Wings of a Flying Tiger by Iris Yang is a haunting and heartbreaking novel set in China just before the beginning of World War Two. It shows a side of history that can be overlooked and offers a raw, vivid picture of the atrocities committed in the name of war and country.
The pages are filled with so much anguish and unimaginable suffering that it can be hard to take in at times, and at the same time it voices the courageous inner strength and convictions of its central characters. It is a story of pain and injustice, as well as a message of hope and perseverance in the face of bitter brutality.
The novel opens days before the Nanjing Massacre in 1937, which is also known as the Nanking Massacre or the Rape of Nanking, where thousands of Chinese soldiers and civilians were slaughtered, and an estimated 20,000 women were raped and then killed.
Jasmine is a courageous, daring young woman, who must at times hide her beauty to protect herself, and fight for survival in her war-torn home. When she discovers Danny, a fallen American pilot who is part of a movement called the ‘Flying Tigers,’ Jasmine goes to great lengths to protect him, falling in love with him along the way. However, loving him may come at a great cost.
I read a lot of historical fiction novels and a lot of them are set in World War Two. However, I haven’t read an adult historical fiction novel set in China during this time period. I knew vaguely that this event occurred, but reading about it was both heart-breaking and eye opening. As a more sensitive reader, I found some of the scenes hard to read and the images were quite vivid in my mind.
There is a strong trigger and content warning for this book as it deals with war crimes, rape, violence and gruesome details. It can be quite disturbing and I wouldn’t recommend it to a younger audience. All that said, I understand the author’s wish not to sugarcoat anything and give an honest and true picture of what life was really like.
I found the dynamic between Jasmine and Danny a little lacking and felt like their relationship could have been more developed. In the end I knew she loved him, I just would have liked to feel the dynamic between them more.
Also the writing style and the speed of the plot line in this book moves very fast and if you enjoy a slower paced novel, this isn’t one of them. But for those who are up for it, this is a fast paced, engaging, if not heartbreaking novel.