The history is well-known: in the 1930s, the world’s aviation industry was rapidly changing and expanding into intercontinental passenger travel, and nothing was a greater symbol of those ambitions that the Hindenburg. The giant airship was filled with lifting gas and could travel from Europe to the east coast of the United States in just three days, cutting the transatlantic travel time by more than a half. In May 1937, at the end of a routine flight from Frankfurt to Lakehurst, New Jersey, the airship exploded and burned in less than 40 seconds, killing 36 of the 97 people on board.
The exact cause of the catastrophe has been a subject of speculations ever since. Explanations have ranged from bad weather and errors made by the crew to a variety of conspiracy theories. The latter have been fueled by the fact that as the pride of Hitler’s Germany, the Hindenburg (which had swastikas emblazoned on its tail) came to be associated with the Nazi regime. As such, the airship was a target for those opposing Hitler, and it was reported that prior to the fatal flight it had received bomb threats.
Taking this wealth of historical material (as well as speculation), and using her own imagination, Lawhon tells a fictionalized story of several of the Hindenburg’s passengers and crew. Each character narrates their own perspective on the flight, and through their eyes we witness the carefree, decadent, champagne-fuelled lifestyle, alongside the growing fear of Germany tilting ever more toward tyranny, antisemitism and war. In Lawhon’s telling, the motivations, passions, and secrets of these characters intertwine vividly and dramatically as they and the iconic ship hurtle toward their doom.
Ariel Lawhon is a talented historical fiction writer, who offers interesting takes on watershed events in world’s history, combining meticulous research with expansive imagination. Last year on this blog, I reviewed her novel I Was Anastasia, which centers on the speculations that one of the daughters of Tsar Nicholas II’s may have survived the imperial family’s massacre during the Russian Revolution. I highly recommend both novels.
If you like historical mysteries, you may enjoy Silent Water, a Jagiellon Mystery Book 1, set at the 16th century royal court in Cracow. It’s available in ebook and paperback on Amazon and FREE to read on Kindle Unlimited.