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.