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Eagle & Crane Hardcover – 3 Jul 2018
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"Suzanne Rindell takes to the heavens in this glorious story of two daring aviators during the Great Depression. She's written an epic love story set against a time of upheaval, suspicion and change. A magnificent novel from a great writer." --Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of Kiss Carlo"Wildly ambitious and filled with heartbreak (I love heartbreak), Suzanne Rindell's third novel mesmerizingly pilots us through the Depression, the 1930s, Pearl Harbor, and the love one fierce young woman has for two very different aviators. Passionate, profound and an absolutely daredevil act of imagination." --Caroline Leavitt, New York Times-bestselling author of Pictures of You and Cruel Beautiful World "In this blazing saga about a flying circus, Rindell performs death-defying plot twists that race toward the shocking conclusion. Eagle & Crane is a majestic historical novel that is profoundly relevant in today's world." --Fiona Davis, author of The Address and The Dollhouse "A white-knuckled historical mystery and collision course of cultures, Eagle & Crane threads a fascinating tale through the half-silenced world of Japanese internment in America. Timely, expertly researched, and provocative." --Dominic Smith, New York Times-bestselling author of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos "Elegantly interweaving a lyrical love triangle with the spectacle of Depression-era barnstorming, the plight of Japanese Americans during the Second World War, and a bitter family feud spanning generations, Eagle & Crane poignantly plumbs still deeper waters: how far loyalty and friendship can be tested, and what it means to be an American." --Lyndsay Faye, Edgar-nominated author of Jane Steele and the Timothy Wilde trilogy
About the Author
Suzanne Rindell is a doctoral student in American modernist literature. Her first novel, The Other Typist, has been translated into 15 languages and optioned for film. She lives in New York City.
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Starting with FBI Agent Bonner’s arrival at the home of the Yamada family in 1943, the book moves between his tenacious investigation and scenes from the turbulent events in the years running up to the plane crash. The reader witnesses Ava’s childhood, the creation of the original Flying Circus by her stepfather, Earl Shaw, and the arrival of Louis Thorn and ‘Harry’ Haruto Yamada. It’s a story that involves a longstanding family feud involving the Thorns and Yamadas, strained friendships, a love triangle, deceit, betrayal and ghosts of the past.
Harry’s and Louis’s relationship is particularly complicated. Harry has the skill and daring when it comes to performing the aerial stunts (emulating his hero Harry Houdini) but it’s Louis who has the imaginative ideas. He also fits the ideal of an ‘all-American boy’ which Harry, with his Japanese heritage, does not. Their competitive nature leads them to attempt more and more daring and potentially dangerous stunts. As it turns out, that’s not the only source of competition between them. Their success and the fame it generates brings a potentially life-changing opportunity but with conditions attached. How they each respond to this will test their relationship possibly beyond breaking point.
There are some brilliant scenes depicting the thrill of their daredevil stunts and I particularly loved the section of the book that evoked the glamour of 1940s Hollywood. I also loved the character of Ava, who’s survived a tough upbringing and itinerant lifestyle with the Flying Circus but is clever, practical and a brilliant organiser. And how can you not feel drawn to a character for whom books are ‘treasures’.
However, the book also explores more serious themes such as identity and discrimination. The latter comes particularly under the spotlight following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. The anti-Japanese sentiment that results and the government decision to intern Japanese living in the US has tragic consequences for the Yamada family, and for others as well.
There is a brilliant final revelation with clever references to earlier events and to clues that were there all along if only you’d had the wits to notice them. Full disclosure: I didn’t.
I thought Eagle & Crane was a fantastic story, brilliantly told, that combines mystery, action and romance whilst exploring more serious themes and revealing a dark aspect of American history that was certainly new to this reader. On finishing the book with a satisfied sigh, I immediately added the author’s two previous books – The Other Typist and Three-Martini Lunch – to my wishlist.
This book instantly transported me to California with it wonderful descriptions of the land and the people. I loved reading about Ava, she was a wonderful character who sadly had to grow up too quickly during the Great Depression when her father killed himself and her mother didn’t know how to cope. Ava is an incredibly resourceful child and learns a lot about people, especially when her mother is swept off her feet by Earl Shaw who ends up running a barnstorming act. This was fascinating reading as I didn’t really know much about the ins and outs of these early display shows.
