This “novel about the enigmatic Jean Batten” particularly interested me because I grew up with a family rumour that we were related. Jean Batten’s grandmother’s name was Jane Gardner, and when I was researching my family tree I tried very hard to unearth a connection. I even met Jean briefly in the 1970’s, when she was in Auckland to open a new aviation hall at the Museum of Transport and Technology. I shook her hand and gave her a letter in which I asked whether she knew of any connection between our families. Some time later I received a typewritten reply saying she was unaware of such a connection.
This book by Fiona Kidman gives a fictionalised account of Jean’s life, and is well researched with many verifiable facts. I had forgotten that she was an excellent mechanic, and an exceptional navigator. The book also outlines the patronising she experienced as a woman determined to make epic flights, and tells of the many famous people who befriended her.
I well remember when the sad news of her lonely death came through in the late 1980’s. This was a woman whose life encompassed incredible highs and lows, and Fiona Kidman has done her justice with this comprehensive story of her life. If you’re interested in New Zealand’s history and heroines, then you will find it enthralling.
“Alas, Jean Gardner Batten’s not
a member of my family’s lot.”