Girl On A Plane

Miriam Moss

Andersen Press


September 2015


I was looking forward to reading this book because it came with high recommendations from people whose judgement I respect, but I have to say I feel there is a real and rather fundamental problem with it, and that has to do with the fact that it is, as the author herself tells us in a Postscript “a work of fiction… grounded in a real, life-defining hijack that I experienced when I was fifteen.” She then goes on to give some examples of the detail she invented to help bring this fiction alive. But each thing she mentions is a fairly small amendment to what actually happened on board. In the book the main character sits beside a younger boy whose travelling companion is a terrapin. The boy becomes a significant character in the story, whereas in real life “There was a boy with a terrapin, but I never spoke to him.”
All sense of suspense is rather undermined by the fact that we tend to know the eventual outcome will see the passengers surviving the hijacking, but even so the announcement (well before the end of the book) by the plane’s captain that a deal has been reached comes as an extraordinarily deflating anti-climax. It’s not that we don’t want Anna and everyone else to survive, but in a novel we do expect the tension to ratchet up a little more tautly before it is so suddenly released.
I’m afraid, for me, the book does not work as a novel. Perhaps because of the rawness of those experiences on which it is based, Moss has been too reluctant to reshape what happened into something that could so easily have become a much more edge-of-your-seat reading experience.
It would work very successfully as the basis for a TV drama-documentary about the hijack, in which we accept that we are watching affairs playing out more or less exactly as they happened in real life, but with the usual dramatic license present in such programmes. In that sense it works well as memoir, rather than as a novel, and one that gives the reader an extraordinarily vivid insight into what living through such an experience is actually like.

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