Jean Batten: The Forgotten Garbo of the Skies
In our big wide world, there are many people who can be the inspiration for a novel. Across countries and time, there have been men and women with extraordinary lives and outstanding achievements unknown to wider audiences. Sometimes, those who were recognised in their time slowly fall into complete darkness, becoming a distant memory to only a few.
This is the case of Jean Batten, one of the greatest aviators of all time and whose name is an unfamiliar one. She is the woman who inspired New Zealand author, Fiona Kidman, to write the novel The Infinite Air, and hers is one remarkable story.
It was in the 1930s when she became celebrated internationally after her heroic solo flights from England to Australia, and later becoming the first woman to fly across the South Atlantic. She broke records, and in 1936 she made the first ever direct flight from England to New Zealand. It’s no wonder why the press could not get enough of her: she was stylish, enigmatic, beautiful, intelligent and brave. Want to meet her? Then have a look at this YouTube clip:
The Infinite Air tells the life story of Jean Batten, also known as ‘the Garbo of the Skies’. Kidman takes the reader through the fascinating and intriguing life of this aviatrix. This is a story of ambition, fame and achievement but also of loss and tragedy. After playing a key role in the history of aviation, Jean Batten faded away, living a reclusive life in the Spain. She died alone in Majorca in 1982. The authorities, not knowing who she was, buried her in a paupers’ common grave and the world found out about her death five years later.
Fiona Kidman’s novel brings to light the life of a remarkable woman that deserves to be known and celebrated by everyone.