A novel—inspired by the most celebrated regiment in the Red Army—about a woman’s sacrifice, courage, and love in a time of war.
Russia, 1941. Katya Ivanova is a young pilot in a far-flung military academy in the Ural Mountains. From childhood, she’s dreamed of taking to the skies to escape her bleak mountain life. With the Nazis on the march across Europe, she is called on to use her wings to serve her country in its darkest hour. Not even the entreaties of her new husband—a sensitive artist who fears for her safety—can dissuade her from doing her part as a proud daughter of Russia.
After years of arduous training, Katya is assigned to the 588th Night Bomber Regiment—one of the only Soviet air units composed entirely of women. The Germans quickly learn to fear nocturnal raids by the daring fliers they call “Night Witches.” But the brutal campaign will exact a bitter toll on Katya and her sisters-in-arms. When the smoke of war clears, nothing will ever be the same—and one of Russia’s most decorated military heroines will face the most agonizing choice of all.
Available on Amazon and through Kindle Unlimited.
I listened to the audio of this book way back in April 2018. The story gave me such ‘feels’ that I wasn’t able to write the review right away and I can’t believe it’s now so many months later!
I got this book as part of a “Kindle First” offer and was pleased to realize it came with audio too. I mostly used the audio for this book.
Audio: As it was such a while ago I can’t remember too many specifics about the audio but I do know there were no major issues. It was smooth and appeared to be of good quality. The narration was excellent. The narrator, Kathleen Gati, did a fantastic job of bringing the story to life, replete with Russian accent and all. I was very happy to have the chance to learn the pronunciation of several Russian places, names and words.
In April, I also mentioned this book in my first First Impression Friday post. I said, “I did not expect to be gripped so firmly by chapter one. Katya’s story is enthralling….. unless things change drastically, I expect to end this book with a rating of 4-5 espresso shots.” So said, so done.
This historical fiction novel is set in Russia in WWII and is based on the first all-female crew of fighter pilots. I don’t think I’d read a book set in Russia before and I’m quite pleased to check that country off my reading map. (Just got to add The Bear and the Nightingaleto that list now)! The story centres around Katya, her family, her dreams, her love and her passion for flying.
The pacing of the story was very well-done as we follow Katya from a little girl living in a small town, to student at the flying school, to eventually becoming a fighter pilot for her country. Along the way she meets and falls in love with another pilot who absolutely adores her and with whom she makes plans for life after the war. Theirs is a sweet and poignant romance. A spot of hope amidst despair. There are nostalgic scenes mixed in with action and all are interwoven with historical events and details. I was never bored while reading and couldn’t wait to find out more.
This story covers feminist issues but it is not just a critique of how women who willingly risked their lives for their country were treated with disdain and disrespect. Through events covered and interactions and altercations among members of the various regiments, the scene is painted to describe the difficult experiences these women endured amongst their own countrymen.
It’s a war story and as such not everyone makes it out alive. Each loss is heart-breaking in its own way but ultimately, the sense I was left with was one of resilience. Katya and her crew mates are proud, determined, strong and resilient. They gave their lives to a cause and saw it through ‘til the end.
I absolutely loved this story. I enjoyed the characters, the events, the setting and the historical details I learnt along the way. The author’s historical note at the end clues the readers into which aspects were more factual and which were more artistic.
Overall, I finished this book feeling enlightened and uplifted, even if a little sad too.
I give this story 5/5 flying-fighter shots.