Elizabeth's Reviews > En Vol: Journal d'une hôtesse de l'air

En Vol by Alix d'Unienville
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's review
Jan 05, 2011

bookshelves: en-francais, flying
Read from July 01, 2010 to January 01, 2011

I simply cannot do this book justice. Nor the author.

I raved about the book so much, when I first started reading it, that a friend who doesn’t read French actually got it out of the library and persisted thru the first 50 pages with the help of a dictionary. I would *love* to be able to translate it.

Alix d’Unienville was a Special Operations Executive agent during WWII, which is where I first read about her (in The Women Who Lived for Danger). Intrigued by her rather amazing history and her engaging voice in interviews, I got hold of this book—In Flight, Journal of an Air Hostess (Google translates this as “A Newspaper Stewardess, hee hee hee). Given that the years covered in this journal appear to be 1946 -1948 (the book was published in 1949), it’s fairly groundbreaking stuff.

D’Unienville’s prose is breathtaking—it reminds me of St. Exupery very much, but from a woman’s point of view—and of course, from a non-pilot point of view, although D’Unienville’s experience and ease in the air make her a rather special “non-pilot.” Her descriptions of flight are exquisite; her portraits of passengers humorous, sympathetic and gently mocking; her musings on life, death and adventure are heartbreaking. The travel she describes is at once far-removed from present-day air travel, and yet very like it. The major difference, I think, is that there is more interaction between the air crew of the 1940s and the passengers than there is today. They stay in the same hotels, are transported in the same taxis and buses. But other than that… you recognize what’s going on.

It’s taken me about 6 months to read this MAINLY because I lost my first copy of the book, appropriately, in transit between New York and Edinburgh last summer. The French isn’t difficult, and so, so beautiful.

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