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From a Clear Blue Sky: Surviving the Mountbatten Bomb [Hardcover]

Timothy Knatchbull
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
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Book Description

24 Aug 2009

A powerful survivor's account of the IRA bomb that killed the author's 14-year-old twin brother, his grandparents and a family friend, published on the 30th anniversary of the atrocity. Winner of the 2011 Christopher Ewart-Biggs Literary Award, and nominated for the 2009-2010 PEN/JR Ackerley prize.

On the August bank holiday weekend in 1979, 14-year-old Timothy Knatchbull went out on a boat trip off the shore of Mullaghmore in County Sligo, Ireland. It was a trip that would cost four lives - and change his own for ever.

The IRA bomb that exploded in their boat killed Knatchbull's grandfather Lord Mountbatten, his grandmother Lady Brabourne, his twin brother Nicholas, and local teenager Paul Maxwell. In telling this story for the first time, Knatchbull is not only revisiting the terrible events he and his family lived through, but also writing an intensely personal account of human triumph over tragedy.

For thirty years, Knatchbull has lived with the echoes of that day: the death of the twin from whom he had been inseparable; the loss of his adored grandparents, whose funerals along with his twin's he and his parents were too injured to attend; the recovery from physical wounds; and the emotional legacy that proved harder to endure.

In From A Clear Blue Sky Timothy Knatchbull delves into his past, present and future, and reveals a story of courage and fortitude as he, his family, and their English and Irish friends dealt with the shocking assassinations and their aftermath. Taking place in Ireland at the height of the Troubles, it gives a compelling insight into that period of Irish history. But more importantly it brings home that although tragedy can strike at any moment, the human spirit is able to recover and evolve over time.

This book about truth and reconciliation, unflinching in its detail, asks searching questions about why human beings inflict misery on others, and holds lessons about how we can learn to forgive, to heal and to move on. It will resonate with readers the world over.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 418 pages
  • Publisher: Hutchinson; 1st edition (24 Aug 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091931460
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091931469
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 399,606 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"His candour is affecting... That he manages to discuss both the IRA and the bombing without rancour is testament to a remarkable, benevolent soul." (Ed Caeser Sunday Times)

"It is a proper four-hanky bawler, and the exactitude of the story is what makes it so moving." (Sam Leith Daily Mail)

"Exceptionally moving... This book works on several levels: as an affectionate portrait of Mountbatten; as a story of what happens when a cataclysm is visited on what had been until then an idyllic life; and as a carefully researched detective story" (Review)

"It's an astonishing, deeply moving book" (Choice)

"From a Clear Blue Sky is a minute by minute story of what happened that day, and what happened afterwards. It is a proper four-hanky bawler, and the exactitude of the story is what makes it so moving... He provides a convincing account of the extent to which he has been able to accept, forgive and move on. His narrative power is such that the reader can't always share his equanimity. It is a book that is as saddening as it is sad -- but much more angering than it is angry" (Daily Mail)

