Frances Finkel and the Passenger Pigeon by D. M. Mahoney

I really enjoyed the story of Frances Finkel in so many ways. It is a story of ambition and yearning in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles and the exuberance and impetuosity of youth. It is also about family and the ties that bind, and how these can be both positive and negative.

Frances is just seventeen and is at the heart of both her father’s aviation business and their family home. However, she loves to fly and like the young men that she sees around her heading off to fly war planes, she too wants to do her patriotic service. However, Frances’ story is as much about what she feels she is prevented from doing because of her gender as it is about duty, especially as she is exceptional in her flying ability.

Tragedy has already struck Frances’ family with the death of her twin brother, which we learn more about during the course of the novel, their diminished family also compounded by an absent mother. Frances feels the weight of her position as the only woman at home and an obligation to be there for her younger brother, Seamus; as a buffer of sorts to soften her, at times, irascible father.

However, she is determined and the latter parts of the book deal with her flying experiences outside of Oregon and her contribution to the war effort.

The passenger pigeon is a nice touch in the book, a discovery which Frances makes during a chance encounter. The bird, which she rescues, is a lifeline to her when she needs it most and becomes integral to her happiness as the book progresses, through the connections which having one brings to her.

I was surprised by the way that the book ended – issues that permeated the novel were dealt with to a degree but I did feel that these could have been rounded off a little better. This did not reflect badly on my enjoyment of the book.

D.M. Mahoney has created in Frances a spirited young woman of confidence and capability. Her story is told well in terms of its direction and how Frances’ pursuit of her dreams evolves. The historical context is clear throughout, the idea of women pilots and the furore that surrounds their emergence very typical of the time and related realistically.

It was a solid work of historical fiction, enjoyable to read.

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