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Visible Empire

3.25  ·  Rating details ·  1,609 ratings  ·  242 reviews
From a writer who “deserves the attention of anyone in search of today's best fiction”* comes an epic novel—based on true events—of wealth, race, grief, and love, charting one sweltering summer in Atlanta that left no one unchanged (*Washington Post)

It’s a humid June day when the phones begin to ring in Atlanta: disaster has struck. Air France Flight 007, which had been ch
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 5th 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Average rating 3.25  · 
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May 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
Visible Empire had a lot of initial promise. Based on reality, an Air France charter flight, filled with some of Atlanta’s most prestigious art lovers and patrons, crashed upon take-off in Paris in the early 1960s. Families and friends were devastated and children were left orphans. In the meantime, the city of Atlanta was in the midst of the Camelot era, yet dealing with the inequities of social, economic and racial disparities.

I expected a novel that concentrated on the emotional growth proces
Sharon Huether
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads, novel
A story about the 1962 air line crash in Paris. All were lost on the trip back to the U.S. These were the art loving people of Atlanta.
One of the families affected by the loss of family and friends; was Robert and Lily, they saw their future disappear. Lily was at home, expecting a baby soon. The tragedy brought Robert and Lily back together.
There were parts of this book that took off in a totally different.It didn't flow.
I won this book through Goodreads First reads.
Sarah at Sarah's Bookshelves
Thank you to Doubleday and Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book.

I know many people have mixed feelings about fiction based on real life events, but I’m a fan! In Visible Empire, the Orly plane crash is the big event that ties lots of disparate people and perspectives together (and the opening chapters recounting the crash are riveting). The overall book is more a portrait of Atlanta in the 1960’s from all these different perspectives (the Mayor’s wife, family of the crash victims, an Afri
Kari Ann Sweeney
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018
Loved the cover, loved the description, didn't love the book.
While I could totally enjoy this novel as a mini-series, it didn't work for me as a novel. It had a lot of promise- historical fiction based on a plane crash in 1962 and the survivors back home in Atlanta who are left to pick up the pieces of their new reality. After reading it, I wasn't sure it had much to do with the plane crash at all. You know those books that almost get it right? This one almost gets it right- but in the e
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Pittard has managed to write an exquisite novel about a few weeks in the lives of people living in Atlanta in 1962. The catalyst which propels the story is the crash of a plane carrying the leading and richest citizens of Atlanta.

The book centers around the lives of Robert and Lily, profoundly affected by the crash. Lily has lost both her parents and her wealth while Robert has lost his mistress. .The book takes the reader through the issues of Southern society and attitudes via the character o
Linda Hutchinson
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
I am a little flummoxed about how to review this book. Was it about race relations in Atlanta, or was it about a plane crash in France where 100 or more of the wealthiest citizens of Atlanta perished, or was it about infidelity, or was it about interracial romance, or was it about suddenly rich survivors? The novel started with an interesting story line but the book disintegrated (along with the plane) into a variety of vignettes that really did not pull the story together. I’ll be interested in ...more
Jun 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was completely caught up in this novel, but the ending felt rushed. Pittard's writing is lovely, and I will read her other novels. ...more
Nia Forrester
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written, hard-to-classify book, about a moment in time in Atlanta when the city suffered an unspeakable loss.

It is 1962, and things are changing socially, culturally, and politically, and then, thousands of miles away in Paris, a plane falls from the sky. The connection between this tragedy and the lives of several disparate but interconnected people, white and Black, wealthy and poor is explored in this slice-of-life story. Hannah Pittard has a unique voice that reminds me of Wil
Chris Dietzel
Oct 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was the first of Pittard's books that didn't keep me completely engaged. I feel like she is at her best when she focuses on 2-3 main characters and gives the reader a character study of each. In this, the large cast of characters and the jumping narratives worked against her. Still a good book but just not as good as her others. ...more
Bonnie Brody
May 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
This novel is based on a real plane crash that occurred in 1962 as a French plane was taking off for Atlanta. Virtually all the passengers died in the crash and their remains were burnt beyond recognition. Almost all of the passengers were from Atlanta, having completed a European tour and now heading home. The novel is told from the points of view of those who lost loved ones in the crash or were connected to the deceased in some way.