Book Description

A powerful survivor's account of the IRA bomb that killed the author's 14-year-old twin brother, his grandparents and a family friend, published on the 30th anniversary of the atrocity. Winner of the 2011 Christopher Ewart-Biggs Literary Award, and nominated for the 2009-2010 PEN/JR Ackerley prize.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
46 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mountbatten - A Good Read. 25 Aug 2009
A well told, easy to read story. Interesting to hear from a survivors point of view. All aspects of life in the days before and after the incident are so well described,one almost feels transported back to the days leading up to the event. The story is one of a very close, large family who in a couple of minutes are totally transformed forever, the author captures the emotion of the days, weeks and years that follow perfectly. Truly Worth Reading
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A necessary book. 14 Sep 2009
This is an intelligent, brave and moving book which tells of the terrible event which shatters a family. Much more than an account of the violence committed on the day in question, the book charts the writer's journey back to his childhood and the ways in which he eventually moves from grief to mourning for what he, his brother and his family have lost. The book is detailed in its research and incorporates Timothy Knatchbull's journal entries as he comes, many years later, to revisit the places, people, and experiences of that time. Utterly compelling.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Completely absorbing 15 Sep 2009
Earl Mountbatten's grandson goes into painstaking [and for him very painful] detail about the events leading up to the 1979 murders. He introduces an attractive, happy family and describes how they spent that Bank Holiday morning. His description of the explosion, the rescue and treatment of the casualties, and the recovery of the bodies of Lord Mountbatten, Nicholas Knatchbull and Paul Maxwell, is based partly on what he comprehended at the time in his badly shocked and injured state, but mostly on what he has since learned from eye witnesses. Paying tribute to all that was done for him and his parents during their slow recovery, he expresses sincere praise for the people who pulled them from the sea and took them to hospital, and for the doctors, surgeons and nurses who worked over them. He also tells movingly of the unstinting practical and moral support received from the rest of the family, including the Queen and Prince Charles, and explains movingly what it means to lose a twin. In 2003, after he had rebuilt his life, taken up a career, married and had children, he went back to Ireland - which his grandfather and the family had always loved - talked at length to their many friends near Classiebawn [including Paul Maxwell's father] and learned how the bombing had affected so many people of Ireland, whose sense of shock and outrage at the killings was great. His talks to the doctors included seeing postmortem reports and harrowing photographs and, by meeting the police and others involved, he has pieced together and described the arrests and trial. The book - as well as providing an invaluable account of the atrocities - seems to have helped him come to terms with his brother's loss, to understand some of the background, and to hope a happier future awaits a place he and his family always enjoyed visiting and meeting with true friends.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A clear understanding 1 Oct 2009
I only bought and read this book because of the moving interview I heard with the author on the radio, when I heard him speaking about the events of 1979 and the subsequent emotional and political fallout that followed, I felt compelled to read the full account. This is a story that all families can relate to and understand, its a story of love and honour bound with a full sense of history and patriotism. Knatchbull could easily have wallowed in self pity, but he doesn't, instead he shows remarkable fortitude and strength in the intimate and caring style in which he has chosen to tell this most personal story. It's a beautiful book, and the family at the core could be from almost any walk of life, at no point does the fact that Mountbatten, being the grandson of Queen Victoria make it difficult for the reader to identify with the family and character's within. This is a history book, a story book, and a window looking into our structure and very being as a nation, its a book about ordinary people in an extraordinary situation. The book also gives us a remarkable insight to subjects that are usually misunderstood or misplaced, such as IRA activity and government policy and structure at the time of the so called "troubles" in Ireland. I was incredibly moved by some of the accounts within this book, it must have been so very difficult to have covered the more sensitive issues, but as I say, its not indulgent, just a thoroughly good read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful account by a remarkable person 31 Oct 2009
I must say that at times I found this story so distressing I had to put it down, and couldn't read it straight through without days in between. The author describes a journey back to Ireland, primarily with the intention of being able to say goodbye to his brother, who had been taken from him suddenly and brutally. The political questions are secondary to the emotional journey of confronting pain and loss, but the author open-mindedly and generously considers the political backdrop to the events he describes and the developments of later years, rejoicing in the end of the Troubles, and accepting the resulting prominence of certain controversial political figures.
What is most striking about the book is the author's ability to return to childhood, and evoke the tenderness of the child while writing as a man in middle life, who has lived courageously and successfully, but not without a large amount of suffering. The two personae - that of the child and that of the adult - seem to exist concurrently as strong presences in the book. This ability to evoke the emotions of childhood is a quality which even great stylists cannot always do convincingly. The book is at times deeply painful to read, but it is a tender symphony of love to a lost brother, and a compassionate account by a man with extraordinary insight into himself and outreaching love for other people. It is also, in its way, a celebration of life and joy as well. All in all, a tough read, but I strongly recommend it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great
Visited Mullaghmore recently and finding no reference to the Mountbatten murders this book answered my questions. Great read
Published 8 days ago by Billy Browne
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Exceptional book well worth reading
Published 17 days ago by poppy
5.0 out of 5 stars For those of you who enjoy pure, frank honesty the same
For those of you that lived during the 'troubles' in Ireland this is a must read. For those of you who enjoy pure, frank honesty the same. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Henharrier
5.0 out of 5 stars An emotive book.
This was recommended to me by a friend and I'm so glad I've read it. My parents, who are both Irish Catholics, always spoke of this atrocity when I was gowing up. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Sparkes
4.0 out of 5 stars Book Club Book
Lots of memories from when I was in Northern Ireland. I found it a very emotional book to read but enjoyed it none the less.
Published 4 months ago by Yvonne G. Romain
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly inspirational
Beautifully written and a very touching account of an extremely traumatic event. which touched the lives of so many people.
Published 7 months ago by jet
5.0 out of 5 stars The Saddest Read
Of all the books about "lives" I have read this is indeed the saddest. On receiving the book I began as I always do by looking at the photograph. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Bookworm
4.0 out of 5 stars Havent read it yet!
Bought this and it came fast, great price, but I havent actually read it yet so cant comment on its contents!
Published 8 months ago by deefletch
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving personal history
I think above all it's a very fair book, as well as being moving and instructive. If you have any experience of PTSD, I think you wll find it revealing and supportive.
Published 8 months ago by nigel
3.0 out of 5 stars Upsetting.
Having served in the Royal Navy on Lord Louis Mountbatten's Flag Ship, I was interested to read this book, as I was sad and upset at the manner in which he died. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Chip
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