Review of A Thousand Sisters: The Heroic Airwomen of the Soviet Union in World War II

A Thousand Sisters: The Heroic Airwomen of the Soviet Union in World War II
by Elizabeth Wein
Middle School, High School    Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins    388 pp.
1/19    978-0-06-245301-3    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-245304-4    $8.99

Wein has established herself as a consummate writer of historical fiction (Code Name Verity, rev. 5/12; Rose Under Fire, rev. 11/13); here she exercises her considerable skill as a researcher, historian, and storyteller in a capacious history of the USSR’s three regiments of airwomen during World War II. Beginning with Marina Raskova’s advocacy for women pilots, and the formation of her all-women regiments of dive bombers, fighters, and night bombers (familiarly known as the “Night Witches”), Wein takes us deep into the training, daily lives, combat, and intense personal commitment these women experienced throughout the war. She clearly contextualizes their story within Stalin’s regime, Nazism, and developments at the Eastern Front, but her passionate undergirding theme is the right of women to fly and, particularly, to fly in combat. The personalities and skills of the airwomen come alive, in part through accounts of night after night of flying and bombing and fighting, and in part through Wein’s attention to how they exerted femininity and solidarity in the thick of brutal living conditions. An easy, friendly writing style — deceptive, given the acuity of Wein’s perceptions and the extent of the material she manages — invites readers into the company of a formidable sisterhood. Illustrated throughout with maps and period photographs; appended with copious back matter, including meticulous source notes, a lengthy bibliography, an author’s note, and an index.

From the July/August 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Deirdre Baker
Deirdre Baker
Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the past tense.

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