The mystery of the plane crash in 1943 was slow and very atmospheric. I didn’t know who my loyalties should side with, the FBI or the local towns folk? It was a very good mystery that I didn’t manage to work out at all and it had a very satisfying ending.
I loved the author’s note at the end of the book, about who inspired her it write the story, it was fascinating and should definitely not be ignored.
I read this over the course of a few weeks and I’m really disappointed I didn’t have the time to sit down and just read it a couple of sittings like it deserves. I definitely recommend this to lovers of historical fiction.
Thanks to Ailsa at Allison & Busby for my lovely hardback copy.
Suzanne Rindell has rapidly become one of my most highly anticipated must-read authors. This is only her third book, after The Other Typist and Three-Martini Lunch – both excellent. But she’s still improving with each book, and the joy is that each time she comes up with an entirely different and fascinating setting and story. I had mentioned in my reviews of both her earlier books that she sometimes gets so involved in creating an authentic setting that the descriptions can become overly long, creating a bit of drag in the mid-section. Not here! She achieves a pretty much perfect balance between scene-setting and plot, so that the pacing is steady and the forward momentum is maintained beautifully.
The book begins with FBI Agent Bonner showing up at the Yamadas’ farm looking for Harry and his father, who have apparently escaped from one of the Relocation Centers (concentration camps) to which people of Japanese heritage were sent following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. From here, we are taken back to the past to learn how Harry and Louis befriended each other as children, across a racial divide and a family feud. We follow them as they develop into Eagle & Crane, seeing how their very different backgrounds (different in not quite the way you may be thinking – Rindell doesn’t do clichés) have made them the men they have become. We see how Depression and war affect California, and our young heroes in particular. And we get to know Ava, Earl’s step-daughter, who travels with the barnstormers and forms a firm friendship with both boys, gradually complicated by the growth of romantic attraction. Every now and then we flash back to the present of 1943 (the only part of the book written in present tense), where slowly Agent Bonner discovers what has happened to Harry and his father, and lets us see too how the other characters have fared.
It’s a slow-paced book that takes an in-depth look at the impact of the internment of Japanese-Americans. While it has some elements of the thriller, it definitely falls far more into the category of literary fiction for me. Rindell’s research is skilfully fed to us through the development of her characters and her story, so that we gradually get a real feel for rural Californian life and attitudes in this period. She is clearly making a point about the racism underlying the internment policy, but she doesn’t thump the reader with polemical rants. Instead she lets us see through Harry’s eyes – a boy who thought he was American even though he knew he would never be treated in quite the same way as other Americans who looked like Louis rather than him. We also see through Ava’s initially innocent eyes – gradually awakened to an understanding of how thoughtless, low-level racism runs almost unnoticed as a backdrop to every aspect of Harry’s life.
But don’t let me put you off with my usual concentration on the political themes of the book! It also has an excellent story and the characterisation is wonderful. I loved learning all about the stunts the boys do, and about barnstorming in general. I enjoyed watching the careful way Rindell develops the setting, and found it so absorbing that I would find myself looking up after an hour or two, surprised to discover I was in 21st century Scotland rather than Depression-era California. The three major characters gained all my sympathy, even though they’re very different from one another, and I grew to care deeply about the outcome for each of them. And I was equally impressed by the depth Rindell puts into the supporting cast of characters – Agent Bonner, Earl, Ava’s mother, Louis’ family, and most of all the Yamadas as they find their American dream turning into a nightmare.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced thriller, this isn’t it. But if you want a beautifully written and insightful story about a time when political America showed itself at its worst and yet still with love and loyalty and friendship running through the lives of the people affected by it; if you want to be absorbed by the hopes and fears of a set of superbly observed characters; if you want to spend some time in a wonderfully authentic historical setting, then I highly recommend this book to you.
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Allison and Busby.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Told with stunning descriptions of Northern California and amazing detail around Japanese interment this story is one of loyalty, friendship, family and loss.
There are little vignettes, mini folk tales within that were just so interesting, they could have even been their own little spin-off books based around their own main characters, and the events they set in motion were very engrossing. I found I was really invested in what was going to happen, and there was so much intrigue there was always a reason I couldn't put it down.
Overall, if you are looking for something to keep you guessing and take you away to another time and place full of interesting people mired in all the love and tragedy life has to offer, this book is for you. I'll be giving it another read to walk back through the mystery with my post-read perspective.