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All That Is
All That Is
by James Salter
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Work of A Lifetime, 16 Sept. 2013
This review is from: All That Is (Hardcover)
Mr. Salter disparages the term "a writer's writer". Perhaps he feels it's a backhanded way of saying he's not as well known as his contemporaries. But he should finally accept the appellation with good grace, for with this book it is truly earned.

His prose here has the same gleaming sparsity of his other classic books "A Sport And A Pastime" and "Burning The Days". As with all great writers, it is what is left out that has the most impact. But, in "All That Is", there is the addition of an infinitesimal sense of time passing, revealed in only the slightest references, and a vein of bitterness, a sense of scores being settled, which temporarily ruffles the otherwise cool surface.

Perhaps the greatest compliment that can be paid to this book is that, once you've put it down, you feel as if you've lived an alternative life. The essence of it is retained on the skin, the faint sense of memories had, places seen and journeys made lingers like reference to a great holiday.

But this, of course, is a man's life, and the haunting ache of lost love, paths never taken, unrepeatable experience, gives it a memorable power that ripples out from its centre like the enigmatic cover of the book itself.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 18, 2014 11:45 AM BST

That Quiet Earth
That Quiet Earth
by Bruce Fellows
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Raging skies over That Quiet Earth, 21 Jun. 2012
This review is from: That Quiet Earth (Paperback)
There have been many novels written about the first world war, most notably "Birdsong" by Sebastian Faulks in recent times. But few have been written about the air war, the intense battles between fragile "buses" of stretched canvas, wood and metal that fought for control of the skies over the battlefields of France.

At its best, Bruce Fellows' "That Quiet Earth" gives a visceral account of these battles, describing with admirable attention to detail, the intricate choreography of the planes and their pilots as they flew out, without any form of communication, to uncertain confrontations in treacherous foreign skies.

He describes the extreme cold the pilots endured, their faces covered with animal fat and with frostbite in the open cockpits a real possibility. Also, the fear of sudden and arbitrary death, which no amount of alcohol and fine food on the quiet earth could assuage. The comradeship between the various pilots is nicely observed, but there is always a feeling, like a vintage murder mystery, that there will soon be an empty space at dinner...

The earthbound relationships are sometimes slightly less successful; the hero's post-war career in Hollywood feels like a tantalizing afterthought. But the portrayal of a monolithic class system in its last gasp is thoughtfully-described, and the key relationship between the hero George Bridge and the almost mythic but ultimately flawed pilot Billy Love, is particularly well-rendered.

"That Quiet Earth" provides a unique portrayal of aerial combat only a few years after the birth of flight, and the human beings who were often as fragile as the aeroplanes they flew.

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