Flying High…


When the The Infinite Air by Fiona Kidman landed on my desk, I knew it was a read that my dear friend Kim would love - and I was right! *smug face* 

So what's it about? 
Jean Batten became an international icon in 1930s. A brave, beautiful woman, she made a number of heroic solo flights across the world. The newspapers couldn't get enough of her. 
In 1934, she broke Amy Johnson's flight time between England and Australia by six days. The following year, she was the first woman to make the return flight. In 1936, she made the first ever direct flight between England and New Zealand and then the fastest ever trans-Tasman flight. Jean Batten stood for adventure, daring, exploration and glamour. The Second World War ended Jean's flying adventures. She suddenly slipped out of view, disappearing to the Caribbean with her mother and eventually dying in Majorca, buried in a pauper's grave. 
Fiona Kidman's enthralling novel delves into the life of this enigmatic woman. It is a fascinating exploration of early aviation, of fame, and of secrecy...

And here's what Kim had to say… 

Throughout history, daring men and women have boldly gone where no one has been before, conquering land, sea and sky. Just 100 years ago, aviation was new and thrilling. Imagine crossing continents by air! We all take it for granted these days that we can fly to <insert cheap sunshine break here> on our holibobs, but once upon a time not that long ago, we didn’t know how to fly. 

Indeed, the first pilots to attempt long distance travel did so at their peril. Many died. The first man to successfully fly from England to Australia did so in a tiny biplane, the journey taking him 15 days. Think about that next time you settle in for what we have now come to think of a ‘long haul’ flight.

Never one for learning as a child, I now have an insatiable appetite for knowledge. Making up for lost time I guess. That, coupled with the fact my Grandma flew spitfires in the war and it’s too late to ask her everything I wish I had asked her, is why I loved this book. 

The Infinite Air charts one woman’s journey from childhood to aviation pioneer, to old age. I loved the insight into the pivotal moments in Jean Batten’s childhood, the moments that formed the brave and tenacious woman she was to become. Every record breaker has a backstory and it’s fascinating to be privy to it. To see inside their mind and their world and witness the legend being created. 

I was still talking about Jean Batten weeks after I finished the book. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much life has changed for women in less than 100 years. The feminist in me, she likes fair play. She spikes at any suggestion a woman can’t do anything a man can. You should have seen the punch I almost threw at the fella who insisted on calling our games room the ‘Boys Room’ where boys go to do sport. 

That’s about as much sexism as I face. But Jean Batten was laughed off the runway when she told people she wanted to fly. Getting married and having babies was all women were good for back then. Reading about Jean’s early years had me incredulously turning the pages, scanning for more evidence of just how shit it was to be a woman back then. A man told Jean she’d make a good secretary. Jean told the man women might require secretaries too one day. The man highly doubted it. Jean’s own father told her: ‘Girls don’t fly.’ Ouch.

Women like Jean paved the way for our generation to do not just anything a man can, but also whatever we damn well please. People told Jean to stop dreaming and be a good young lady, marry and stifle her big ideas. The were just stoking Jean’s fire - she was determined to be somebody. Not just a good female pilot, but a great pilot. Full bloody stop.

The book made me happy and sad. Happy that women like Batten existed then and now. Happy that a woman’s place in the world has changed so much. But sad for Jean. Batten was courageous and determined, yet tortured and lonely. It made me question the true cost of fulfilling such extreme ambition. Because with great achievement must come great sacrifice.

I doff my cap to our foremothers. Each and every woman like Jean, every suffragette, every pioneer feminist who defied, questioned and ignored the low and dull expectations society had for women. We owe those legends the lifestyle we take for given today.
Fab words from this lovely face!

Read all about Kim's legendary Grandma here

Kim's Grandma had WINGS!

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