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Download The Unsubstantial Air: American Fliers in the First World War Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Unsubstantial Air: American Fliers in the First World War, by Samuel Hynes Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Samuel Hynes Narrator: Sean Runnette Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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The Unsubstantial Air is the gripping story of the Americans who fought and died in the aerial battles of World War I. Much more than a traditional military history, it is an account of the excitement of becoming a pilot and flying in combat over the Western Front, told through the words and voices of the aviators themselves.

A World War II pilot himself, the memoirist and critic Samuel Hynes revives the adventurous young men who inspired his own generation to take to the sky. The volunteer fliers were often privileged—the sorts of college athletes and Ivy League students who might appear in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel and sometimes did. Others were country boys from the farms and ranches of the West. Hynes follows them from the flying clubs of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale and the grass airfields of Texas and Canada to training grounds in Europe and on to the front, where they learned how to fight a war in the air. And to the bars and clubs of Paris and London, where they unwound and discovered another kind of excitement, another challenge. He shows how east-coast aristocrats like Teddy Roosevelt’s son Quentin and Arizona roughnecks like Frank Luke the Balloon Buster all dreamed of chivalric single combat in the sky and how they came to know both the beauty of flight and the constant presence of death.

By drawing on letters sent home, diaries kept, and memoirs published in the years that followed, Hynes brings to life the emotions, anxieties, and triumphs of the young pilots. They gasp in wonder at the world seen from a plane, struggle to keep their hands from freezing in open­ air cockpits, party with actresses and aristocrats, rest at Voltaire’s castle, and search for their friends’ bodies on the battlefield. Their romantic war becomes more than that—a harsh but often thrilling reality. Weaving together their testimonies, The Unsubstantial Air is a moving portrait of a generation coming of age under new and extreme circumstances.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Conveys the fervor with which young men rushed to take part in a new form of combat…[and] captures the flyers’ perspective and the rackety, exhilarating experience of flight.”

    New Yorker

  • “[The Unsubstantial Air], both thrilling and poignant, often employs a graceful present tense, and incorporates numerous first-person accounts, many of them newly discovered…And from its pilot’s-eye view it presents a somewhat different World War I from the muddy, poison-gassed charnel house described in so many of the books published to commemorate the war’s 100th anniversary.”

    New York Times

  • “Those young men rose to the challenge, and Hynes has paid them handsome tribute. A terrific book.”

    Washington Post

  • “A beautifully written evocation of the Ivy Leaguers, farm boys, and wild men who flew avions de chasse from (mainly) French airfields.”

    Times Literary Supplement (London)

  • “The finest history of the first air war…Rich and restrained, sparkling with calm humor, full of weather and peril and wisdom and rue, and wholly engrossing from the very first page, The Unsubstantial Air is a monument worthy of the fliers it brings to intimate life.”

    Richard Snow, former editor in chief of American Heritage

  • “Sean Runnette’s voice, pacing, and timbre superbly match their stories—a poignant tone and pause following a death, an increase in pitch as the joy of flying catches hold, and an easy delivery of French terms. Runnette captures the excitement of the young men as they learn to fly, their drudgery waiting for deployment, and the reality of death as so many perish from accidents and combat as this nascent form of warfare develops.”

    AudioFile

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