Robert is married to Lily who is due to give birth in about o
Nov 11, 2017 rated it did not like it
I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher -
It’s a humid June day when the phones begin to ring in Atlanta: disaster has struck. Air France Flight 007, which had been chartered to ferry home more than one hundred of Atlanta’s cultural leaders following a luxurious arts-oriented tour of Europe, crashed shortly after takeoff in Paris. In one fell swoop, many of the city’s wealthiest residents perished.

Left behind wer
The title was clever. Unfortunately, it’s the only thing in this book was clever. It covered no knew ground nor did it put forth any fresh thoughts. The plane crash was simply a jumping off point for a different topic. The stories were disjointed and lacking in development, much less conclusion. Piedmont was the only likeable character. Lulu drove me nuts. I wanted to skip over all the dialogues between her and the Mayor. I felt duped. I almost skipped this one…wish I had trusted my instincts on ...more
Dec 26, 2020 rated it it was ok
An unpalatable blend of fiction smothered overtop a thin morsel of fact. The plane crash of Atlanta's arts patrons in France really happened, but the way this novel is written it is difficult to discern what was researched from what was invented. Mayor Ivan Allen was a real person and I could not tell whether his conversations with his wife were based on actual historical evidence or if they're just fabrications of the author. This was very confusing especially in the immediate aftermath of the ...more
Jennifer Kepesh
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I didn't know anything about this book except the blurb--it was a sale book on Kindle. I wasn't expecting to be as deeply invested in it as I became. I think that the reason is that it is a book that starts with a story of Atlanta I had never heard--the story of a plane crash in Paris, France, that killed more than 100 of Atlanta's most prominent white citizens, who had spent a month in Europe on an art tour. This really happened in 1962. The Woodruff Arts Center, where I have gone to so many co ...more
Sep 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
3ish that I'm rounding up. I liked it well enough, but didn't quite connect with it enough to make it a real standout. ...more
Bethany Michelle  Planton
I knew nothing about the events of June 3,1962 or their affect on Atlanta. Visible Empire follows multiple storylines in Atlanta in the aftermath of Chateau de Sully crash. I enjoyed how Pittard wove the stories together to give a more complete look at the aftermath. Very enjoyable read.
Aug 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
3 Peachtree stars

This is a book that was uncomfortable to read, but one I’m glad to have read. Set in Atlanta just after a plane crash in Paris has killed about one hundred prominent Atlantans. Based on a true story, the historical aspect was quite interesting. There are Civil Rights themes and the book is told from multiple narrators.

I thought it was well written, but it missed the mark in a few ways for me as a reader. I didn’t really root for any of the characters and I wasn’t drawn into the
Jul 20, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2018
Stupid. Seriously - I follow Modern Mrs. Darcy and this was on her summer recommendation list - but did she really read this book? I can't imagine why it would have been recommended. It pretended to touch on issues of class and race but instead it just was a flat not-interesting story full of characters that were not sympathetic but instead were just weird. Don't read it. ...more
Jill Meyer
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
On June 3, 1962, an Air France charter flight bound for New York City and then Atlanta, crashed upon takeoff from Paris's Orly Airport. Only two people on the 707 survived the crash; the other 130 people were killed. All the 120 passengers were from Atlanta and were returning from a three week tour of Europe. All were from Atlanta's wealthiest and most prestigious families and their deaths echoed for years in the arts and social communities of the city.

Hannah Pittard has written a novel, "Visib
"It was four trustees of the Art Association and a former president of Oglethorpe University and half the members of the Junior League and both cofounders of the Atlanta English-Speaking Union and seven volunteers of the Humane Society and twenty members of the Druid Hills High School PTA and another twelve of Westminster's PTA and three faculty members of Emory University, not to mention the first female clerk of the Georgia Supreme Court. It was every member of the ad hoc all-female croquet te ...more
Mary Lins
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: complete
I'll bet dollars-to-donuts that Hanna Pittard's new historical fiction, "Visible Empire", will be made into a film or TV show/series. It's got tons of cinema-graphic elements (an actual PLANE CRASH fer crying out loud!) plus stir in the current nostalgia for the 1960s and plenty of "rich and beautiful" characters, race-relations and Civil Rights history; well, that's a recipe Hollywood won't pass up.

