At 10.33 a.m. on December 16, 1960, TWA Flight 266 from Columbus, Ohio, and United Flight 826 from Chicago collided in the air over Staten Island, New York. The TWA plane, a Lockheed Super Constellation, fell on Miller Army Field, near where the planes had struck each other. The United plane, a Douglas DC-8, flew for several minutes over the city, badly damaged, until it finally slammed into the corner of Seventh Avenue and Sterling Place, in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Only one passenger – an eleven-year-old Boy Scout named Stephen Baltz – survived the initial crash, but he was badly burned and died from his injuries the following day, after staying conscious long enough to see his parents, who hadn’t been on the flight with him. All 128 people aboard the two planes were killed, as were six people on the ground.Author’s Note, Page 367
In a nutshell
Set in Paris 1939, Elise and Juliette both pregnant with baby girls, have fast become best friends. When war breaks out and Elise is forced to flee, she entrusts Juliette with her little girl. When Paris is liberated and Elise returns, she finds her friend’s bookstore reduced to rubble and Juliette nowhere to be found. What happened to Mathilde haunts Elise but with Juliette vanished, her questions remain unanswered. Will she ever know what happened?
Book Club Notes
This book was an easy, enjoyable, albeit tragic read. It was UTTERLY predictable but that didn’t keep me from wanting to continue and find out how all the pieces would fit together in the end. There was one loose thread that wasn’t tied up which felt like a forgotten piece, but otherwise the story in its entirety was good. Without giving away too much, I vehemently disliked the way the story concluded for one character, it felt like a bit of a cop out. Should you read this we can discuss specifics in the comments!
Towards the end of the book Kristin Harmel takes a real-life plane crash and makes it a focal scene in the story’s conclusion. She then speaks about that crash in her author’s note, which you can read about in the quote I pulled out at the beginning of this review. Evidently it was a well-known crash that I had never heard about. It made an impact, as most real-life scenes brought to life in historical novels tend to do. But then, just a few hours after reading this I happened to be watching episode 3 of season 5 of The Marvelous Mrs Maisels. In this episode Abe Wiseman is lecturing his young grandson, Ethan. The topic is fear and what event does he choose to use to illustrate his point? This same crash. It was an eerie moment. Had I not read the book I wouldn’t have realized the reference was real. It drew out how powerful historical fiction can be.
What makes a story like this good is the historical elements that are weaved in. To be able to craft real life events into an artful work of fiction is a beautiful way to memorialize forgotten moments in history and celebrate people who lived through times most of us can’t imagine. It makes them and their losses palpable and personal and is powerfully educational.
You enjoy historical World War two fiction.
Writing – 6/10
Character Development – 6/10
Plot Twist – 0/10
Shareability – 5/10
The Nitty Gritty
A note on our book ratings
Storyline: How good is the storyline? Is it believable and complex or does it make you shake your head in its ridiculousness?
Writing: How well written is the book? Do you find yourself wowed by the writing or unimpressed?
Character Development: Do the characters evolve and grow through the book and are they multi-dimensional?
Plot Twist: Were you able to predict the end, or did the author give you some surprises along the way to keep you on your toes?
Shareability: How likely are you to share the book?