Lilian Nattel felt drawn to Lily Litvyak the moment she heard of her.
It was in the early 2000s when Nattel’s husband first came across Litvyak’s story online: she was a golden-haired Soviet fighter pilot whose plane was shot down behind German lines in 1943. After that, nobody knows what happened to her.
With so little information about her on the Internet at the time, the superficial details – especially the similarities between the two women – shook Nattel. They were both short and Jewish, Nattel noticed, and they even shared the same first name.
“Why haven’t I heard of her?” Nattel, sitting in a café in downtown Toronto, recalls asking herself. “It just kind of blew my mind that this existed.”
Nattel knew then that she wanted to write a book about Litvyak. She immediately began scouring the Internet for more information, finding a few contemporary memoirs from people who knew her.
– Michael Fraiman, interview, CJN
Nattel has said that Girl At the Edge of Sky took all her “skill in research and writing craft to bring to life this fictionalized story based on the real (Second) World War female fighter pilot.” Given that her skill is considerable and her craft formidable, the readers are the great beneficiaries. Lily Litvyak does indeed come to full animated life in a suspenseful, heart-rending story that is difficult to put down…
Girl at the Edge of Sky is rich with history and fictional engagement… Whether describing the young fighter pilot’s many riveting air battles or creating the stomach-churning tension in the young prisoner’s many perilous predicaments, Nattel is superb. Thus we see Lily being cynical and inspiring, vulnerable or hard-as-nails, trembling or courageous.
Nattel has created a work that conveys the immeasurably important message that an individual’s true stature is measured by factors more compelling than physique, gender, ethnicity, colour of skin or religion.
Share and enjoy!
–Mordechai Ben-Dat, Book Review, CJN