Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon
A novel about the last voyage of the airship Hindenburg can have only one ending: disaster. I still found this novel compelling reading. 97 crew and passengers were aboard for a reportedly uneventful three-day voyage from Germany to Lakehurst, New Jersey. The author uses real people for her characters, along with their actual fates, but does a remarkable job filling in the blanks and giving them personalities, relationships, motivations, and suspicions. Emilie, the first female airship stewardess, has a big secret, although it’s no secret that navigator Max is attracted to her. Cabin boy Werner, 13, is helping support his family and working extremely hard. Emilie helps care for the three children of a family headed to Mexico. There are rumors of a bomb threat, and a mysterious American is seeking revenge for his brother’s death in World War I. A journalist traveling with her older husband longs to return to the baby boy they were forced to leave behind in Germany. The airship has swastikas on the hull, and photos of Hitler throughout; the United States wouldn’t export helium to Germany, so the airship is filled with flammable hydrogen instead. There is little privacy, but there is a bar and, unexpectedly, a smoking room on board. I would have liked photos and diagrams of the Hindenburg as I read, but found them easily online. The plotting is intricate, and the contrast between the luxurious shipboard life of the passengers and that of the hardworking crew is well-drawn. The suspense keeps building, with chapter headings counting down the days, hours, and minutes until the explosion. What might have caused the fire? Who will survive, and how? Well-developed characters, plenty of period detail, and lots of suspense and drama should make this novel popular with fans of historical novels.