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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Read
Well, being a Yank, I feel that I'm treading on what is firmly British territory here. It took me over 20 years (and two viewings of the celebrated mini-series, which I loved and now have on DVD) to finally sit down and read this book. All I can say is, "Why in hell did I wait so long?" I ordered the Maclehose reissue with the gorgeous painting by Anthony Cowland which...
Published on 10 April 2012 by Grant Waara

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but what happened next?
I loved this when I read it years ago. I've just blitzed through a more light-hearted take on the subject - Jack Darrington's Rainbow Rising (The Heavy Metal series) - highly recommended if you enjoy this period of history, and want an enjoyable read.
Published 6 months ago by Gill Kirk


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Read, 10 April 2012
By 
Grant Waara (Torrington, Wyoming, United States) - See all my reviews
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Well, being a Yank, I feel that I'm treading on what is firmly British territory here. It took me over 20 years (and two viewings of the celebrated mini-series, which I loved and now have on DVD) to finally sit down and read this book. All I can say is, "Why in hell did I wait so long?" I ordered the Maclehose reissue with the gorgeous painting by Anthony Cowland which adorns the cover. I hope Mr. Cowland paints the covers for all of the Maclehose Derek Robinson reissues. Kind of like what Geoff Hunt did with Patrick O'Brian's classic Aubrey/Maturin series. It's a lovely edition.

As to the story, I felt that Mr. Robinson was fed up with the stories of "the few," and wanted to show that these men aside from the propaganda were human like everyone else. The dialogue moves the story briskly and despite the myriad of characters, the reader can fairly distinguish each one. It's a bit difficult at first, but once you start knowing these characters, the book accelerates it's pace, much like a Hurricane taking flight.

I enjoyed this book and have recommended it to others. But since I'm on the other side of the pond, I think most Americans won't "get" what Robinson was trying to do.

Anyway, a lovely story.

