I’m going to start by saying that I loved this book. It has everything I look for in a book: interesting characters, personal connection, it is fast paced, it has plot, which might sound funny but it’s amazing to me how many books nowadays don’t have one. In Bird’s Eye View, Elinor Florence has checked off all the boxes that I look for in a book.
Rose Jolliffe is an idealistic young woman living on her family’s farm in Saskatchewan. Her home town of Touchwood is chosen as the site of a Service Flight Training School which, along with most of the local boys leaving to fight, brings the war into Rose’s backyard. It starts her thinking “What is my part? ” She joins the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and is chosen to be an aerial photographic interpreter due to her attention to detail and extensive knowledge of farms. She spies on the enemy from the air, watching the war unfold through her stereoscope. Not long out of high school, Rose is thrust into an adult’s world, travelling across the country and then taking a ship to Europe, away from home for the first time. She is a naïve girl at the beginning of the book but by the end blossoms. Her road to adulthood is a tender one, paralleled by the sluggish advancement of war and Canada’s emergence from Britain’s rule.
What impressed me the most about this book was the historical detail and accuracy. It is obvious from the get go that many hours of heart-wrenching research went into the writing of this story. This is a labour of love for Florence. I will admit that for the first few chapters I did look up some of the references. For example, was it common for prairie towns to be chosen to train Commonwealth aircrew? What was the age that girls could enter the women’s division of the Royal Canadian Air Force? After doing research of my own half a dozen times I learned to trust the author. She definitely knows her stuff. This made the book that much more enjoyable and interesting. I love historical fiction and this genre in particular. I learned so much about the Second World War and in particular about the massive contribution that the prairies and women gave to the war effort. I now know what a passion killer is and am fascinated by the use of barrage balloons and the role that photographic interpreters played in the day-to-day strategy of the air war in Europe. My father was a photographic interpreter and I have a greater understanding of his work.
I would recommend this book to everyone. The subject of the Second World War is approached in a way that I hadn’t seen before from the perspective of those behind the scenes that contributed so much to war effort and are often not properly acknowledged. I give Bird’s Eye View a 4.7/5.