I liked Ariel Lawhon’s first book only moderately but enough so that I was willing to give her second book a try. Since the ending of the first book redeemed what I initially considered a mediocre novel, I was trying to hold out for the ending of this one. That being said, after more than 160 pages, I gave up on Flight of Dreams.
The novel is about the flight of the Hindenburg on its way from Germany to the U. S. on the trip that ends with its explosion. The novel has a large cast of characters, passengers and crew. Many of the characters have secrets, including a couple on some sort of mission, a thief who has deeper motives, and a Jewish woman attempting to leave Germany.
In what Lawhon was attempting, this novel reminded me of Dead Wake, Erik Larson’s nonfiction book about the sinking of the Lusitania. Frankly, Dead Wake built up a lot more suspense. The pace of this novel truly drags. At more than 400 pages, we follow practically every second of four days. By page 168, where I stopped, the book had only reached breakfast on the second day. Since the Hindenburg departed in the evening, I knew I was in trouble.
Perhaps there are too many characters in the novel. We see the actions from five points of view, but there is no distinct voice that differentiates them one from the other. Each narrative point of view sounds the same. Further distance is created by the chapter names, which continue to refer to the characters by their roles (the American, the Stewardess) even after we know their names.
What I’m trying to say is that I didn’t care about Max and Emilie’s romance or what was going on with the Adelts or what the American was up to. I keep making this complaint, but it seems as though some authors don’t know that part of their job is to get readers to care about what happens, not just put characters through their paces. The most notable novels I have read in recent years (or maybe ever) have all shared one trait—they have all had a distinctive voice.
Finally, some of the scenes between people play like TV melodrama. I’m thinking of the fight between the Adelts over Gertrud going to the bar and a scene where Emilie kisses a man she doesn’t care for in front of Max. These scenes seem like simply (hackneyed) devices to move the plot, not as if they are originating from the realistic behavior of a character. As far as I was concerned, the Hindenburg could have blown up 300 pages earlier.