In Full Flight: A Story of Africa and Atonement

In Full Flight: A Story of Africa and Atonement

The remarkable story of one woman's search for a new life in Africa in the wake of World War II--a life that sparked a heroic career, but also hid a secret past.Dr. Anne Spoerry treated hundreds of thousands of people across rural Kenya over the span of fifty years. A member of the renowned Flying Doctors Service, the French-born Spoerry learned how to fly a plane at the a...

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Title:In Full Flight: A Story of Africa and Atonement
Author:John Heminway
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In Full Flight: A Story of Africa and Atonement Reviews

  • Mary

    Holy cow...

    I can't wait for this book to be released in February because it WILL be a book club selection. And we'd better plan a slumber party for the discussion because it'll take longer than 3 hours to chew this one satisfactorily.

    The big question is this: if a person under unimaginable circumstances is fatally harmful to others who are helpless, but then spends the next 50 years saving and enriching lives of equally hopeless people, is it atonement? Does it balance out? Do horrifically bad

    Holy cow...

    I can't wait for this book to be released in February because it WILL be a book club selection. And we'd better plan a slumber party for the discussion because it'll take longer than 3 hours to chew this one satisfactorily.

    The big question is this: if a person under unimaginable circumstances is fatally harmful to others who are helpless, but then spends the next 50 years saving and enriching lives of equally hopeless people, is it atonement? Does it balance out? Do horrifically bad choices in one chapter of life render the subsequent years of decency and humanitarian work null and void?

    Brilliantly written, John Heminway not only knew Anne Spoerry personally, but also took years of interviews, research, reading journals, visiting places of significance to the story...her story is told in a voice that is not unkind, but doesn't make excuses. It's incredibly balanced and leaves the reader with no obvious conclusions. My husband got ahold of the ARC while I was finishing another, then hounded me until I finished THIS book so that we could discuss it. He's not a big reader, but finished this book in a day and a half. It is impossible to walk away from. And once read, it begs to be shared and discussed over a couple glasses of wine.

    I think this is the best book I've read all year, and that's saying something because it's also the 100th book I read this year. It's not a nice story, but it's an amazing story. I'll be thinking of this for a long, long time...

  • Holly Barker

    This extraordinary nonfiction story reads like a thriller, moving back and forth between Dr Anne Spoerry's life in Africa and her earlier years in Europe. We are first told about her feats or heroism in Africa, bringing medical care to people over nearly 50 years who would otherwise likely have had none. Then, we learn of her background in Europe and what occurred while she was imprisoned in Ravenbruck concentration camp, suggesting the possibility of her Africa years as representing redemption

    This extraordinary nonfiction story reads like a thriller, moving back and forth between Dr Anne Spoerry's life in Africa and her earlier years in Europe. We are first told about her feats or heroism in Africa, bringing medical care to people over nearly 50 years who would otherwise likely have had none. Then, we learn of her background in Europe and what occurred while she was imprisoned in Ravenbruck concentration camp, suggesting the possibility of her Africa years as representing redemption and penance. This book is so well crafted, I was riveted to the page, wanting to know what had happened to get Anne to the life I'd already learned she had. It brings up many questions and levels of understanding about people, including the complexity of human beings and the possibility of being pushed into actions out of desperation. This book clearly shows that none of us is just one thing and judging others by one aspect loses the greater story. I am left unsettled by this book but thought it was fantastic.

  • Jane

    Wow, what a story! Heminway does an ace job setting out the life of his friend, Dr. Anne Spoerry, heroine of the African Flying Doctors for fifty years -and oh, by the way, a convicted war criminal who murdered hundreds of women in Ravensbruck concentration camp during WW2. Judge for yourself - did Spoerry run away and escape punishment? Or did she impose her own harsh sentence?

    I like what Teddy Roosevelt says on the subject, quoted in the book:

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who p

    Wow, what a story! Heminway does an ace job setting out the life of his friend, Dr. Anne Spoerry, heroine of the African Flying Doctors for fifty years -and oh, by the way, a convicted war criminal who murdered hundreds of women in Ravensbruck concentration camp during WW2. Judge for yourself - did Spoerry run away and escape punishment? Or did she impose her own harsh sentence?

    I like what Teddy Roosevelt says on the subject, quoted in the book:

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions."

  • M.

    An interesting story and a good read!

  • Sara

    Well written story of atrocities. The author frames this as a redemption story, but I'm not so sure, reading between the lines, it seems like the subject remained a horrible person throughout her life, maybe a little influenced by her "mentor" in lying and manipulating people. She did what she wanted, because she wanted to, including her "good deeds" - which were not clearly so good for the recipients.

  • Kelly

    In Full Flight, by John Heminway, tells the story of Anne Spoerry, the flying doctor of Africa. I knew nothing of Anne’s history so this was an interesting read for me. Anne is both admirable for all the work she did in Africa, but at the same time difficult to like due to her personality. Spoerry is definitely a woman on a mission to set things right in Africa, following her time in the Ravensbruck concentration camp. The number of lives she saves and care she provides across Kenya is staggerin

    In Full Flight, by John Heminway, tells the story of Anne Spoerry, the flying doctor of Africa. I knew nothing of Anne’s history so this was an interesting read for me. Anne is both admirable for all the work she did in Africa, but at the same time difficult to like due to her personality. Spoerry is definitely a woman on a mission to set things right in Africa, following her time in the Ravensbruck concentration camp. The number of lives she saves and care she provides across Kenya is staggering. The author’s dive into her time with Carmen Mory both seems to draw attention away from Spoerry as well as provide explanation for what could be the driving force behind her life choices. While told like a story, it does have a tendency to jump between time periods, leaving you to recall where the story left off in a different time period. Heminway clearly has a tremendous amount of respect for Spoerry and makes an effort of telling an unvarnished story of her life and leaving it to the reader to form their own opinions about her attempts at redemption.

