On the Wing is an enthralling account of a young woman’s life abroad during her early twenties. A footloose romantic, Nora Sayre traveled to discover herself as well as to explore unknown countries, and she has written a book of beginnings and dramatic situations: a series of surprises which will startle her readers too. The London that Sayre came to know was a dynamic international city at a time of ferment in the arts.
A superb cultural historian, Sayre shows the connections between private lives and public events. Her witty narrative features portraits of Arthur Koestler, A. J. Liebling, Tyrone Power, and blacklisted American writers, with appearances by Graham Green, Cyril Connolly, and many others–all overlapping with a ferocious literary world animated by jealousies and vengeance. In her Prelude, she writes, “By training the spotlight on others, or by taking a tour of their interiors, you may also reveal a great deal about yours.” On the Wing excels as memoir along these very lines: the figures in the landscape tell us much about Nora Sayre.
Living overseas, the author loves and misses her own country as only an expatriate can. Her writing evolves in London, she marries, and she develops the skills and perceptions that will shape her career and infuse her memorable prose. Yet the pull of New York runs as an undercurrent throughout On the Wing, eventually calling Sayre home.