Lilian Nattel

Lilian Nattel’s oldest friend remembers her telling stories when she was five years old, but she didn’t decide to be a writer until she was ten. That was when she discovered not all authors were dead. Her life took detours, as life will. In her twenties, she despaired of ever being a real writer, because she was too tired at the end of a boring work day to write at all. Instead, she put boredom to good use and became a chartered accountant. As her own boss, she had a small consulting practice and wrote part-time in a garret, albeit a dry and relatively warm one. During that time, she signed up twice in a private (but written) contract with herself to see what she could accomplish in the next few years in return for a lot of penny pinching to buy herself time.

All this time, Lilian had had an idea in reserve. The fact that she would have to do research in Russian and Lilian doesn’t speak Russian had kept it on the back burner until Google Translate had evolved to the point it was usable…if you consider weird robot-English usable. With a team of human translators as backup, Lilian (aka Lily) scoured the Internet for information on her namesake, the famous yet elusive Lily Litvyak, the young ace fighter pilot of WW2. With research taken care of, it was time for imagination to take over. By now, Lilian’s children had left diapers far behind. They were the same age as her heroine, and though, thankfully, they didn’t face the horrors of war, they had a personal devastation to face—the illness and death of a beloved auntie, another sort of hero. She got to read the first draft. And it’s to her this book is dedicated, Girl at the Edge of the Sky.

Lilian Nattel lives with her family in Toronto.

On Festival Sunday Lilian Nattel will be part of our “Rogues and Rebels” set at The Cottage from 4:30-5:30.

Photo credit: Allan Greenbaum

Girl at the Edge of the Sky

Girl at the Edge of the Sky by bestselling and award-winning author Lilian Nattel, is a unique, thrilling, sometimes terrifying novel based on the life and death of Lily Litvyak, a female Soviet flying ace and fighter pilot shot down behind German lines in the Second World War. Nattel has brilliantly blended fact with fiction, and you will be entranced by the alternative ending that Nattel has created. The real Lily Litvyak died at 21 years old as a decorated (Order of the Red Star and Order of the Red Banner) war hero and was incredibly brave. Lilian Nattel is the bestselling author of Web of Angels and The River Midnight

Lily Litvyak is no one’s idea of a fighter pilot: a tiny, dimpled teenager with golden curls who lied about her age in order to fly. But in the crucible of the air war against the German invaders, she becomes that rare thing – a flying ace, glorified at home and around the world as the White Lily of Stalingrad. The real Lily disappeared in combat in August 1943, and the facts of her life are slim, but they have inspired Lilian Nattel’s indelible portrait of a courageous young woman driven by family secrets to become an unlikely war hero. Even more powerfully, Nattel takes another big leap, asking the compelling question: what if Lily survived that last crash and became a prisoner of the Germans? 

Lily lives in a world of horrifying risk, where the life and death stakes are high in the air, but also on the ground. In the Soviet system, everyone is an informer, even your best friend. Lily lives in constant fear that she will be found out, as a Jew and as the daughter of a dissident, and either grounded or executed. When she ends up a German prisoner, the need for deception becomes even more desperate.

Girl at the Edge of the Sky is a masterwork of the imagination, subtle and bold all at once, bringing us deep into the precarious life of a remarkable woman who lies to fight for the country that would disown her, and then lies to survive the enemy that would annihilate her. And Nattel’s air battle scenes are vivid and thrilling. You’ll need an air-sickness bag!