Cheers!
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No rose-tinted flying goggles here...., 22 July 2004
'Piece of Cake' was the first Derek Robinson novel I ever read. I recently purchased a replacement, as the original had been re-read and loaned-out so many times!
He has a certain trademark style, in that he debunks many of the myths of the RAF and warfare in general; both the popularly cherished ones and the relatively unknown. D.R. has the ability to build characters with an economy of style, i.e. just a hint of description and your own imagination will fill in the gaps. My father (ex RAF) read the book too, but like the previous reviewer he is a tad 'old school' and defensive when it comes to the RAF's history, and also thought the book somehow disrespectful. Although we owe so much to the men and women of the RAF during WW2, we cannot let ourselves be blinkered to the fact that many of them died so needlessly because of blinkered thinking, oversights or misguided strategies.
Much of what was taken for granted about the RAF's performance in WW2 has been reassessed in recent years, and D.R. does not let things such as sentimentality, jingoism or misplaced patriotism to fog his writing about what happened during the Battles of France and Britain. As opposed to being portrayed as a group of peerless whiter-than-white paladins and faultless heroes, the pilots and men of Hornet Squadron represent a pretty good cross-section of young (and not so young!) men going to war. As a group, the pilots are generally the product of the British public school system, and contain a pretty good cross-section of personality types: gung-ho heroes, romantics, thinkers, fools, cowards and bullies, who are capable of surprising themselves and each other; as well as the reader, as they variously display bravery, naivety, wisdom, immaturity, stubbornness, initiative, tenderness and bloody-minded ruthlessness.
There are a few characters that are cleverly placed so as to give some wider strategic and tactical background of the times to the story, and so help us to question what we have heard and taken for granted. The American volunteer character CH3 is typical of the many 'playboy' pilot-mercenaries who fought in Spain, China, and over Europe. He has a series of clashes with the very much traditional CO of Hornet Squadron, who poo-poos all of CH3's hard-won practical experiences and attempts to fight the war straight from the obsolete RAF rulebook; getting many of his pilots killed in doing so.
It is true that, at the time, Fighter Command's tactics and much of its equipment were woefully out-of-date, and that the lessons of the Spanish Civil War and the war in China were completely ignored. During the Battle of France, RAF Hurricanes had no back-armour or self sealing fuel tanks; a WOODEN 2-bladed fixed-pitch propeller; and canvas-covered wings. They fought in unwieldy tight-knit formations (the pilots at the back of which didn't have much of a life expectancy) and their rifle-caliber guns were harmonised to converge at about 800 yards compared to the much more accurate 100-200 yards (or less) they were later. By the time of the Battle of Britain, many of these oversights had been fixed, and the pilots (if allowed and encouraged by good COs) had adapted their tactics and formations (i.e. emulated the successful Luftwaffe ones!)
'Skull' Skelton, the squadron's intelligence officer, is another interesting character. Although no flyer; his intellect and erudition enable him to think 'outside the box', and his candid outspokenness makes him less than popular with figures of authority; not to mention some of the pilots who's claims he has to assess. He turns up in two other D.R. novels too.
As the Battle of Britain progresses we see some foreign pilots from occupied Europe attached to the squadron, but despite their bravery and skill, the attitudes of some of their ex-public school comrades are often quite xenophobic and immature to say the least. The two romantic sub-plots set in France during the early part of the story, serve not only to help illustrate the thinking of the French civilians and their relationship with the BEF during the 'Phony War', but also to show just how naive and unworldly some of the young pilots were.
The widely differing and often conflicting personalities in Piece of Cake make it quite 'human' and realistic. The dialogue throughout is very sharp and witty. I found myself actually laughing out loud quite often, but within a page I'd be shocked, thrilled, spellbound, or sorrowful, as D.R. is a master of describing flying and aerial combat as well as the sometimes tedious routine of Service life on the ground. This happens in all of D.R.'s books; roller-coasters of emotion, situation, and pace. I cannot recommend them highly enough, and Piece of Cake is a great introduction.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel, not a "thriller"., 1 Jan 2005
I am not generally a reader or war stories. In fact, apart from a few of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey and Maturin novels, this is the only one I have ever read. Well, I couldn't put it down! It is one of those books you have to go around recommending to everyone you know. Everyone *I* know invariably loses interest when I tell them it's about fighter pilots during the Battle of Britain, but don't let that put you off. This is not Biggles. Like O'Brian, Robinson does not glamourise warfare and his characters are real people, not Hollywood heroes.
One warning though - the pages have started to fall out of my copy (published by Cassells Military Paperbacks). Admittedly I had been carrying it around in a backpack while reading it, but still, I would expect paperbacks to able to put up with that.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Have another Piece!, 8 April 2003
I have to start by saying that this is one of my most re-read books. Derek Robinson's portrayal of the lives, loves, laughs and lows of Hornet Squadron in The Phoney War of 1939 and then The Battle of Britain in 1940 is superb.
Mr. Robinson's skill lies not perhaps in the originality of ideas - several of the incidents in Piece of Cake really did happen to other pilots in the Battle, as the author freely admits - but in embelishing them and putting them together into a whole greater than the sum of its parts. The characters are believable and certainly not always likeable; the air combat narrative is gripping; the tempo is exactly judged and the overall 'feel' of the novel highly convincing. Piece of Cake is the best of Derek Robinson's 'war works', in my opinion.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An honest, , detailed and very funny account of the R.A.F, 15 Nov 2000
By A Customer
Piece of cake follows the pilots and Groundcrew of Hornet sqaudron from September 1939 to September 1940 in an engaging,well written and often brutal novel. What struck me most was the superb characterisation of the novel. A book to read and re read
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece!, 22 April 2003
I first read Derek Robinson's "Piece of Cake" a few years ago, and have since picked it up many times. It is a book which I can safely say is one of my very favourite books and a great read. Following the coming of age of an RAF Fighter Squadron ("Hornet") from the outbreak of WWII up until the climatic drama at the height of the Battle of Britain, "Piece of Cake" is a masterpiece. Like all Robinson's books, the dialogue is unspeakably good, and there is a very black vein of humour which courses throughout. This combined with some simply tragic events has the reader at times caught between laughter and tears, a strange mix but one which probably suits the absurdity of war. The dogfight scenes are brilliantly rendered and perfectly capture the sudden brutality and adrenaline fuelled excitement of these aerial encounters. It sounds clichéd but Robinson really does put the reader in the midst of an RAF squadron in Fighter Command both on the ground in the mess halls and dispersals of RAF air bases, and in the air in the cockpit of a Hawker Hurricane. I cannot recommend this novel enough, five stars just does not do it justice, I'd give it ten if I could.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My candidate for the best WW2 aviation novel ever written, 27 Mar 2002
By 
Mr. Rob Pritchard (Bury St Edmunds, UK) - See all my reviews
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The launch of this book provoked an intense reaction from a couple of Battle of France veterans who felt it to be a slur on their squadron and colleagues.
Doubtless some of the incidents were inspired by the classic 'Fighter Pilot' a (then) anonymous account of that struggle written by a serving pilot. But to my mind this only serves to build a better foundation to a superb work of fiction portraying a dark and bleakly humorous twelve months in the life of a squadron ill-prepared for the German onslaught.
The characterisation is superb. it is also one of the only two flying novels I have ever read that I have been unable to fault on technical detail. (Len Deighton's 'Bomber' being the other)
Unmissable. I power through the shredded vapour trails over 1940s Kent at least once every couple of years with Fanny, Moggy and their diminishing band of comrades.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic - possibly the best novel I've ever read!, 31 Oct 2000
By A Customer
Don't be put off by the hefty length of this superb book - You'll wish it was twice as long when you've finished it. Superb characterisation - you'll really feel part of whats going ony. The scene setting and black humour of the narative serves to make the whole war experience of the main characters even more bleak and frightening
Superb
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that rarely stalls. You can almost smell the glycol!, 14 Oct 1999
By 
A book I found hard to put down. From the Battle of France to the climax of the Battle of Britain a unique and unparalled story unfolds. Close to exhaustion, past the brink, the pilots of Hornet squadron live an existence with the spectre of death constantly at their sides.
It is clear that aerial warfare is neither a gentlemanly sport or chivalrous past time.
A recommended read
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly accurate historical novel, 24 Feb 2013
By 
J. L. Macdonald (Topsham EX3 0DL) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Piece of Cake (R.A.F. Quartet) (Kindle Edition)
I bought this book out of idle curiosity - as a wartime pilot (Bomber Command) and was immediately immensely impressed at the author's grasp of the situation. He summed up the attitude of pre-war regulars most accurately (inflexible) and described the situation in France and the commencement of the Battle of Britain with great skill. Although I didn't fly operationally until well after that event I still picked up the gossip about tactics etc and the refusal of authority to abandon close formation flying and its fatal consequences. The juniors were always put in the rear and the leaders assumed they were shot down because they were incompetent - not because they weren't keeping their eyes peeled. I also learned that some pilots had to bribe the groundcrew armourers to alter the focus of their guns. All in all, a fascinating story and quite historically accurate. I really enjoyed it - so should you!
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