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Maiden Flight

Maiden Flight is the true-life story of the "Wright sister" who left her world-famous and intensely possessive older brother to marry the man she loved--and suffered the unhappy consequences.

Herself an international celebrity, Katharine Wright embodied the worldly, independent, and self-fulfilled New Woman of the early twentieth century. Yet she remained in many ways a Victorian whose devotion to her family was deep and, for most of her life, unquestioned. Torn between duty and love, she agonized for months before making an emotionally devastating break with her brother Orville, the revered elder statesman of American aviation, to marry newspaper editor Henry J. Haskell (known as Harry).

Maiden Flight is cast in the form of three interlocking first-person memoirs, imaginatively reconstructed from personal letters, newspaper reports, and other documents of the period—in particular, Katharine's eloquent and extraordinarily revealing love letters to Harry (the author's grandfather). Although the narrative straddles the line between historical fiction and creative nonfiction, it is solidly grounded in historical research: every incident, fact, and emotion that the members of this lovers' triangle describe--almost entirely in their own words--is either fully documented or can be confidently inferred from the historical record.

In allowing Katharine to step outside of Wilbur and Orville’s shadow, Maiden Flight sheds new light on the central role she played in their private lives, as well as on her often misunderstood contribution to their scientific work. Above all, the book celebrates Katharine’s abundant store of what she called “human nature”--her lively and perceptive outlook on life, her great capacity for both love and indignation, and her acute and sometimes crippling self-awareness.

"Harry Haskell unravels the mystery of the 'third' Wright brother--their sister, Katharine. Beautifully told!" (Richard Maurer, author of The Wright Sister)

"A really great book. Harry Haskell has written a revealing, moving, and poignant story about his grandfather, Katharine Wright, and her brother Orville. Wonderful for aviation fans and those who just love a nicely written story that will swallow you up and show you a different side of history at the same time." (Laurie Notaro, New York Times bestselling author of Crossing the Horizon and The Idiot Girls’ Action-Adventure Club)

"Authentic, informative, deeply felt but respectful of its principals' no-nonsense approach to matters of the heart, this novel . . . is a valuable supplement and maybe even corrective to David McCullough's prize-winning The Wright Brothers. From Maiden Flight you will have a far richer, a far kinder and probably a far fairer sense of who Katharine Wright really was." (Gregory J. Wilkin in the New York Journal of Books)

"[The] artistic technique of employing [Katharine, Orville, and Harry's] three different voices works beautifully. . . . Maiden Flight is a love story; there are passion, intrigue, family secrets, heartbreak and tragedy. The publishers have classified it as 'fiction.' It rings far too true to be designated as such." (Vick Mickunas in the Cleveland Plain Dealer)

"Combining family lore with meticulous historical and biographical research, Haskell has crafted a lively tale of the forgotten Wright sibling. While very much of its era, the recounting of family relationships, love coming late in life, and the excitement of new technology reverberates in our own time as well." (Tracy Barrett, author of The Stepsister's Tale)

Maiden Flight is featured in the 2017 Reading Group Choices catalog.

Reading Group Guide (13 KB)

These questions will help stimulate a discussion with your reading group or book club. Harry Haskell is available to answer questions or participate in your discussions online; write to him via the Contact page on this website. Check out the websites listed below for photographs, letters, and other fascinating documents relating to Katharine Wright Haskell and her family.