Book Review: Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon

In Flight of Dreams, author Ariel Lawhon takes full advantage of creative license to tell the story of the passengers and crew on the Hindenburg’s final, disastrous voyage as well as develop one possible (although farfetched) explanation for the explosion.

I read Flight of Dreams as part of the 2022 Thoughtful Reading Challenge. June’s challenge was to read a book with a trip in it since so many people travel during the summer months. Let’s hope no travelers have a Hindenburg-like experience this summer.

Here’s a description of the book courtesy of my library’s website:

“On the evening of May 3rd, 1937, ninety-seven people board the Hindenburg for its final, doomed flight to Lakehurst, New Jersey. Among them are a frightened stewardess who is not what she seems; the steadfast navigator determined to win her heart; a naive cabin boy eager to earn a permanent spot on the world’s largest airship; an impetuous journalist who has been blacklisted in her native Germany; and an enigmatic American businessman with a score to settle. Over the course of three hazy, champagne-soaked days their lies, fears, agendas, and hopes for the future are revealed.

“Flight of Dreams is a fiercely intimate portrait of the real people on board the last flight of the Hindenburg. Behind them is the gathering storm in Europe and before them is looming disaster. But for the moment they float over the Atlantic, unaware of the inexorable, tragic fate that awaits them.”

flight of dreams

The book was a little too heavy on melodramatic romance for my taste. However, I really enjoyed learning more about the Hindenburg, which was the fastest way to cross the Atlantic Ocean at the time and considered cutting edge aviation technology and a big feather in Adolf Hitler’s cap. Unfortunately, a humongous balloon full of hydrogen was bound to meet a tragic end.

Here are some other interesting facts I learned either from the book or my own research:

  • More people survived (62) than died (36) in the explosion. This information surprised me. Based on the footage, it’s surprising anyone made it out alive.
  • This wasn’t the worst airship disaster, but because a news camera caught video footage, it became the most infamous.
  • The Hindenburg was originally built to use helium, but the US had a monopoly on helium and wouldn’t share it with other countries because of concerns other nations would use it for military purposes.
  • The Hindenburg was huge. Among other spaces, it had 34 passenger cabins, a dining room, a bar, a smoking room (right?), and a writing room.

Click here to see photographs of the Hindenburg’s interior.

In addition to enjoying learning more about the Hindenburg, I also liked that the author provided context of what was happening in Germany at the time. The Hindenburg’s last trip was in May 1937, while Hitler and the Nazis were solidifying their power in Germany. This reality is reflected in some of characters’ stories.

I think the author also did a good job depicting the horror of the explosion, including the shock and devastation of the passengers and crew.

Hindenburg_disaster

Despite these strengths, however, I found some of the storyline tedious, especially the romance between the stewardess and the navigator. Additionally, I learned in the author’s note at the end of the book that the author used real passenger and crew members’ names but completely fabricated their stories (including the romance), which I have a real problem with.

Overall, while the novel had its high points, there are better historical fiction novels to spend your time reading.

How about you? Did you read a book with a trip in it? Tell us all about it!

**Reminder: July’s challenge is to read a book with a dog as the main character.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon

  1. You are spot on with your book review! I enjoyed the book but did not expect it to be such the romance novel that it was. As historical fiction, I was hoping to learn a lot more about the Hindenburg and passenger balloons than I did. As you pointed out, there were some interesting tidbits about how this was important to the Nazis but I was hoping for a lot more of that type of information and less about the mythical romances on board. Also, while I learned a few things, I actually learned a lot more once I had finished the book and looked up the Hindenburg. The storyline was interesting but not compelling and towards the end it seemed like I was ready for them to arrive in New Jersey already. It had a lot of potential since I must admit, I had seen the historical footage of the explosion but really knew very little about the Hindenburg. This is not the book to fill in those blanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it really piqued my curiosity and motivated me to do more research. But I thought the author did a good job describing the physical layout during many of the scenes.

      Like

  2. You almost always recommend the books you read, so I took seriously your thought that this one was interesting, but not great. And I agree – using real people’s names, while completely fabricating their stories, isn’t very nice – unless they are famous people, and we all understand it is historical fiction.

    I just finished reading Harry’s Trees, which I believe I first heard about from you and. your blog readers. Now that is one great book!

    Liked by 1 person

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