Cast in the form of three interwoven first-person memoirs, Maiden Flight is imaginatively reconstructed from personal letters, newspaper reports, and other documents of the period—in particular, Katharine’s lively and extraordinarily revealing love letters to Harry. In allowing Katharine to step outside of Wilbur and Orville’s shadow, it sheds new light on the central role she played in their private lives, as well as on her often misunderstood contribution to their scientific work. Above all, Maiden Flight celebrates Katharine’s abundant store of what she called “human nature”—her lively and perceptive outlook on life, her great capacity for both love and indignation, and her acute and sometimes crippling self-awareness.
Praise For Maiden Flight: A Novel…
Academy Chicago Publishers, 9781613736371, 304pp.
Publication Date: October 1, 2016
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. When Harry unexpectedly declares his love, Katharine is forced to choose between following her heart and staying home to look after her beloved brother Orville. Think back over the difficult either-or decisions you’ve made in your own life. What insight do they give you into Katharine’s feelings and behavior? Does your experience make you more or less sympathetic with her predicament?
2. Independent by nature and upbringing, Katharine prided herself on being unconventional in her relations with men. She supported woman suffrage, equal pay for equal work, and other aims of the women’s movement, even as she assumed the time-honored role of homemaker. In what ways did Katharine subscribe to traditional Victorian values, and in what ways did she represent an emerging feminist sensibility?
3. Katharine’s mother died when she was fifteen and she grew up in an all-male household. Later she served with distinction as the lone woman on Oberlin College’s board of trustees. Katharine observes that she has always lived with men and doesn’t regard them as “such a wonderful treat.” What strategies did she adopt to survive and excel in a man’s world? Do you see a connection between her interest in aeronautics and the visibility of many early women aviators?
4. The relationship between Katharine and Orville was so close that casual observers often mistook them for man and wife. Do you think Orville was justified in feeling betrayed when his sister left him to marry Harry? Would you feel differently if Katharine had been open with Orville about her wedding plans from the beginning? And do you believe that he would have taken a different view of the situation if she had given him more of a chance to get used to the idea before she married?
5. Katharine and Harry both rebelled against their strict religious upbringings and the fundamentalism of their parents. Yet religious values continued to shape their attitudes and actions. When Stef, the dashing Arctic explorer, betrays Katharine and Orville’s confidence, she observes that he would be “an entirely different kind of person if he had grown up in the wholesome surroundings Harry had as a young man.” What is the foundation of Katharine’s moral code, and how does it manifest itself in her relationships with Orville, Harry, and Stef?