A richly tragic fable of ambition and restraint, courtesy of English novelist Mason (The Racket, 1991, etc.), that--so to speak- -puts Leni Riefenstahl into Amelia Earhart's cockpit and flies low over the pockmarked terrain of the Third Reich. Fredrika Kurtz manages to illustrate just how dearly the Germans must pay for their rebellions. As a young medical student, she abandons her studies in Berlin to pursue a career as a test pilot, thus defying both her father's ambitions for her future and society's estimation of her proper womanly role. Relentlessly single-minded in the pursuit of her career, she forswears romantic love at an early age--only to find later that her deepest passion is for a woman involved in the Communist underground. The remarkable thing is how well Fredrika succeeds: Within a few years of her first flight, she becomes one of the most accomplished--and famous--aviators in Germany and an international symbol of renewed German vigor. It is unfortunate that her rise coincides with that of the Nazis, but Freddy resists any simple identification of herself with the Party's regime. ``I could not fly without flying for the government,'' she says. ``For one thing, the government owned all the aeroplanes.'' Eventually, Freddy finds that she is more of an accomplice than she wants to admit, and at the war's close she actually sits through a kind of perverse death-watch in the FÅhrer's bunker in Berlin. Mason, to her great credit, makes of this something far richer than a morality tale, without trying to camouflage the moral signposts that such a history must inevitably contain. The vast, rich, and terrible panorama of Germany between two bloody wars is made richer and all the more terrible in her telling, since she does it in the voice of one who did not understand until the end that her fortunes rose and fell with the Reich itself. Splendid, moving, and real: a vivid animation of an entire epoch.