Based on a true event: a 1962 plane crash in Paris that killed 121 of Atlanta's upper class who w
May 02, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As a native Atlantan transplanted to Northern California as an adult, I was eager to read "Visible Empire" set in Atlanta, GA in the immediate aftermath of the Orly airplane crash which tragically killed many local arts patrons in 1962. I was twelve years old when this event occurred and vividly recall my horror at the many children orphaned by this event as well as the beautiful Rodin sculpture gifted by the city of Paris to the city of Atlanta for its High Museum of Art.

Hannah Pittard did a g
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Rounded up on this one, but I am really riding the waves of thought after finishing this book. There was a point, mid-way through, when I wondered if I would have enjoyed a non-fiction book about this same event (1962 plane crash at Orly, killing almost all on board- who were mostly wealthy Atlanta residents)- but some of the chapters at the end were really quite perfect.

I struggle a little with the genre of Rich People Problems- this is more nuanced than that (and grief is universal). I liked
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Rounding up from 3.5 - I really enjoyed the first 3/4s of the novel and the panoply of characters Pittard introduces, giving us a swirling view of Atlanta in 1962. But everything starts to feel a bit glancing, especially the politics, and the novel ultimately concludes with a scene of off-screen horror and then a limp wrap-up.

Still, I adore Pittard’s writing and I’m aware that this was a deeply personal novel for her - so, okay, I’m glad I read it.
Amy lifewiththe_williams
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This book was so moving and so thought provoking and so relevant to our time even tho it is set in the 1960’s. It’s sad to realize that we haven’t progressed as much as we think. I loved the character driven story tho, each and every character and their development in the wake of this tragedy
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received a digital ARC of this book from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on NetGalley. I’m grateful to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for their generosity and am happy to post this honest review. All opinions are my own.

The foundation of Visible Empire is the 1962 fatal crash of an Air France jet transporting 121 of Atlanta’s art patrons—the wealthy, white, upper-crust of the city. From there, Pittard builds her tale of those left behind—the grieving remainder of the muckety-mucks, the
Rachael Rennard
Aug 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
The book is based on an actual plane crash in 1962 that killed over 100 of Atlanta’s most prominent citizens. I expected the novel to be about the crash, but there’s very little about the actual event. The novel is Pittard’s invention of what the aftermath of that crash may have looked like for some of Atlanta’s elite.

This is one instance where I don’t get the mixed reviews. I loved the varying storylines that intersect. I thought it was a beautifully crafted and well-written novel. It kept my
Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Pittard's novel, set in 1962 after a plane crash that wiped out many of the elite members of society, offers a short capsule view of privilege and race from that time. I found most of the flawed characters distasteful and was searching for someone to pull for. In the end the book offered that and I was touched by the conclusion. ...more
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“We're sick of this shit," said Michael. "News people, the mayor and his wife, television shows, the goddamn president of the United States - they're all going on and on about this airplane that went down in Paris, France, on Plant Earth. They jabber on and on about the movers and the shakers, about all the important folks we lost that day. The Reverend himself comes on the radio and tells us that we better behave, that we should hang our heads in sadness at our loss. You know what, though? It isn't our loss. You understand? It isn't our loss at all. It's their loss. We have losses. Every day. Every single day we suffer losses. But no one talks about those. We get no letters of sympathy. We get nothing. Just ignored.” 0 likes
“It was twenty doctors, nine architects, thirteen lawyers, and too many mothers and fathers to count. In short, it felt like everyone because to the mayor's wife, it was everyone, it was everyone she cared about, and they were all gone in a single, heartbreaking, unbelievable whop.” 0 likes
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