Thursday, 23 January 2014

The Infinite Air by Fiona Kidman

The year is 1909. The French aviator Louis Bleriot has just made the first ever crossing by plane over the English Channel, in a tiny monoplane. On the other side of the world in New Zealand, a mother pins a newspaper clipping about his sensational exploits above the cot of her newly born daughter. The baby’s name is Jean Batten. She will become one of the world’s greatest aviators.  (The Infinite Air, flyleaf)

Fiona Kidman has captured fully the life of Jean Batten in her novel, The Infinite Air. As a young child growing up in Rotorua, Jean learned early that to succeed in life one had to be strong-willed and courageous. She faced many setbacks and objections to becoming an aviator - she was once refused a job as a stunt pilot in Sir Alan Cobham’s Flying Circus on the grounds that she was a woman.

In the 1930s women did not fly planes, yet Amelia Earhart did, so too did Amy Johnson; these two women were Jean’s inspiration. Sir Charles Kingsford Smith was also influential, encouraging Jean’s desire to become the first female pilot to fly from Australia to England.

New Zealand in the 1930s was the only dominion of Great Britain that had not been linked to Britain by air in direct flight. Jean Batten became the first aviator to fly from England to New Zealand, via Australia, setting another world record.

The reader follows Jean’s journey of her great achievement, becoming immersed in Jean’s life, her successes, her sorrow and yes, we too realise the fickleness of mankind. For all her success, Jean died in obscurity in Majorca, buried in a pauper’s grave.

Posted by Flaxmere Library Book Chat

Catalogue Link: The Infinite Air 

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