When We Have Wings

Claire Corbett

In a world divided into fliers and non-fliers, how far would you go to be able to fly? How much would you sacrifice - perhaps your own child? A beautifully written and compellingly original novel of sacrifice, betrayal and love.


'This book is intoxicating; it made me imagine things I never imagined before. The world of flying is so complete, so detailed and real, it was as if I was flying, as if I could feel my wings. This is an addictive mystery, clever and compelling.' Jane Campion, director of The Piano and Bright Star

Flight - you'll dream about it.

'She had never seen the sky in all her life before. How high could she fly? What was the limit? She was already so high the earth was no longer real. Only her in the sky. Every spiral pure joy. This was Flight. It was for this she'd risked and endured so much. It had to be worth it.'

The dream of being able to fly is now physical reality but only the rich and powerful can afford the surgery, drugs, and gene manipulation to become fliers. Peri, a poor girl from the regions, will sacrifice anything to get her wings and join this elite but the price is higher than she could have imagined. So why then does she throw it all away?

Feel the exhilaration and terror of flight - over vertiginous skyscrapers, into wild storms and across hypnotic wilderness - in this beautiful and daringly imaginative novel that explores the limits of self-transformation.

'A brilliantly conceived vision, bold in its execution and utterly convincing in its detail. When We Have Wings is that rare thing, a compelling read that is both emotionally and intellectually satisfying.' Amanda Lohrey


Short-listed, Barbara Jefferis Award, 2012
Long-listed, Davitt Crime Writer's Award, 2012
Short-listed, Ned Kelly Awards , 2012

Claire Corbett was born in Canada and has worked in film and government policy. She has had essays and stories broadcast on Radio National and published in a range of publications, including Rolling Stone, Cinema Papers, Picador New Writing and The Sydney Morning Herald. She was a finalist in The Independent Young Writer of the Year awards 1991, completed the MA Writing at UTS in 1997 and a Varuna Mentorship in 2000. When We Have Wings is her first novel. Claire currently lives with her husband, son and daughter in the Blue Mountains.

Price: AUD $32.99(NZ$39.99)
ISBN: 9781742375564
Format: Paperback - C format
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Number of pages: 480
Publication Date: July 2011
Edition Number:

Find out more:

Read an interview with Claire on the Shearer's Books blog

Claire discusses her book at the Readings blog

Claire talks about writing When We Have Wings

Read a Q & A with Claire Corbett at the Booktopia blog

Read a Q & A with Claire Corbett at the My Four Bucks blog

'Corbett's prose has the clarity, luminosity and beauty of a well-cut diamond, especially when she describes dreamlike aerial visions. When We Have Wings is a confident and challenging debut; this flight of fancy deserves to soar.' - read the rest of this Weekend Australian review

'This unmissable book from a strong new talent should be put at the top of your to-read list. ... When We Have Wings works as crime fiction, speculative fiction and literary fiction.' - read the rest of this review at the Shearer's Books blog

'When We Have Wings by Claire Corbett is a beautiful story, written with such poetic rhythm and elegance that is was almost like reading a sonnet or poem.' - read the rest of this review at The Fringe Magazine blog

'This book got under my skin and awoke in me that rare experience in fiction where for a second, magic or the imagined becomes tantalisingly real.  I caught my self day dreaming, watching clouds and believing.' - read the rest of this review at Adventures of a Bookonaut

'So poignant and so true. ... A fabulous debut novel for Australian author Claire Corbett, and I'll be keeping an eye out for what she does next.' - read the rest of this review at the My Four Bucks blog

'Poignant, beautiful and achingly human, this story is well worth the read' - read the rest of this review at Inklings magazine

'The flying sequences featured throughout When We Have Wings have a vivid, dreamlike intensity. Corbett’s characters are well developed, and she engages with a range of important social issues. These issues include genetic modification, motherhood, and class stratification.... Corbett skilfully depicts a bleak future in which advanced technology only exacerbates social inequalities. The plight of her characters (particularly Peri) is gripping and often moving.' - from the review by Jay Daniel Thompson, ABR

'Not one of the moral quandaries in this book is improbable as they are the same dilemmas the world now struggles to resolve: whose life is worth saving, how to define a parent, how should the resources of the planet be allocated, what is love. This is what makes When We Have Wings unsettling--the realization that this is a metaphor for today's world....

'The pages of [Peri's] her solo flight are truly memorable, exhilarating and terrifying, and the linchpin upon which the story appears to pivot. But as with all thoughtful fiction, everything is not what it seems. Humanity is still the force that matters and endures. And it is this which gives strength and depth to this book.' - from the review by Mary Philip, Daily Telegraph

'The descriptions of flight are written in language so assured and masterly that it’s easy to suspend disbelief and be taken on the journey into the clouds with the flyers, experiencing terror and exhilaration with equal force. But it is also a story with a very human and grounded element at its core... The journey of parenthood ... can be as terrifying and exhilarating as flight.

Part fantasy, part crime novel and compelling in every way, When We Have Wings is an outstanding debut.' - from the five-star review by Maryanne Hyde in Good Reading magazine's September 2011 issue

'This story is about many things ...but at the heart of the story is everyone’s longing to be loved and cared for' - read the rest of this review at M/C Reviews

'a brilliant and original story that is perfectly realised...

One of the things I thought was particularly well achieved was the description of the science of creating fliers. I think writers need to go one of two ways when it comes to the science part of the fiction - either explain it fully and comprehensively or leave it totally alone. The reader is given the information through Zeke's visit to the doctor in charge of his son's impending surgery, and it is explained in detail. For me, it totally worked and seemed completely realistic and not at all impossible.

But the very best part of the book is the description of flight. I really can't stress enough how real it feels, I could see everything Peri sees, feel everything she feels, I was so up with Peri soaring through the air. And I learned a lot - I had no idea air is so complicated! It is really worth picking up a copy for this reading experience alone.' - read the rest of this review at The Book Nerd Club

'This would have to be one of the most original and thought-provoking books I’ve read in a long time. Exquisitely written and populated by characters about whom you care, the novel is a wonderful melange of genres. Encompassing science-fiction, crime and fantasy it is also a considered tale that deals with fascinating and all too real philosophical issues including the timeless one of just what it means to be human.' - read the rest of this review at Karen Brooks' blog

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