Visible Empire

It’s a humid June day when the phones begin to ring in Atlanta: disaster has struck. Air France Flight 007, which had been chartered to ferry home more than one hundred of Atlanta’s cultural leaders following a luxurious arts-oriented tour of Europe, crashed shortly after takeoff in Paris. In one fell swoop, many of the city’s wealthiest residents perished.

Left behind were children, spouses, lovers, friends, and a city on the cusp of great change: the Civil Rights movement was at its peak, the hedonism of the 60s was at its doorstep. In Hannah Pittard’s dazzling and most ambitious novel yet, she gives us the journeys of those who must now rebuild this place and their lives.

Visible Empire follows the chaos—and hope—that remained in the wake of the crash, and the truths that became evident because of it. This is a story about how we choose to look at the world, and those moments when we finally see it for what it is—whether we’re ready for that clarity or not.

Over 100 art lovers, patrons, and journalists from Atlanta, Georgia have been killed in the horrific crash of Air France at Orly. Leaving behind family and friends to grieve.

Told from multiple points of view, we follow Robert and his wife Lily. Robert has been a very bad boy and has just told Lily about his affair with a fellow reporter and has been promptly kicked to the curb. Lily is in the last stages of pregnancy when she finds out the next day that she has lost her parents in the crash as well.

The 1960’s in Atlanta were a tense time. Racial lines had been drawn and to cross over them meant certain death. But young black men are tired of waiting for things to change and some take to violence.

Their are all kinds of people taking advantage of the tragedy of the crash. From the young to the old enough to know better.

We hear the story of the Mayor trying his best to help, but I’m still not sure what was up with the wife.

Others who have found themselves suddenly wealthy are getting drunk and high and spinning quickly out of control and you just feel the tension in the air around each character. Tragedy has a way of changing a person but whether it is for the better is not a foregone conclusion.

This was a bit wordy for me. I thought Lily and Piedmont’s characters were the strongest and most honest. The rest of them were like vultures circling roadkill. Not a pretty sight. And as for the ending, I’m not sure what that was.

Being born and raised in Georgia I had read about this event in school. It was shocking and changed a lot of lives forever.

Try it for yourself and let me know what you thought!

Netgalley/une 5th 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt


  1. Hmm… intrigued by this ending, for sure! “I don’t know what that was” usually doesn’t bode well!


  2. Less than satisfying wrap up. It was just off.


  3. Oooooh! Sounds interesting! I’ll have to see if my library will get a copy.

    Liked by 1 person

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