Monday, August 22, 2011

Velva Jean Learns to Fly by Jennifer Niven

Velva Jean Learns to Fly. Jennifer Niven. Penguin Group (USA). August 2011. 432 pp. paperback. ISBN #: 9780452297401.

Velva Jean Hart is tired of small town living, including a husband who is part preacher and part moonshiner. She'd been told she had a wonderful voice and a record producer actually made a record of one of her "Yellow Truck..." songs, telling her to look him up if she ever got to Nashville, Tennessee from rural Appalachia in Alluvia, North Carolina. So she sang every song she knew as she left her home all the way to the point in Tennessee where she got a flat tire. But Velva Jean is a spunky gal and managed to conquer this problem, find a place to live, and make a friend who would help until Velva Jean finally found a job. Even after those difficult challenges, in which she bore rejection after rejection, she still managed to find a place where people could enjoy her voice and zesty personality! But a record contract did not loom, especially after she was told she needed years of music experience before she'd be ready for recording. She didn't care - she just kept writing song after song after song!

Life, however, changed dramatically with the breakout of WWII, and Velva Jean's brother, Johny Clay, introduces her to a flying lesson that changes her passion forever. She goes on to become a female pilot and joins a select group of women flyers carrying out secret but no less dangerous missions within America. Here the story mixes her increasing love of flying, desire to do more for the war effort, and the horror she experiences as tragedy after tragedy happen to those she loves and others she doesn't know. Some die by attack but some are killed because of human mistakes; the latter are just as devastating and Velva Jean is responsible for bringing it to the attention of those who should be doing something about it.

There is much more day-by-day description of what an amazing woman Velva Jean and other women flyers like her become. It's a quick, shocking way to grow up but this plot is filled with humor and persistent dedication, the essence of Velva Jean's personality.

This novel has some very slow parts but does evolve into a funny, interesting and wonderful historical fiction piece that elevates the place of women in a time when they were expected to stay home and sew for the war effort. It includes as well the respect these women flyers known as the WAFS or Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron. Jennifer has depicted a slice of life in the war that few Americans know about, and Velva Jean Hart is an unforgettable, spunky gal who stands for the best women contributing to the war effort at that time! Nicely done, Ms. Niven!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this wonderful review and for all your lovely and much appreciated words! I'm so happy you enjoyed the book. :)