Ps: This is a pre written review. I’ll be back to proper posting and commenting and such in November.
Title: Black Dove, White Raven
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Themes: Family, war, belonging, 16 year olds flying small planes because it’s the 1930s
Blurb(from goodreads):Emilia and Teo’s lives changed in a fiery, terrifying instant when a bird strike brought down the plane their stunt pilot mothers were flying. Teo’s mother died immediately, but Em’s survived, determined to raise Teo according to his late mother’s wishes—in a place where he won’t be discriminated against because of the color of his skin. But in 1930s America, a white woman raising a black adoptive son alongside a white daughter is too often seen as a threat.
Seeking a home where her children won’t be held back by ethnicity or gender, Rhoda brings Em and Teo to Ethiopia, and all three fall in love with the beautiful, peaceful country. But that peace is shattered by the threat of war with Italy, and teenage Em and Teo are drawn into the conflict. Will their devotion to their country, its culture and people, and each other be their downfall or their salvation?
I read Code Name Verity way back in 2014. It was heartbreaking and so, so well written. Although I haven’t read the authors other YA book Rose Under Fire, now I really want to.
This book dredged up memories of studying the Abyssinia Crisis in history about 3 years ago, although I don’t really remember it well. But it was kind of cool because the stuff I did remember, for example about the Italian’s use of mustard gas, was part of the story.
Black Dove, White Raven (which I reckon is a great, great title) reminded me how great historical fiction is.
I really like the characters. This book has no romance; the main characters are a foster brother and sister. Emilia is half Italian, half white American and was born in France, then moved around the US as her mother did flight shows, then moved to Ethiopia. She’s the main writer of the book (it’s told in various writing assignments, flight logs and letters, which are mainly written by her and some by her brother), and love her brother more than anything else. She enjoys writing stories with Teó and dressing up (in the stories she’s White Raven, a master of disguise), and has a lot of opinions.
The other main character is Teó. His father was an Ethiopian who met his mother in France. His mother was Emilia’s mother’s maid and then best friend. The two mothers learned to fly together in France then went back to the U.S and did a flying show together. But his mother died in a flying accident so Emilia’s mother adopts them. The family basically moves to Ethiopia because Teó’s mother had wanted to. Teó blends in better than his white siblings, but this isn’t all easy for him. They could never really be Ethiopian, but because of his Ethiopian heritage Teó has to choose how American and how Ethiopian he wants to be.
While I found Emilia’s voice more compelling, I really related to Teó’s difficulty with identity. Like him, I’m kind of from two places, both of which I’ve grown up in. His and Emilia’s character development was really well written and complex.
Secondary characters such as Habte Sadek, a lockl priest, and Emmy& Teó’s Momma, and her best friend Sinidu were also complex characters. Yet they felt a lot flatter than the two narrators, more part of the scenery of their lives than actively changing them.
I adored the setting. It was so nice to read a historical fiction not set in Europ or the US and the author had clearly researched well, painting a fascinating picture of 1930s Ethiopia, the last African country that was not colonised. It made me really interested in visiting modern Ethiopia too. The difficult relationship of Emilia to her Italian father, who is in the air force, during the climate of colonialism was really interesting. So was the power she, Teó and their mother have as fliers (their plane is borrowed from the Italian air force too which is a bit awkward). The views they have of Ethiopia as they learn to fly were also lovely. All in all, both the physical and chronological setting worked really well with the characters and plot.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the plot, setting, and characters of this book, I learned a lot from it, and the writing was spectacular. However, it didn’t spark any zingers, whatever that means, so no 5 stars.