Top critical review
ROUTINE WARTIME STORY
on 23 March 2013
This is a quite readable but slightly disappointing saga about a young RAF pilot's experiences just prior to and during the Second World War. The lead character is an interesting one, something of an outsider and burdened by a family secret that affects his attitudes to the fighting in which he becomes embroiled. In the way the storyline unfolds I sensed faint echoes of "Brideshead Revisited" and even "The English Patient", and although the writing is not of the same calibre, parts of this book do have a fair amount of depth and insight. Unfortunately, such depth and subtlety becomes less and less evident as the book progresses, and what remains is a fairly run-of-the-mill wartime story. There's nothing especially wrong with this, except that it's been done so many times already and this book adds very little to what has gone before. It also suffers from a weak ending, a curiously abrupt denouement which leaves the reader hanging in mid-air with some key plot lines unresolved.
I'm no expert, but as regards historical detail the author appears to know his stuff. Some of the background description is absorbing, but there were some parts where the book slipped into "let's give readers a history lesson" mode; this was particularly evident in rather unconvincing conversations between the lead characters. There were also several points where the storyline becomes rather cliched; for example one principal character's dramatic demise is signalled in a very obvious way that actually robs their death of the impact it should have had.
All in all, this isn't a bad book, but it isn't anything particularly special either.