Spoiler Alert: On May 6, 1937, The Hindenburg, a floating airship fueled by Hydrogen, caught fire and exploded as it neared landing in Lakehurst, NJ, amazingly only killing 35 of the 97 passengers and crew on board (plus one person on the ground for a total of 36).
That’s the given. We know the climax, now it’s up to Ariel Lawhon in her historical novel Flight of Dreams to get us there in one piece.
I always find it difficult reliving various past disasters whether it’s ships such as The Titanic or The Lusitania, or the zeppelin The Hindenburg – fact or fiction. It’s like hearing nails screeching on a chalkboard.
Lawhon has gone the fiction route, but she has done her research using real people who were on this luxury blimp for that fatal flight. While she fictionalized their actions on the three day journey, she vowed to accept their final plight of life or death. Using the blog site: http://www.faceofthehindenburg.blogspot.com and the book Hindenburg: An Illustrated History, Lawhon was able to get enough pertinant information to maintain some realism and even utilize direct quotes.
Taking liberties with the plot line she included incidents such as a near miss with some mountains which actually happened on another flight and felt free to apply actions to one character which might have occurred with another. Ultimately, Lawhon tried to stay true to the real life events while creating the mainly fictionalized interactions which drive the plot while in the background maintaining the threat of the Nazis Regime and the realization that war is imminent. A thin line to walk and well done.
Admittedly the story dragged in the beginning as the numerous characters were introduced (perhaps an annotated list would have helped), but the closer the story got to the anticipated explosion, the more exciting the book became. The conclusion included both joy and sorrow as the survivors dealt with the after effects of this tragedy, with the author giving her version about the hows and whys – when in reality nobody really knows exactly what happened (though theories abound).
The book contains short alternating chapters featuring the five central characters and their interactions with one another and the rest of the passengers. As events unfold, their motivations become clear and many questions are answered. Everything fits nicely together resulting in a well knit, tight tale worth reading. Four stars.
This review also appears on Goodreads. The