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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A deeply moving story of honour, courage and responsibility
This is a book about an American air force bomber base in Suffolk, and the neighbouring village of Bedenham during one summer of World War Two. John Hooper, a Lieutenant commanding a B17 heavy bomber, loses all his crew on a mission, but escapes with his own life. He is devastated, and devotes himself to ensuring that his next crew gets through their allocated total of 25...
Published on 23 April 2002

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Under an English Heaven
I am afraid I have not read this as yet, but I am sure it will be up to Robert Radcliffe's good tandard.
Published 28 days ago by Mr. L. Livesey


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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A deeply moving story of honour, courage and responsibility, 23 April 2002
By A Customer
This is a book about an American air force bomber base in Suffolk, and the neighbouring village of Bedenham during one summer of World War Two. John Hooper, a Lieutenant commanding a B17 heavy bomber, loses all his crew on a mission, but escapes with his own life. He is devastated, and devotes himself to ensuring that his next crew gets through their allocated total of 25 missions alive - after which they are entitled to go home.It is a time when the US 8th Air Force is taking exceptionally heavy losses and the odds are against any crew surviving that number of missions. The lives of Hooper and his crew are interwoven with the quieter lives of the villagers of nearby Bedenham: Heather Garrett, the schoolteacher, married to a young subaltern in the Royal Norfolk regiment who has gone missing in action at the fall of Singapore; Ray Howden the blacksmith who endured the first world war (only twenty years before) in the trenches and wants his family to have nothing to do with the Americans who have brought war to his doorstep; and Billy Street the cockney evacuee who is having the time of his life in and out of the American base.
The novel is convincing in its detail about English life and the war in the air over Germany. It gathers momentum and conviction throughout its 430 pages. The last mission of Hooper and his crew - like the first day on the Somme in Sebastian Faulks's'Birdsong' - is almost unbearable in its suspense and in the pressure that has built up behind it. The courage and devotion of the fliers, which you become increasingly aware of as the novel progresses makes the wasting of lives all the harder to bear.
This is a war novel with little or no macho behaviour, but much realism. It is a peace novel, too, because the world of the Suffolk village counterpoints the world of the 520th Bombardment Group. Bedenham is a constant reminder of the normal rhythms and relationships of society, of which the war is a huge, vivid, engrossing disruption.
There are some good scenes in London - American officers thronging the smart hotels, English tarts hustling in Piccadilly, Southwark in an air raid. There are some good scenes, too, in grand houses and small cottages around Suffolk as the English, sidelined, with their young men away in Africa and Asia, try to make sense of the war and the irruption of the Yanks into their lives. But the real srength of the novel is in the depiction of the moulding of Hooper's disparate crew of 10 fliers into a band of brothers - to borrow the title of a TV series that was itself borrowed from Henry V; and in the delicate, responsible adult relationship that grows up between John Hooper and Heather Garrett.
The book builds steadily to a searing climax, of which the less said in a review the better. And then there is a final chapter bringing the story into the 1980s, which is perhaps too pat.
The flying detail - the beauty of flying as well as the stress and the tension - is marvellously done. As a war novel this book is refreshingly free of either improbable heroics or gratuitous gore. It tells it, you feel, the way it probably was. It's not War and Peace. But it can go on the same bookshelf.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Take the time to read this book...., 10 Jun 2003
By 
N. Booth "Nicola Booth" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Under an English Heaven (Paperback)
"Under an English Heaven" is the first WWII book I have read and I do quite literally feel like I have just spent the last two weeks ensconed in the village of Bedenham watching and waiting as Lt Hooper of the USAAF and his crew undertake their 25 missions in their B17 fortress - "Misbehavin Martha".
At times you really feel like you are up there with them - the dread when they are woken at 0500 hours on mission day and the tangible relief when the crew return home safely. The Bedenham villagers whose lives are weaved with that of the crew remind you that life continued in a fashion even in such trying times.
Its been a while since a book has made me care so much, indeed I was very sorry to finish it.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as everyone says..., 5 April 2004
This review is from: Under an English Heaven (Paperback)
One reviewer says that this book is as good as Derek Robinson's "piece of cake"... he wrong, its far, far better. Comparing it to other author's works is hard- the best I can say is that it combines the tensions & sheer horror of "Birdsong" with the romance & tragedy of "Captain Correlli's Mandolin".
I read this one sunny afternoon sitting in my parents garden 30 miles north of RAF Duxford (home of the Imperial War museums historical aircraft collection). The sights, sounds & smells of wartime rural england are so intense that the sounds of 60 year old piston engines gradually approaching didn't seem unusual at all. It was only when a REAL B-17 ("Sally B" europes only airworthy example, not Misbehavin' Martha) roared overhead that I remembered it was 2003 not 1943.
The book is unusual in that it doesn't have a "main" character. Instead it concentrates on the lives of many people living on & around a typical USAAF airbase in the east of england. This technique has been used many times by many authors but rarely does it work quite this well. The fact that its a "first book" makes it even more of an achievement.
The whole book is superb but the ending is incredibly moving... this book is one of the greatest works of war fiction ever. Radcliffe is every bit the equal of Sebastian Faulks or Louis de'Bernierre and thats rare praise indeed. BUY THIS BOOK!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very VERY moving, 16 Sep 2003
By 
JP RUSSEK (PETERBOROUGH, CAMBS United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Under an English Heaven (Paperback)
Dis anyone else hear the Radio adverts for this book. It just captured the feeling for me.. It takes a lot for me to be moved but I really was by this one.I enjoyed reading this so much that I just wished it carried on- somehow for twice as long, the ultimate 'please dont end' book. Why?Well the characters are just so personal and clear, I felt like I was part of their lives, sharing somehow in the TOTAL despair that was to complete the 25 missions as far as the Americans were concerend and also be moved by the way they changed the lives forever of the Suffolk people, coping with the war in their own fine way. I'm just the 30 something guy who just cried when he finnished this book..about an hour ago and it just makes me realise how good a read this was.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating, Enthralling, Enchanting...., 27 April 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Under an English Heaven (Paperback)
What a wonderful book! I did wonder if if was going to be like some of the other fictional books that cover other similar WWII subjects - books that lack body, depth and feeling. I needn't have worried - right from the beginning it draws you in. The book is based around an American aircrew, the airfield they're based at, their missions and the nearby village. The author very skillfully brings all these elements to life, so much so that your senses are transported back to that time.
When I read the blurb about the descriptions of the air fights I thought that the book would more for the 'boys' - not so! There's something in it for everyone. I often pass my used paperbacks on - not this one! I'm keeping it!
This is the first book that's ever moved me to tears. I really hope that this is not the last we hear from this author.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, evocative novel of WWII American airmen, 16 Mar 2003
This review is from: Under an English Heaven (Paperback)
This book was so good I was very sad to finish it and tried to spin it out as long as possible. It's the story of a USAAF aircrew in Suffolk in WWII and their B-17 Flying Fortress, the missions they undertake, the tragedies they witness, and the bitter-sweet relationships forged in the hothouse atmosphere of WWII with other airmen and with the local villagers who take them to their hearts. All this makes it sound a bit 'girly' but it's not at all, men will enjoy this book as much as women, and the air fight scenes are brilliantly described. It's not a sentimental weepy, though I defy anyone not to be moved by the ending. I was in floods (but then I'm daft!) Please buy this book, it will remain a favourite for years to come. (N.B. A Flying Fortress can be seen at Duxford Air Museum and it flies too - the 'Sally B')
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolute Magic, 2 Jan 2005
By 
Lancaster Lucy (Norfolk, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Under an English Heaven (Paperback)
This book is absolutely magnificent. A true view of wartime life at an East Anglian Airbase. With every operation the aircrew
flew in their ship "misbehavin Martha", i could truly feel their fear and dread. From the first page, i could not put this book down. The book went from fear to hilarity, within a number of pages. It was so real that i kept on imagining i could hear them returning over my cottage!
Buy this book, you will not be dissapointed.
Congratulations to the author.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A joy!, 11 Dec 2006
By 
N. M. York (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Under an English Heaven (Paperback)
I was new to Robert Radcliffe and stumbled on this book in the library, picking it up on impulse and not expecting much. From the first page, however, I knew I was on a winner. It is a joy. The writing is fluid, the characters strong and the atmosphere reeks of wartime Britain. The book is beautifully researched and the descriptions of the Flying Fortresses and the missions are wonderfully evocative.

