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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 14 April 2001
Cecil Lewis is above all gifted writer. He gives the reader a rare insight into the life of a young man during the first world war and shortly afterwards.
A "bit of a Poet" he tells us of his experience as he trains to be a pilot and then during active duty.
This memoir lets us see through his eyes what live was like. Perhaps we see it better for he has a keen eye for detail and is both sensitive and perceptive.
The flying and combat scenes are perhaps the best ever written.
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on 30 September 2008
This is possibly the best aircraft related war memoir I have ever read. Cecil Lewis is a wordsmith in his own right, he lived to be 98 and became a successful BBC broadcaster. He wrote this book later on in life, but not from an adult perspective only just how he fell at the time as a 17 year old youth joining the Royal Flying Corps. It's full of love for flying, full of passion and knowledge of the machines, full of feelings that will take you on an emotional rollercoaster and make you laugh and cry as you read through this magnificent masterpiece of a memoir.
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on 23 April 2009
There are not many books which give first hand accounts of the air war in the first world war - there were not many who survived. Cecil Lewis was not only a survivor - against the odds - he was also a writer of talent. The backdrop which is provided of youthful exuberance, combined with the sense of duty, helps explain why young men continued to accept and face up to the near certainty of death. This is not just a book about the air war, it is a eulogy to a lost cast.
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on 18 April 2014
I read a number of good reviews but saw one that said the author lacked some clarity with certain events as he wrote the book too long after his experiences.

Undeterred I still purchased the book and have to say the point above is a valid one. The book is still worth reading, especially if you also watch the short clip recording of his post Great War interview (search under his name in iPlayer "The Great War Interviews" and you will see his recorded recollection are equally focussed in the book and well worth comparing with each other. Viewing the description of how he lost an Observer when a shell hit him and watching him get upset, then reading the same passage in the book brings an extra poignancy to the reading as you feel his sadness in the passage.

Other events recorded in the book feel less focussed, comments like "log book records a flight with observer XXXX I cannot even remember what he looked like, it is just a name. (Not an exact quote but you will spot the passage upon reading), do not help.

Even so, still worth reading, just do not expect too much. Currently reading Open Cockpit by Arthur Gould Lee which is better written and more focused so consider this book as well
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on 26 September 2011
I bought this because I was reading another book called Fighter Boys which is a well researched account of the development of the RAF leading up to a detailed account of the Battle of Britain. In the early stages of the book the author frequently cited Sagittarius Rising by Cecil Lewis as one of the best accounts we have of flying in the first world war, and it certainly lives up to that description. Cecil Lewis joined the RFC as soon as he could in the very early stages of WW1 and seems to have led a charmed life, being on active service in the RFC as a pilot throughout the war, carrying out duties as an airborne observer for the artillery, flying photographic reconnaisance missions over enemy territory, and being involved in dogfights including encountering von Richtofen's circus. The book is punctuated with his philosphical musings about war and civilisation which are as relevant to-day as they were then. An excellent well written account which is also very informative on the rapid development of aviation technology during the war.
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VINE VOICEon 24 April 2016
I did not think this was a great book, not a brilliant read either. The author admits at the start that he kept neither diary's or notes during the war and that what follows is based upon memory. For me there is too little on the actual business of fighting in the air and too much introspection and a desire on the author's part not to let the reader too far in. For example, there is no mention in the book that the Mr Lewis married a Russian girl in China after the war, a point I would have thought at least worth a mention. Rather we get a lot of strange, obscure sentences and the reader is left on their own to pull out whatever they may from the obscure sentences. I expected to read a straight forward account of the air war over France instead what one gets is something that reads a lot like "flight from Arras"; maybe the 2 authors were friends. Not really for me.
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on 10 June 2013
This is a fine book that I've been meaning to read for ages. I've only given it 3 stars not because it isn't as well written as others have suggested but because it should have been written earlier, when his memory was fresh. Instead we have, in my opinion, a rather sketchy attempt to capture those anguished times that young men hoped to survive.I wish he'd kept a diary!
Still it is a book that no doubt shouldn't be missed by any collector of genre.
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on 5 August 2016
An incredible life colourfully told, with bravery underplayed, grief taken in its stride, and a love of flying gloriously brought to life amidst the horrors of war.

Beautifully written and cleverly capturing the contrary senses of optimism and despair this transported me into a different time and place.
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on 19 June 2016
I didn't get anything like the enjoyment from this book as many of the other reviewers did. It dragged on quite a bit, and there wasn't much reference at all to what it was like to partake in aerial combat in WWI. I much preferred books on the subject by Derek Robinson.
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on 15 June 2016
Well worth a read, but it suffers from the author not keeping a wartime diary, as he freely admits. The book offers therefore a rather sketchy account of his war in the air, occupying just half of the volume. The rest is given over to his worthwhile views on the politics of war and subsequent post-war adventures.
I recommend 'Winged Victory' if you are looking for a more detailed read on this topic.
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