The Legend of Little Eagle
The Legend of Little Eagle, Florian Rochat, 2014, ASIN B00K5SVTYI, ISBN 978-1499396867, 296 pp.
The Legend of Little Eagle is a fine fictional take of a Native American who died keeping his fatally wounded Mustang from crashing into the Marchal family farmhouse in World War II France. Sacrificing his life John Philip Garreau allowed for another to begin, that of unborn Hélène. Author Florian Rochat has Hélène Marchal tell the tale of a storyteller/journalist investigating who Garreau was, why he volunteered to fight so far away from his home and—most importantly—who he was.
Rochat brings a unique perspective of our Native Americans as well as our warriors of World War II since he is European. He describes the love of flying as well as Richard Bach with the technical understanding of Ernest K. Gann. The book is a lovely read and, like all good reads, has threads which entwine the storyline that make for depth and rich vicarious experience—it is as easy to hear Hélène think and ponder as it is to feel Garreau experiences learning to fly as it is to be in the big sky country of Montana.
Flight school, AT-6s andf P-51s as well as leave are told through Garreau’s letters to home. Hélène discovers people who knew him which helps her to realize who Garneau was as a man. Combat, its cold calculus, as well as becoming a combat leader in the heavily contested skies of Europe are both told in letters as well as interviewing fellow veterans. As the reader learns of Garreau the reader also learns of Hélène. It is through Hélène we learn how to tell a story and how to investigate (this is where Rochat’s experience as a professional writer and journalist is enjoyed, much like a surprise gift). Readers also learn of aviation heroes uncommon to most Americans such as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry who wrote as well as he flew, a pioneering aviator with feet of clay (i.e., being human such as Lindbergh, Earhart, Batten and Kingsford-Smith).
The cover art by Scarlett Rugers Design is inspiring as is Rochat’s storytelling. This book is handy in size, especially for travel, and can be enjoyed by adults as well as precocious teens. Florian Rochat was inspired by a letter he read in the Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana (Charlo MT) sent from a French family in the Épernay region of France, near Champagne, in 1944 who were also spared by a selfless American pilot’s final moments willing his wounded machine away from them. This story tells the tale of so many unheralded, but no less heroic, events which occurred every hour during World War II. This story also tells the tale of the interconnected nature things. This story also shows the reward that comes from understanding the backgrounds of people from other places. Rochat, a man from another place, gives us understanding (sometimes refreshing, sometimes bracing) of ourselves in the Unites States.
Florian Rochat, per the publishing practice, sent a copy of The Legend of Little Eagle for an objective review. It is available in hardback, paperback as well as Kindle in better bookstores as well as on Amazon.