very little about. The participation of women in the war effort during World War II wasn't often acknowledged but their support made it possible for the US to intervene in Germany and Japan and ultimately put an end to the war. I love that Ms. Sheldon uses this information as the framework for her novel and, in doing so not only entertains, but teaches us a bit of history. The story is fast paced and the characters are interesting and well-developed. I truly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to anyone who likes historical suspense. ( )
  CaApril | May 13, 2010 |
History, mystery and a little romance combine in Jean Sheldon's "The Woman in the Wing." It's 1940 and young Charlotte Mercer and her best friend Maxine enroll in a civilian flight training program at Northwestern University in Chicago. The two complete their training and in 1942 are invited to apply to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) to fly military airplanes. As accomplished pilots, Char and Maxi are welcomed into the WASP training program where they soon become two of the WASP's best pilots. Char finishes her testing first in her class, but is denied her wings by the base commander when she refuses his advances. The commander instead orders her to work as a riveter at the Douglas Aircraft plant to assist the FBI in investigating possible spies at the airfield and plant.

Dave Frazier is the FBI agent Char works with on the investigation. Dave's sister, Ellie, also an agent, is assigned as Char's partner in the assembly plant. WASP pilots are going down in sabotaged planes and deadly accidents and murders are occurring at the plant. To uncover the saboteurs, Char and Ellie snoop into the lives of their fellow riveters.

"The Woman in the Wing," though fiction, contains much history of the WASP program and World War II. Author Sheldon keeps readers guessing as to the identity of the saboteurs. Her characters are engaging and Sheldon's story gives readers an inside look into the daily life of Americans at home during World War II. There are a few instances where sentences are repeated and a few scene transitions that come abruptly, but overall this is a great read for anyone who loves a mystery and is interested in the World War II era. ( )
  DarcyO | Mar 6, 2010 |
As a young girl I was fascinated with stories about pilot Amelia Earhart and read every book om my elementary school library about her. I then found out about the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) and read about their role in World War II. When I heard that Jane Sheldon’s book The Woman in the Wing centered around some WASP I had to read it.

Sheldon has written an interesting historical mystery that follows several WASP on a military base where the commander is not favorable to the WASP and actually wants “favors” for the women to get their wings. Add to this one a deadly accident involving the death of a WASP where sabotage is expected and Nazi sympathizers are suspected and you have quite a thriller.

The main character, Charlotte Mercer experienced the sexual harassment on base and was given an opportunity to work at one of the airplane factories with a woman FBI agent, Ellie, as one of “Rosie’s riveters”. It was very physically demanding work attaching the parts of the wings using rivets, thus the name. Many “accidents” started to occur and as they learned the job they also got to know the women. They come to believe that there is a Nazi spy among them and somehow this is also tied into the sabotage at the base.

With the help of another FBI woman on base and Ellie’s FBI brother who coordinated everyone they put together the pieces of who is responsible for the sabotage on the base and at the factory.

Sheldon gives good insights into the women during World War II and the sacrifices they made for the war effort whether it was as a WASP or a riveter. Those women who stayed at home were also the first recyclers and learned how to use what they had. As a woman I was proud of those who went before me and paved the way for me.

This book was a very good mystery that kept me turning the pages but it also is great for those who are interested in history. ( )
  janimar | Feb 11, 2010 |
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Charlotte Mercer is a WASP trainee who hopes to fly for her country. Charlotte's career nearly ends before it begins when an army major removes her from training after she refuses his proposition to do something other than fly. Ordered to work at a defense plant with the FBI, she meets her new riveting partner, agent Eleanor Frazier. Char's job description changes from pilot to Rosie the Riveter to undercover agent after a ring of German spies. The dedicated pilot never gives up hope of earning her silver wings, even as she makes a perilous flight of her own with a Nazi demolitions expert holding a gun to the back of her head.… (more)

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