Girl at the Edge of Sky

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Inspiration: I knew so much about the war. My parents are holocaust survivors, and as a kid, I used to wonder what I’d have done if I’d been a teenager, like them, struggling to survive in concentration camp. Helpless. Haunted. And then, a few years ago, I discovered that a girl, small like me and with my name, was a World War 2 fighter pilot. As a teenager, she was flying over occupied territory, shooting down Nazi aircraft. She loved flowers, she was fierce. How had I never heard of her? I wanted everyone to know about her!

“Like the glow of the moon over a frostbitten field, Girl at the Edge of Sky illuminates the darkest days on the Eastern front, revealing all the spark, courage and tenderness of one of the most fearless fighter pilots you can imagine. Lilian Nattel portrays the remarkable story of Lily Litvyak with striking detail and imagery that is as beautiful as it is chilling.”

– Ellen Keith, author of The Dutch Wife

Girl at the Edge of Sky is a unique, thrilling, sometimes terrifying novel based on the life of Lily Litvyak, a female Soviet flying ace and fighter pilot shot down behind German lines in the Second World War.

She bursts through the clouds and opens her eyes. The sound of engines is receding, the sky around her empty. There’s no one to see that her eyes are grey, that she wears a scarf made from parachute silk tucked inside her collar to keep it from chafing her neck, that her boots aren’t regulation, or that she is several kilometres above the earth on which human beings have evolved.

Girl at the Edge of Sky

Lily Litvyak is no one’s idea of a fighter pilot: a tiny, dimpled teenager with golden curls who lied about her age in order to fly. But in the crucible of the air war against the German invaders, she becomes that rare thing–a flying ace, glorified at home and around the world as the White Lily of Stalingrad. The real Lily disappeared in combat in August 1943, and the facts of her life are slim, but they inspired this portrait of a courageous young woman driven by family secrets to become an unlikely war hero. The novel asks: what if Lily survived that last crash and became a prisoner of the Germans?

Lily lives in a world of horrifying risk, where the life and death stakes are high in the air, but also on the ground. In the Soviet system, everyone is an informer, even your best friend. Lily lives in constant fear that she will be found out, arrested and executed as the daughter of an “enemy of the people.” When she ends up a German prisoner, as a Soviet officer and a Jew, the need for deception becomes even more desperate.

“Lily Litvyak is the kind of character readers hunger for: larger than life, yet so real she inhabits the mind like one you’ve known and loved. A dark and dazzling novel, Girl at the Edge of Sky swept me up from the opening line and kept me spellbound. Nattel writes as well–and as wildly–as her unforgettable heroine flies.”

– Alissa York, author of The Naturalist