I wasn’t sure what to make of Kate Pullinger‘s latest novel, Landing Gear. I really enjoyed her Governor General’s Award winning The Mistress of Nothing (2009), but in many ways it could not be more different than Landing Gear. The Mistress of Nothing was a historical novel set in colonial Egypt, Landing Gear is a novel that grew out of a multimedia digital project called Flight Paths: A Networked Novel and is very much set in the here and now.
Ostensibly the story is about Yacub, a Pakistani man who stows away in the landing gear of a plane bound for London. As the landing gear descends on it’s approach to Heathrow, he falls and lands on Harriet’s car. Miraculously, he is alive and unscathed and she takes Yacub home and adopts him into her family. And to a large extent family is really what the novel is about. What constitutes a family in modern society? How do you remain true to that family and how does it impact your identity as an individual?
Knowing that Landing Gear grew out of an experimental multimedia project really puts it in context and enhances the novel experience. If it were not for that, I would have found the story to be rather disjointed. I felt as though certain segments did not need to be included and did not add to the overall structure of the novel. However, once I viewed Flight Paths, and I highly recommend doing so, things fell into place a little more nicely.
Who would like this novel? In general, I think Landing Gear will have wide appeal. It is very accessible. One of the underlying themes is travel and how natural air travel has become to us. This is driven home by the silence over London in the days following the Icelandic volcano eruptions that disrupted air travel world wide in 2010.
The other angle of interest for this novel is Pullinger’s advocacy of books and technology and how they can work together. She is a prominent developer of The Writing Platform, an organization that seeks to properly arm writers with technology and digital knowledge. Landing Gear has two digital accompaniments, the fore mentioned Flight Paths and an interactive map.
This novel was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.