Having started with a broad sweep of characters and scene setting, the book gradually narrows to the exploits and fate of the crew of 'Misbehavin Martha' and a small group of English villagers who get close to them. I am now a Radcliffe fan and an anxious to try another of his novels. I hope this was not a one off. Even if it is, I can unhesitatingly recommend it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and Moving, 30 Jun 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Under an English Heaven (Paperback)
I wasn't sure I'd enjoy this as I haven't read many WW2 books but I thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful and moving story. The story takes you through the lives of the American crew of Misbehavin' Martha and the villagers of Bedenham, some of whom find themselves intrinsically linked to their American visitors. Radcliffe takes you through the twenty-five missions that Martha must fly for her crew to complete their tour of duty. The vivid descriptions of battle, the courage and strength that these men found from within stayed with me long after reading this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding - a great story well told - neat finish, 28 Mar 2003
By 
A. J. Sudworth "tonysudworth" (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Under an English Heaven (Paperback)
I picked this one up being interested in WW2 flying stories - and this one is an absolute cracker. By bringing in the local villagers and their stories and mixing it up with some of the best descriptive writing on the sheer terror and violent death of the Flying Fortress crews, I read this in a single day. The level of the sacrifices made by the ordinary people and the aircrews are described so well that you keep plowing on through the story because you get caught up in it and you want to know what happens to people that the author brings to life so vividly. A superb book
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Under an English Heaven
Under an English Heaven by Robert Radcliffe (Paperback - 3 Mar 2003)
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