Ursula Bridgewater, is unmarried after being jilted by her fiance. She seems to take this in her stride and she has rather embraced her single life, and wants to take her independence and explore the world. Her reasons for doing so are probably about thirty years ahead of their time, because it is the 1860s and women have only one role to play.
Thanks to Thomas Cook, who is starting out his business with escorted tours all over the world, Ursula embarks on journeys and adventures which take her to places that have only been seen through the words of others describing them. She could only read about such paces not actually visit them. In contrast her young companion she selects for the journey to America and to Niagara Falls, Sally has no ambition she is an orphan. She is sure that she will simply live in a service role for the rest of her life, whether it be in the orphanage or out of it. Sally has some sort of spirit that makes her stand out from the rest which was the result of a rather upsetting encounter when her mother dies. Sister Thomas of Holy Ghost thinks her spirit is not of a godly one and when after some rather strange events at the orphanage occur, Sally is somewhat rescued by Ursula.
They encounter a man Toby O’Hara who just like Ursula is ahead of his time, he has much more freedom of course being a man but he is trying to do something, he is trying to fly. He has something to prove to his father about the obsession of flying and put right something that happened to him in the past. A memory that has seemed to haunt him and haunted his father as well. When he travels to Niagara Falls where he sees an opportunity of viewing the great water from a different angle – from above he encounters this rather strong independent woman Ursula and her rather quiet shy companion Sally. For all of them, being up in the sky floating is going to change their worlds forever.
This is a book which I cannot neatly describe where it should fit. It is a crafted story, as delicate as the machine that Toby is trying to create as well as a novel where fears are challenged and the time period 1860s and 1870s Liverpool and America bring with it a historical setting. It is a very slow novel, I think as reflection of how slowly times was changing for everyone for independent women as well as inventors of the future. In some places perhaps it was two slow and I was expecting a much more pacier read. However, upon reflection it would not have been a book which stuck with you as much if it. This was a book of discovery and after so long I wanted to see how it was all going to end for the characters, it just took me a while to understand them. It might not necessarily take you as long?
I picked this book up to read, because I recall seeing it on another blog many moons ago and so it had been sat in my wish list on amazon for a while. Then when I saw that Jennie Rooney was coming to a reading event I was going to, I thought I should read it and see what sort of book it was and whether I was going to enjoy listening to her. I did enjoy listening to her, but I think her current novel Red Joan, maybe a bit more my sort of book. What I did like with this particular novel was that she took real life events, the start of Thomas Cook and his tours and the flying machines made them into stories and gave voices to people who were experiencing such things.