On Borrowed Wings: A Novel
Written by Chandra Prasad
Reviewed by April D. Boland
I love books about young boys coming of age at preppy schools, like A Separate Peace and The Secret History. So imagine how much more I enjoyed a novel about just this topic, except for the fact that the young boy was a girl in drag.
On Borrowed Wings is the story of Adele, daughter of an Italian immigrant and stone-cutter who dreams of better things than she, as a female, will ever be able to achieve. That is, until an accident at the quarry claims the life of her brother, Charles, who has been accepted to Yale. Adele assumes Charles' identity and takes his place at the university at a time when women were not admitted (1930s). She encounters all of the typical problems that someone undercover must face - fooling her professors and friends, dealing with the locker room and physical examinations, etc. She also deals with some unusual ethical issues, such as when she gets a work-study position for a eugenics professor who hypothesizes about cleaning out the race and not polluting it with immigrants (such as Adele's own family).
The heroine of the novel was fantastically real and her problems were not entirely wrapped up nicely in the end. Sure, there is some suspension of disbelief, but there are also painful truths and losses. Overall, On Borrowed Wings is a highly entertaining yet didactic read.