This is a nonfiction of the female Soviet fighter pilots from WWII written by Elizabeth Wein, of Code Named Verity. It’s written for somewhat younger audience, evidenced primarily through a slightly simplified English prose style and explanatory sections that highlight complicated ideas such as America’s relationship with the Soviet Union at various times throughout our shared history, and of course ignoring the complex relationship with Russia today. The story begins by describing William Faulkner piecing together a screenplay for a movie to be made by Howard Hawks (whom Faulkner worked with several times in his Hollywood career). The movie would be a piece of pro-Allied Forces propaganda designed to inspire the war effort. This film would include a section about the Russian women fighter pilots, tapping into Faulkner’s own experience as a trained military pilot for the Canadian air force, though he never was to fly in wartime.
The book then details the inspiration for, the rise of, the training of, and the combat of the many different women who became fighter pilots, dive bombers, and other aircrew during the war. The book itself tells a really interesting story, and because it’s about the Soviet Union during WWII, it’s harrowing, depressing, and scary. As if being a fighter pilot weren’t scary enough — in the US Army, 15,000 airmen died in training alone, add to this the ways in which the Soviet Union “incentivized” fighting, such as shooting you or your family for retreating, failing, or hesitating.
So the result is a fascinating book in which you watch almost every single named character die in some horrifying way.