  • Angie

    Heminway's book gave me the remarkable experience of rooting for the subject of a biography even as the author berates her. There are balanced biographies of complicated people, and there are way too simple biographies written by fans of their subjects. But Heminway clearly feels deeply betrayed, in a very personal way, by the secret that Anne Spoerry managed to keep from him and most of the rest of the world. He describes himself as her friend -- a characterization that is almost laughable as h

    Heminway's book gave me the remarkable experience of rooting for the subject of a biography even as the author berates her. There are balanced biographies of complicated people, and there are way too simple biographies written by fans of their subjects. But Heminway clearly feels deeply betrayed, in a very personal way, by the secret that Anne Spoerry managed to keep from him and most of the rest of the world. He describes himself as her friend -- a characterization that is almost laughable as he describes this intensely private woman and her selective relationships -- and his mistaken assumption through decades that she was hiding suffering rather than wrongdoing at a concentration camp during WWII. Most of the book is not, in fact, about her 50 years in Kenya, flying her plane to remote villages and medically treating the sick and wounded. It is mostly a detailed account of the extensive research he did to uncover the truth of her role in Ravensbrück, the background, the context. He gives an almost impossibly detailed account of 3 months of her life there under the influence of another prisoner, with whom she appeared to be infatuated. The times he does describe in Kenya consist mostly of him following her around, listening to her stories (a "distraction", in his evaluation, and he does not share many of these stories she told with us), inevitably leading up to his bringing the concentration camp up and her clamming up. By the last interview he describes with her, following the pattern to a tee, I rolled my eyes at him.

    So what are we to make of this remarkable book, which did not at all convince me of the author's point of view? The book begins and ends with Anne's funeral, at which many people of very different backgrounds hail her. He focuses on her declining health, her horrifying missteps in WWII, her uselessness running with the country club set in her early days in Kenya. He's out to take her down, and despite all his efforts, I found her delightful. I had not heard of Anne Spoerry before, and she was not a saint, but a complicated human being who decided not to show some aspects of her personality to journalists (she seems bent on appearing hard and professional to him) and to others in her life.

    I think one problem with my experience of this book is that Heminway was so very familiar with Spoerry's outsized heroic reputation in Kenya that he sought to provide a counterweight to it. But I was unfamiliar with her before reading the book, and am not aware of the entire context he's pushing back against, so the effort came off as a bit ridiculous to me, as if I were watching a one-sided boxing match.

    I'm sure this book will engender quite a bit of discussion. I do wish it was written with a bit more even hand, by someone who was not so inexplicably personally invested. I recommend it on the sheer power of the story and subject matter.

    I got a copy to review from First to Read.

  • Sheri

    To only know "Dr." Anne Spoerry after WWII would be very misleading. Anne grew up in a privileged family in France, but also spent time in Switzerland. Prior to WWII she had decided to study to become a doctor, but that was interrupted when WWII came to France. She assisted with the French resistance, but was arrested and eventually ended up in Ravensbruck.

    Maybe it was out of fear of dying or an immense desire to survive at any cost, but a very dark side of Anne came to life. At her hands and t

    To only know "Dr." Anne Spoerry after WWII would be very misleading. Anne grew up in a privileged family in France, but also spent time in Switzerland. Prior to WWII she had decided to study to become a doctor, but that was interrupted when WWII came to France. She assisted with the French resistance, but was arrested and eventually ended up in Ravensbruck.

    Maybe it was out of fear of dying or an immense desire to survive at any cost, but a very dark side of Anne came to life. At her hands and those of her supposed lover Carmen Mory many women prisoners were abused, tortured, killed, or left to die.

    After WWII and the liberation of the concentration camps Carmen Mory was tried and sentenced to death. Anne was tried once and remained free, but when additional information witnesses came to light where she would have more likely than not also been sentenced to death she was able to escape. As she came from a family with money they were able to provide her an escape from trial, to finish her medical schooling and eventual escape to Africa.

    She remained in Africa with the exception of some brief trips home for the remainder of her life. Though she did much good for the people of Africa the reader has to decide what her true motives were. Was she trying to make peace with her past or was this "new" Anne really from her heart.

    I enjoyed this book and would recommend it.

  • Martha Fiorentini

    Although, I found Anne Spoerry's 50 years of being a flying doctor interesting and impressive, I couldn't get past her activities during WWII when she was in the concentration camp.

    So, this rating is really regarding the subject of the book rather than the author's style. He certainly pursued many lines of inquiry.

    Reading about more European exploitation of people of color was also distressing. And this happened all over the world by diverse European powers and not unlike what we Americans did t

    Although, I found Anne Spoerry's 50 years of being a flying doctor interesting and impressive, I couldn't get past her activities during WWII when she was in the concentration camp.

    So, this rating is really regarding the subject of the book rather than the author's style. He certainly pursued many lines of inquiry.

    Reading about more European exploitation of people of color was also distressing. And this happened all over the world by diverse European powers and not unlike what we Americans did to the Indigenous people.

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