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Bomber County: The Lost Airmen of World War Two [Paperback]

Daniel Swift
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 Jun 2011
One night in June 1943 James Swift, along with the Lancaster bomber he piloted, vanished. In Bomber County, his grandson Daniel seeks to discover what happened. At the same time he tries to understand the men who took part in these dangerous raids, as well as their devastating impact on the civilians below. In examining the life of one pilot, Daniel Swift also investigates why it is we have tried to forget what was then a new, shocking form of warfare, and why literature and poetry exploring these terrible losses have not found the recognition they deserve.

Product details

  • Paperback: 271 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (2 Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141036990
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141036991
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 332,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Daniel Swift was born in 1977. His essays, profiles and reviews have appeared in the Financial Times magazine, the New York Times Book Review and the Daily Telegraph, and he teaches in the Department of English Literature at Skidmore College in upstate New York. This is his first book.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By Eleanor TOP 500 REVIEWER
Daniel Swift's grandfather, Eric Swift, died at the age of thirty in 1943, after he was shot down returning from a bombing run on Munster. This book is both a memoir of the author and his father's attempt to recreate Eric's life during the war and a meditation on aerial bombing, its ethics, and the poetry and poets inspired by it.

The book took a bit of time to get into as it moved from subject to subject, making it difficult to discern the direction in which it was moving or its thesis. However it was always interesting and gradually a pattern emerged.

Swift is very good at exploring the ambivalence surrounding Britain's bombing campaign. We see both the bombers who feel that their contribution to the war has been sidelined and the bombed on the ground and the horrors they experienced. We also see this ambivalence being wrestled with by the poets of the time, with their results being compared and contrasted with those of World War I.

The result is an erudite, thought-provoking, and moving book about a period which, for me at least, feels both very near and very far away. A time still within memory but filled with both unimaginable suffering and courage.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
In Bomber County Daniel Swift describes how he started to research the life of his grandfather (also Daniel Swift) who was lost at sea when his the Lancaster bomber he was flying was shot down over Holland. His researches, which included visits to military graves and other memorable sites in western Europe, led him to think about the nature of the Allied bombing campaign over Germany.

Then, being conscious of the poetic legacy of the First World War (Wilfrid Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Rupert Brooke etc), he began to wonder why the Second World War did not produce a similar crop of memorable poetry. The result is a book part history, part memoir, part poetic history, but all beautifully written, with a style that befits a teacher of English Literature and a writer for the New York Times Book Review.

The author begins his book by describing a visit with his father to the site at which his grandfather's body was washed up after his Lancaster came down after a raid on Munster. They find the place where his grandfather was first buried in a "shambolic, rambling" cemetry, and find a café nearby with faded sepia photos on the walls and tables of children eating plates of chips and drinking Coke. The events they have come to commemorate all seem so very long ago.

The next few chapters are as much reflection as history, although the terrible circumstances of the campaign keep breaking in - the hosing out of bodily remains from gun turrets, the deaths by incineration, and down below the fire-storms, the melting tarmac which clogged the shoes of people trying to run away, the sheer atrocity of fire falling from the sky. Daniel Swift turns to poets and writers of the time to try to get a feeling of humanity among the machinery of death.
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Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Books like these tap into the minds of what these ordinary people did in a way that no films or documentaries can ever portray. We owe them so much, a debt that can never be repaid. Those who took part & are still alive today would probably say you have your freedom, the debt is paid in full.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a struggle 6 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Being a bit of a philistine I also found this book very mixed up and therefore a tortuous read. I had hoped to learn something more about the bombing campaign of WWII, and in fairness there were a few ocassions when interesting narrative did creep through. However, as with other reviewers I found this book difficult to get in to, and in particular it felt that the author spent the first chapter trying to impress the reader with his knowledge of Dylan Thomas, Virginia Woolf and Cecil Day-Lewis.

The first half of chapter 2 was interesting, but otherwise it was quite confused. The author seemed to be implying that there was no poetry of any merit written during WWII, but then spends a lot of the book deliberating over and analysing snippets of it. This also seemed to include some poetry which was completely irrelevant to wartime.

I read it, and I suppose I was glad to have read it (it being originally a present to my elderly father who was interested in all things RAF and who would have hated it if he hadn't have passed away before opening it). Franky I was glad to finish it and move on to something else. I was delighted to give it to the local charity shop, and it will soon be forgotten I suspect. Great if you are a poet, but not for me to take to my desert island I'm afraid.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking 23 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An excellent book and very stimulating. Well worth reading several times. The poetry is rich, profound and sad.
Adrian Winbow
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