Flight: A Nov­el of a Dar­ing Escape Dur­ing World War II

Vanes­sa Harbour

  • Review
By – April 25, 2022

Dur­ing World War II, the famous Lip­izan­ner hors­es of the Span­ish Rid­ing School in Vien­na were relo­cat­ed to the Aus­tri­an coun­try­side to escape bomb­ing. In the his­tor­i­cal nov­el Flight, Vanes­sa Har­bour imag­ines how a Jew­ish boy and a Roma girl, hid­ing from the Nazis, could have par­tic­i­pat­ed in the res­cue of these clas­si­cal­ly trained ani­mals. Some of the per­form­ing hors­es have been stolen by the Ger­mans, and oth­ers are at risk from the advanc­ing Sovi­et Army. Jakob and Kizzy, both mourn­ing their lost par­ents, are ded­i­cat­ed to pre­vent­ing fur­ther harm to the hors­es, which the Unit­ed States mil­i­tary even­tu­al­ly saves.

While Harbour’s ani­mal char­ac­ters are not humans in dis­guise, they are depict­ed with anthro­po­mor­phic touch­es, includ­ing sen­si­tiv­i­ty and implied com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the peo­ple who care for them. The hors­es in Flight are noble beings, shar­ing in the anguish of those around them. There are lyri­cal descrip­tions of the envi­ron­ment, as Jakob, Kizzy, and Jakob’s pro­tec­tor, Herr Engel, pur­sue their escape. Scenes of the char­ac­ters nav­i­gat­ing moun­tains and rivers, where nature some­times threat­ens and at oth­er times pro­tects them, are more than a back­ground to the sto­ry. Harbour’s strength as an author is most appar­ent in these sec­tions of the book, as she draws a con­trast between the Nazis’ sav­agery and the deep con­nec­tion that Jakob and Kizzy rec­og­nize between humans and the phys­i­cal world around them.

From a his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive, the book offers read­ers insight into a less­er-known episode in the war. Har­bour fea­tures inter­ac­tions between his­tor­i­cal fig­ures and fic­tion­al char­ac­ters, adding depth to her nar­ra­tive. Edu­ca­tors and care­givers can encour­age young read­ers, who will be drawn to the excit­ing facts of the sto­ry, to do fur­ther research about the Lip­iz­zan­er hors­es and the peo­ple who took respon­si­bil­i­ty for their rescue.

Emi­ly Schnei­der writes about lit­er­a­ture, fem­i­nism, and cul­ture for TabletThe For­wardThe Horn Book, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions, and writes about chil­dren’s books on her blog. She has a Ph.D. in Romance Lan­guages and Literatures.

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