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Craig M. Renwick
4.0 out of 5 starsFrom history's hidden pages...
Reviewed in the United States on October 7, 2018
A collection of profiles of the women that flew for the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) during WW2. This an OK primer for those interested in this subject but if you want more detail and remembrances that have more nuance I would recommend getting the books written by the women pilots themselves like "Contact! Britain!" by Nancy Miller Livingston Stratford, "Spreading My Wings" by Diana Barnato Walker, "Intrepid Woman" by Betty Lussier or "The Sky And I" by Veronica Volkersz.
4.0 out of 5 starsWhether you call these pilots "Hurricane Girls" or "Spitfire Girls," they are definitely inspiring!
Reviewed in the United States on July 29, 2020
Making a history book interesting and entertaining isn't exactly easy, but Jo Wheeler has done a good job of telling the story of the women pilots who served in the Air Transport Auxiliary in England during World War II. Wheeler manages to include considerable background information of the pre-war and war era in England. She also covers the planes, the flying conditions, the locations, and some personal stories of the women involved. There have been several fictional accounts of the ATA women, popularly called "The Spitfire Girls," and this book adds to those stories useful historical background. While not as fun and creative as fiction, THE HURRICANE GIRLS is very readable. I enjoyed it very much.
3.0 out of 5 starsFantastic stories, poorly told with too many errors
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 16, 2020
I bought this book for my wife after she had read my copy of the fantastic "Spitfire" by John Nichols. She is neither an aviation enthusiast nor a WW2 buff, but loved the stories of the individuals caught up in saga of WW2. She mentioned a few comments about the style whilst reading it, but on the whole enjoyed it.
I have to disagree with Mr Hampton on a few point I'm afraid...
I decided to read it after she had finished with it. Unfortunately I am an Aviation Geek, and also know a fair amount about the Second World War, and that's where part of the problem lies. The other part of the problem is that it feels quite lazily written, or "phoned in". Too many cliches were used, sometimes anachronistically.
One example: "Her landing procedure kicked in, almost as though she was on autopilot".
Furthermore Wheeler's writing style is confusing. In one paragraph she refers to a pilot named Irene, then refers to her by her nickname of Renee. She jumps around the chronology and it is not always clear what year or season she is writing about.
I know that it is not unusual to tell a story about an event from the point of view of the people who were there, but the jumps between narratives are particularly jarring. The chapters seem written by the author at different points in time causing her to repeat herself occasionally.
For the lay person, aircraft are introduced without any explanation about the size of them, number of engines or what they were used for. The Hudson, for example, is introduced this way, without any indication of whether it is biplane trainer, a fighter or a 4 engined bomber. Of course it is none of those things.
On the Aviation side, there are numerous errors that had me screaming at the book and really spoilt my enjoyment of the read. In the same passages as the the above quote, Wheeler describes the pilot of an Oxford as having "nothing to navigate by, it was impossible to keep a straight line" after ascending above the clouds. 10 seconds googling for a cockpit photo of an Oxford shows it was well equipped, including an artificial horizon, turn and slip indicator, and, most importantly, a compass. Even if they were not trained in instrument flying, a compass would have been used as part of their navigation tool set.
Another quick example: The Mustang was apparently designed for low level attack... That must come as a surprise to the designers who created its laminar flow wing which worked superbly at high speed and altitude.
There are some sentences that just don't make sense, and clumsily written descriptions.
For some reason, the two most famous ATA pilots - Mary Ellis and Joy Lofthouse - don't even get a name check, despite Mary's book being referenced in the acknowledgements.
There is a good book in here, trying to get out. If it was to go to a new edition I would recommend:
1) Employing a proof reader who understands aviation 2) Employing a proof reader who understands WW2 3) Employing a good editor 4) Including more photos. Individual images of each of the women (some are provided, but not many). Also an Individual image of each of the aircraft referenced in the text, along with some information about what they were used for etc.
The book as it stands really deserves two stars but I've given it an extra star in honour of the brave flyers of the ATA.
5.0 out of 5 starsA delightful recount of the essential service the ATA played in WW2
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 22, 2019
Hurricane Girls, a delightful recount of the essential service the ATA played in WW2. Wheeler's style is pleasantly relaxed, giving a feel of someone telling you a gripping story over afternoon tea. She focuses on the lives, triumphs and determination of the women founders of the ATA, rather than inundating the reader with dry facts and figures. The book feels like a cross between fiction and non-fiction with excellent narratives and an epic story-arch seated in harrowing truths of WW2.
Good points - Well written and edited (a rare find these days!) - Easy to follow narratives. - Full of paraphrased historical recounts from actual women of the ATA. - Includes two sections of black & white photos (my nephew loved counting the planes with me!)
Not-so-good points (inc. spoilers - Skip if necessary) - Not exactly a bad point: I was completely broadsided by the deaths of so many characters at different points in the book. The author did such a good job bringing them to life that she also manages to highlight just how perilous life during WW2 was for everyone, including the pilots of the ATA.
Overall, this was an excellent read and a welcome change of pace from the typically dry styles of other historical non-fiction. Wheeler has done a great service to the women of the ATA, bringing these ambitious and daredevil characters to life for the rest of eternity.