Elinor Florence will present her novel Bird’s Eye View as part of a presentation that will bring three authors to Red Deer to promote their books on aviation in the war years.
Florence will be joined by authors Anne Gafiuk and Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail at the Red Deer College library on Nov. 7th at 1 p.m. The ladies are presenting their novels as part of a tour titled ‘War Birds’, where they each bring a different perspective to Canada’s role in aviation in World War II.
Florence’s novel is titled Bird’s Eye View, and it tells the tale of Rose, a young Canadian who is eager to help with the war effort and ends up as a Royal Canadian Air Force aerial photograph interpreter. The story is influenced by Florence’s experiences growing up on a former air base in North Battleford, Sask.
“I wanted to write a book in which the protagonist was a woman because I felt that women would have a different perspective of war. With men, it’s perhaps more the idea of conquering the enemy and with women I think their motivation was to end the loss of human life and to end the suffering,” she said.
Florence said that she was happy to represent Canadian women in uniform, whose history is not well represented in books – either fact or fiction. She said that she believes her novel is the first to explore the role of Canadian women in the RCAF.
“Being from the prairies the air force was a very highly visible part of Canadian wartime history because of the British Commonwealth air-training plan. That plan put airports all over Canada but specifically in the prairies because of our climate and clear topography,” she explained.
“My father had served in the RCAF and came back to Canada and he was able to purchase one of the airfields near North Battleford that had been used for training aircrews. I grew up living on an air base, and one of the barracks that was still on the property was converted into our family home.
“I grew up feeling like I was surrounded by the ghosts of the young men who had gone there to train and had not survived the war.”
Living on a reclaimed airfield and training facility, Florence grew up being fascinated and surrounded by the realities of war. Her father served in the Royal Canadian Air Force and played a large role in her interest in the subject.
Florence’s novel explores themes of growing up and strength. She said her main character, Rose, is a sort of metaphor for Canada. Her novel also explores the unique perspective of a woman’s life active in duty, and was inspired by Constance Babington Smith for the role of her heroine.
“She goes into the war as an innocent, naive teenage girl and comes out of it as a mature woman. I think Canada is very similar – we went into the war as sort of an extended British colony and came out as our own independent nation with a very strong identity.”
Florence said that she is a very patriotic Canadian. She said she feels that the Canadian story surrounding World War II has not yet been fully told, whereas the American and British populations are much larger and have produced much literature on the subject.
“Canadians, I find, are very uninformed about how much we did and what a role we played in the victory of World War II, and how significant it was for our own history.”
Florence actually worked for the Red Deer Advocate a number of years ago. She has a background as a journalist and studied at both the University of Saskatchewan and Carleton University.
“It wasn’t until I started working for a newspaper in my hometown of North Battleford that I realized I wanted to become a reporter. I went back to university and got my journalism degree. Then I worked for a number of newspapers and magazines before I thought seriously about writing a full-length piece of fiction,” said Florence.
“The transition to becoming an author was quite difficult because I had spent my whole career being trained not to make stuff up. I had to train myself to sit in front of a blank computer screen and make things up. I feel that my writing and editing background, and certainly my research background helped with this novel.”
Florence has a passion for wartime history, as well as general Canadian history.
She has a blog titled Wartime Wednesdays that is available on her web site. Through this blog, she explores notable landmarks, tales from Air Force veterans, major events during the war, eyewitness accounts and photographs of wartime history.
Florence will join Gafiuk and Metcalfe-Chenail in an exploration of Canadian women’s roles in World War II. The authors will take the time to read and speak about their novels, as well as hold a question-and-answer period and book signing.
Gafiuk’s novel Wings Over High River explores the ins and outs of vintage aircrafts. She is currently focused on a wartime scrapbook project surrounding the Okotoks area.
Metcalfe-Chenail’s themes compliment the novels of both Florence and Gafiuk. She was the first female president of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society.
Her novel, Polar Winds: A Century of Flying the North explores Canada’s history in the skies.
The Red Deer College event is free and light refreshments will be available.