Review: “Windshift” By Joyce Faulkner

Through NetGalley I was provided a copy of this book by Red Engine Press for the purpose of reading and reviewing it. Although it was provided to me at no cost, I am under no obligation to give a positive review.

Set during World War II, this novel follows the paths of Shirley Maxwell and her three friends, Emmie, Delores and Mags. All of them have flight experience, and due to the shortage of available male pilots, they are recruited as part of the WASPs (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots) program to ferry planes from the factory in Ohio to an airbase in California.

Facing hostility from traditionally-minded civilians as well as military personnel concerned the ladies are taking jobs from able-bodied men, the four forge a strong bond. This helps them face with dignity and strength the challenges ahead.

Along the way, one of the four dies, another is burned badly, and a third contracts polio. Each finds love in some manner with varying results. Most of all, they just keep plugging along in the face of adversity.

First and foremost, this is a story of strength of will and character. Even though each of the four ladies has significant flight time under her respective belt, they are faced with men and women who believe they are wasting their time or not filling a traditional female role. Of course, there are also men in the Army who view the women as, at the very least, an infringement on their territory or, at the worst, undeserving women who are taking pilot jobs from more skilled males.

This is also a story of growth and development. While most characters demonstrate this, none do so more than the protagonist, Shirley. The story is told in the first person from her point of view. While this can be difficult to pull off when it comes to including details the narrator may not be aware of, Faulkner pulls this off nicely.

Finally, I really enjoyed this as a historical novel because it was, ashamedly, a part of history of which I was unaware. Thanks to Faulkner I will dig into the history of these brave women even more.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Review: “Brave Genius” By Sean B. Carroll

Crown Publishing provided me a copy of this eGalley, via NetGalley, for the purposes of reading and reviewing it. Although it was provided to me at no cost, I am under no obligation to provide a positive review.

Before I get started, let me say this is an epic book. It’s 576 pages of (as my sixteen year old son would say) “beefy” reading. The amount of research required to produce this tome must have been extensive, and for that I commend Carroll. Unfortunately, I could only read 10-20 pages at a time before getting bogged down in details and having to set it aside.

On the surface, this looks like a fascinating story: two famous Frenchman, Albert Camus and Jacques Monod, have their paths cross during the French Resistance against the Nazi Germany regime of World War II. Each has a completely different background and career, and yet they strike up a friendship that lasts well beyond World War II until Camus’s untimely death in 1960.

While I had only a passing familiarity with Monod prior to reading this book, I have been a fan of Camus’s writing for years. It was fascinating to read the path each person took on their way to receiving a Nobel Prize in their respective fields.

My biggest complaint about this book is it spends far too much time on the details surrounding the lives of Camus and Monod. Sure, the strategies the Nazis employed for invading France are fascinating and set in motion the Resistance effort that led to Camus and Monod meeting, but the details are too far removed from the actions of the men themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I am fascinated with World War II and Nazi Germany in particular, but that’s not what I was hoping for or expecting from this book.

The same thing applies later when the author spends a significant amount of time describing the research leading up to Monod’s Nobel Prize. You can see that Carroll’s training as a biologist shines through, as he is obviously passionate about Monod and his work. But it does seem to become unwieldy at times.

In a nutshell, it seems this book doesn’t really have a clearly defined identity. Is it a biography of Camus and Monod? Historical text? Biology text? While Carroll’s details and research are undoubtedly meticulous, the book could have been cut by 150 or more pages and still be an outstanding recording of these men’s lives. As it is, it gets bogged down under its own weight.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)