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“What am I doing up here?”
That’s how author Bette Bach Fineman begins her memoirs. It's the early 1970s and she's on a cross-country flying trip with her husband and a couple of friends - she in her own plane, her husband in his, and the couple in a third. They've landed in a farmer's field, she's making her approach. This is in the days when
It’s not long, however, before Bette realizes why she’s up in the sky, pilot instead of co-pilot.
Then, one day, he left her.
Devastated, Bette set about putting the pieces of her life back together, and creating a new one. In Patterns: Tales of flying...and of life she recounts how she did it.
She also continues to fly for the sheer love of it, in a restored World War II Tiger Moth biplane.
First and foremost...it's a memoir. I found the author's life so interesting, her interactions with the aviation community so entertaining, that I really wished for a full-scale biography! (In addition to aviation, she also made a career out of illustration and editing, but this part of her life is only touched on.) She doesn't really concentrate on dates, either, which I think is a pity. I like to know the exact month, day and year on which events happened, as that gives a "grounding" to the story. All we know is that time is passing...
There are no photos, except on the dust jacket, and only one illustration. However, there is a photo gallery at her website, so check that out.
Finally, there's no index, (which I regard as a must in a non-fiction book), as over the course of many years she came into contact with dozens of the "rich and famous," not only actors but also aviation.
There's insights into the character of her ex-husband Richard Bach (recounted without bitterness), and into the great aviation writer Ernest K. Gann. There's a brief anecdote about Tom Watson, CEO of IBM at the time, and his buddy Skitch Henderson.
She mentions the film people she met - Cliff Robertson, Tony Bill (producer of The Sting) as well as aviators Lloyd Stearman, Benny Howard, Pancho Barnes, and Bud Gurney. She gives some insight into the fatal crash of stunt pilot Ed Mahler.
The aviation world is a small and intimate one, and in reading this book you'll be introduced to it - or recognize old friends if you're a pilot yourself. I recommend this book highly, for anyone with an interest in how a life is lived fully and well.
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