Promised the Moon

Article excerpt

by Stephanie Nolen


Review by Sara Cassidy

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This book, about 13 sublimely capable pilots who in the early 1960s believed they'd be NASA's first female astronauts, should be exhilarating. It is interesting.

I've admired Stephanie Nolen, the Globe and Mail writer whose front-page stories unapologetically humanize the headlines from Kabul to Baghdad. The stories she tells here--primarily about the women who called themselves the Fellow Lady Astronaut Trainees (FLATs), but also the historical exclusion of women by NASA, discrimination in aviation, and the astounding women who flew in the airplane's early days, including the unacknowledged thousands who served during WW2--are definitely worthy of a book. But it's difficult to call this a book. It's more a series of overlong newspaper articles that add up to 350 pages of abrupt, declarative sentences delivered with eerie detachment. It's a lonely read: Nolen never offers a glimmer of personality.

Still, Nolen can't go completely wrong with her wide-ranging research, a host of strong-willed characters and this little-known drama of promise and betrayal against the backdrop of the Cold War. …