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Her Last Flight

by Beatriz Williams

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I really enjoyed this book. It was a long but very engaging read. Reminded me loosely of the Amelia Earhart story but I really enjoyed the detail and a really well written book. I really enjoyed as I made the connections through the clues in the book. ( )
  chutzpanit | Feb 16, 2021 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
In our world now, with contrails crisscrossing the sky and flights departing constantly for near and far, it can be hard to remember the danger and novelty and glamor of early flight, the way that pilots like Lindbergh and Earhart were bigger than movie stars. They were impossibly brave and reckless and completely fascinating people, daredevils, these pioneers of aviation. Beatriz Williams takes readers back to this time, when pilots kept trying to fly farther, faster, or longer than they had before, topping each others' and their own feats as splashed across newspaper headlines around the world in her novel Her Last Flight.

In 1947, Janey Everett, a photojournalist is writing a book about the famous pilot Sam Mallory, missing in the Spanish Civil War. Opening with her quiet discovery of the wreckage of his plane in the Spanish desert and a chance line in his journal found in the plane, Janey is off to find the one person who can tell her the truth of what happened in that wreck, a person also long missing. Irene Lindquist and her husband Olle run an island hopping airline in Hawa'ii. Janey suspects that this Irene is Irene Foster, once Sam Mallory's student and flying partner and a famous aviatrix in her own right but Mrs. Lindquist is taciturn and evasive and a lot less than welcoming, even initially denying this identity. Janey continues to dig though and the women come to a sort of tentative truce as Irene slowly tells her own incredible story and how it weaves into Sam Mallory's.

Told in chapters alternating between the 1947 present and the book that Janey is writing, this is that rare novel where both threads of the narrative are gripping. The tension between Janey and Irene is palpable and the reader wonders what all is being held back by these two fiercely private women while the chapters out of Janey's book in progress work toward uncovering the mystery of Sam's fate that Janey is so determined to bring to light. This is a story of complicated relationships, of fame, loss, and love. Both Janey and Irene are strong women who have succeeded in men's occupations. Each guards herself carefully, allowing very few people to see behind their protective exteriors. The secondary characters are well drawn and engaging, rounding out the lives of these women, illustrating parts of our main characters that the reader would not otherwise see. The novel is smooth and while filled with drama, it is not a showy kind of drama, more a quiet, personal cost sort. There are, of course, echoes of Earhart's life and final flight but Irene (and Sam) are entirely Williams' own and the story is well conceived. Readers fascinated by the human beings behind early aviation will delight in this well researched and well written novel. ( )
  whitreidtan | Jan 16, 2021 |
Beatriz Williams is one of those authors that I stick with because I loved her older books, but her last couple of books were pretty disappointing. When I read the premise of this book and that it was loosely based on Amelia Earhart and the mystery surrounding her disappearance I was definitely intrigued and thought I would give it a try.

You could tell that Williams did a lot of research for this one and it ended up being one of my favorites. To be honest, I have been struggling with the historical fiction genre during this pandemic because I just haven't had the attention span. This ended up being a captivating read and I look forward to what Williams writes next.

Thank you to William Morrow for the gifted copy in exchange for my honest feedback. ( )
  genthebookworm | Dec 19, 2020 |
Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous! Very loosely based on Amelia Earhart life but Irene Lindquist (our heroine) lives, though she has disappeared from life. Chapters alternate between 1937 and 1947. Irene flew her early flights with Sam Mallory and he is also MI. Janey Eerett, a photojournalist, is writing a book about Sam Mallory and finds her in Hawaii. So the story of Irene and Sam unfolds through the alternating chapters as Janey's story is also revealed. It's got drama, comedy, mystery, heartbreak, love, loss and survival. ( )
  bogopea | Oct 24, 2020 |
I am a huge fan of Beatriz Williams and anxiously await each of her books. I love the way she takes specific moments in history and brings them to life through complex female characters who challenge what was expected of them during these times. From Lily Dane in A Hundred Summers to the Schuyler Sisters of The Secret Life of Violet Grant, Tiny Little Things and Along the Infinite Sea, Williams writes women who are determined not to be constrained by the limitations of their gender and who, in their own ways, never give up on love. Her Last Flight features two such women - Janey Everett and Irene Foster - in my favorite book of hers yet.

Janey is a photojournalist in 1947 investigating what happened to famed aviator Sam Mallory who flew in the Spanish Civil War and never returned. She ends up in Hawaii in search of Irene Lindquist, whom Janey believes is the legendary Irene Foster, Sam's protégé and flying partner whose own disappearance a decade earlier during an around-the-world flying race remains one of the world's biggest mysteries. The story is told in alternating timelines, from Janey's POV in 1947 as her search for Sam unfolds, and through excerpts from her future book which tells Sam and Irene's story from the 1920s-1930s.

Both Janey and Irene are amazing characters, strong and fierce women who go after what they want, and the supporting cast - from Irene's publicity-obsessed manager and Janey's Spanish paramour during WWII to Sam's manipulative wife and Irene's alcoholic father - is equally as colorful. Williams has a true gift for writing dialogue - I couldn't get enough of Janey's snappy comebacks and witty turns-of-phrase which were at times laugh-out-loud funny and at others, just devastating. I also loved all of the details about the early days of aviation - from how dangerous and expensive it was to how the pilots had to keep topping themselves to stay relevant - and was surprised and excited to learn what happened to Octavian and Sophie Rofrano from Williams' earlier book, A Certain Age.

There are two plot twists in Her Last Flight that literally made me gasp out loud - I didn't see them coming AT ALL - but they both made perfect sense looking back on the story builds. I could not put this book down and read it in the course of two nights which was both good and bad - while I couldn't wait to see how it would wrap up, I also didn't want it to end.

This is my first 5-star read of the summer. Pick up Her Last Flight. You won't be disappointed.

Thank you to NetGalley, William Morrow and the author for an advanced copy of the book. ( )
  ReadingIsMyCardio | Aug 26, 2020 |
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