Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 10 hours and 52 minutes (384 pages)
Publisher: Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
Release Date: March 5, 2015
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: Audiobook from Audible.com
Rating: 3/5 stars
“Emilia’s and Teo’s lives changed in a fiery, terrifying instant when a bird strike brought down the plane their stunt-pilot mothers were flying. Teo’s mother died immediately, but Em’s survived, determined to raise Teo according to his late mother’s wishes-in a place where he won’t be discriminated against because of the color of his skin. But in 1930s America, a white woman raising a black adoptive son alongside a white daughter is too often seen as a threat.
Seeking a home where her children won’t be held back by ethnicity or gender, Rhoda brings Em and Teo to Ethiopia, and all three fall in love with the beautiful, peaceful country. But that peace is shattered by the threat of war with Italy, and teenage Em and Teo are drawn into the conflict. Will their devotion to their country, its culture and people, and each other be their downfall…or their salvation?”
I loved Wein’s “Code Name Verity” and “Rose Under Fire” novels. I thought “The Pearl Thief” was pretty boring and lackluster. Still given how much I loved “Code Name Verity” I was eager to read this book. I ended up being pretty disappointed in this novel. Despite surroundings that could be exciting the book ends up being incredibly boring; like fall asleep while driving boring.
I listened to this on audiobook and I think that was part of my issue with the book. The narrator for Teo does an excellent job with accents and sounded exactly how I imagine Teo would sound. However the narrator that did Em’s parts just had a very black and soothing voice; somehow she managed to make war scenes sound sleepy.
The first part of this book had a lot of promise with daring airwomen and some interesting mixed culture. However once Em’s mother gets them moved to Ethiopia things went downhill for me. None of the characters do much of anything in Ethiopia; they are largely pulled along by the political events that surround them and very rarely take action to change things. While the characters inaction does come across as fairly realistic; it is also very boring to read about.
The majority of this book is about the war that took place between Ethiopia and Italy in the mid 1930’s. I am going to be real honest here and say I had never heard about this war before reading this book. So, I guess it was good to learn about. Now I am going to be completely not politically correct and say…I would have been fine not knowing about this war. I am sure it was devastating to the people involved, but I am not a history buff and I just didn’t care.
The first interesting part of this book for me was learning about mustard gas and what it does to people (I heard of mustard gas but never really knew how awful it was). The second interesting part of this book for me was Wein’s afterward. In the afterward she goes into how the 2nd Italo-Ethiopian War fits in with the rest of history and how this eventually led to the League of Nations being viewed as ineffective which, in part, allowed Hitler to do the horrible things he did. I wish the Afterward had been before the story and then I might have understood the implications of the story better and been more engaged in what seemed like a pretty one-sided, brief, and boring war.
Overall this book was okay but not great. Mostly I just found it incredibly boring. There are vast portions of the book where nothing much happens and the characters are struggling to do things like get passports and take flying lessons. You might be interested in this book if you are interested in Ethiopian history or you are obsessed with flying. Otherwise I would skip it, it’s definitely not Wein’s best work.