Monday, October 28, 2013

The Infinite Air by Fiona Kidman

I read very little New Zealand fiction, I have always tended to find most of it a bit too precious and self contained for my liking, my fellow Book Club members despair over me!
This novelisation of the life of Aviator Jean Batten is most certainly an exception to my previously held is simply wonderful, divine and an amazing read all wrapped into one.
Jean Batten has always fascinated me and I have read most everything written about her, some of it very good indeed. Not long ago I read Melanie Benjamin`s wonderful book which recounts from a novelistic point of view the life of Anne Morrow Lindbergh and her husband, the frightful Charles...Aviator Supreme. I think the wonder of that book steered me into reading this one and it is certainly the equal of Benjamin`s.
Dividing Battens life into four sections, Kidman starts at the beginning and takes you on a journey from simple and humble beginnings into the realm of High Society, World Leaders, and achievement undreamed of by any other than Ellen Batten (Jean`s Mother) and the beautiful, engaging, precocious and talented Jean, a highly dysfunctional family and wanderlust lifestyle left deep and riveting scars on the psyche of the young Jean, scars that she was never able to schuck off coupled with a deep and abiding need for love, the love of a good man which ended in loss after loss and miscalculation after miscalculation.
There is no weak point in this book, it is beautifully crafted and like all writers of talent, Kidman carries you along seamlessly on the journey, it is as close as any of us will get to solo flying in a Gypsy Moth but boy do you think you are riding along with Jean, weather it be too acclaim or despair. Each and every character  is given their place both in the context of their place in Jean`s story and in history, Kidman paints them with a wide brush stroke, they are all there, some for almost the whole journey, others as pop ups. The Good, the bad and the notorious of Batten`s era as well as the real history makers have wonderful cameos in this story.
This book hooks you from the get go, you become invested in the characters and their story, you do end up caring about them or not in certain cases but after worrying about using the word `invested` and sounding hokey, I`ve decided that the whole point of a novel is too tell us a story and have us become invested in the characters and quite frankly Kidman does this very well, not that she`s hokey! It has certainly done me no harm at all to become invested in the characters that populate this book and it won`t harm you either. The novelisation of the lives of the famous is a growing trend and from what I`ve read, it is no bad thing,.It is bringing history to a new generation.
Jean Batten is a very worthy recipient of the talents that Fiona Kidman uses in the retelling of her story and for a generation who may have just heard snippets of that story, this book fills the gaps in an enlightening but easy read.
Available at all good Booksellers and worth every cent, one of my best reads this year.

No comments: