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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
72
Fair Stood the Wind for France (Penguin Modern Classics)
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on 12 December 2015
The books ok, I think I will have to read it a second time to really appreciate it or to tap into some underlying meaning. I love the classics and this one is full of beautiful imagery but parts of the story leave me hanging.
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on 12 January 2016
There's a particular smell associated with the Second World War...the fragrance familiar to me from museums, Churchill's War Rooms, National Trust houses, and the few things passed down to me from my Grandfather...it's leather, machine oil, metal, and hope, mixed with the scent of blood, sweat and tears.

This is a moving tale of small acts of defiance, not big gestures. There are no shoot outs or nasty Nazis wearing monocles and riding boots. There are some downed RAF airmen, one badly injured, hiding out in rural occupied France..and a difficult but plausible escape. They rely on the kindness and generosity of the wary French. And the bravery. If they were caught helping the British they would face execution. The fliers would have been captured as POWs.

There's a rather gentle undercurrent of a love story too which feels very 1940s (that's a good thing), all proper and distant and slow burning. But it's all in the details; people staring into the middle distance, wind in the trees, autumnal fruit, the dusty floor of an old mill. In these straightened times, doctors are embarrassed they can't provide anaesthetic and the hosts humiliated they can only serve eel.

H.E. Bates brings this lost world alive again. You can feel it. It's in the fields of mud and the rattle of a bike chain..the spilled air fuel and the pocket of a flying jacket..the taste of three day old bread and the press of a bandage.

And, you can smell it.
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on 15 January 2018
I've had this book on my bookshelf for years (literally) and for some reason had never read it, until this week. This despite it being hailed as possibly the best WW2 novel ever written. So much for the hype. How did I find it? In some ways it was a 'quiet' novel, without much action, unusual in a 'war' novel and focused on the blossoming love between a British airman who has come down in Unoccupied (Vichy) France and the French woman who hides him until he can try to escape. Everything is very understated and often the more powerful a a result. The ending was a total surprise, on various counts, but not unrealistic. I did enjoy this, but it did have a 'dated' feel in terms of the writing style, perhaps because there was so little dialogue, and therefore little 'white space' which makes it a somewhat dense read, with much of the book telling us how the main protagonist feels, i.e. focusing on his internal thoughts.
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on 15 September 2017
A really good to read again after 45 years it is a proper book with story, style and prose
My mother suggested I should try it when I was a teenager. Then it was like a like a wartime escape story
This time it is much more - I can feel the spirit and romance which made it so popular at the time, late forties
A story of self sacrifice, which is probably all people had left to give
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on 23 July 2010
I struggled to get up for work having read the second half of this book until 3am, although sense told me to get a good night's sleep just could not put it down! The writing beautiful, lyrical and evocative. The story- absolutely gripping, literally couldn't turn the pages fast enough, yet some of it so gorgeous had to re-read bits. The ending very poignant, and a week later I m still thinking about the Mill, the vines, and the beautiful dark eyed Francoise, the Doctor and the old lady left behind to who knows what. The final part, the escape, the shabby town and Marseilles is just amazing, i'm still crouching down hiding with Franklin at the train yard... great and moving ending too. Wish this had been on our reading list at school and why has it not been made into a film?
Absolutely brilliant - one of his finest.
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on 27 October 2017
Interesting as it was published in 1944 and presumably written in 1943, so well within war time. It should be read with this context in mind. There is some beautiful descrption of the French countryside and the stort line makes you want to read on. A much better ending than the film!
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on 29 August 2017
I'm no great fan of 'war books' so when this was suggested in our book group as our next read, I wasn't massively keen; however, I just couldn't put it down. H.E. Bates has such a way with words and wonderfully descriptive writing that had me hooked. A wonderful book. I'm so glad to have read it.
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on 4 September 2017
Really enjoyed this book having read it ages ago at school. Think I understand it better this time.
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on 18 January 2015
Poorly written, unconvincing characterisation and even the author seems to grow bored with it and a little about finishing it.
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on 8 March 2010
Exquisitely written with the detail of a fine pencil drawing, Bates describes the scenes, smells, emotions, and dangers of a time spent during a hot summer in wartime France.
A Wellington bomber comes down in rural, occupied France, with a crew of five on board. The pilot, Franklin, is seriously injured, but is lucky enough to be kept safe by a farming family sympathetic to the allies.
Secresy is vital as the family risk great danger in housing the crew, and helping in their escape.
Over the course of his stay, a romance blossoms between Franklin and Francoise, the daughter of the house.
For an example of the text, here is Francoise going fishing.....
"Beyond the mill, on the north side, under the wet stones where the sun never reached, there were always small striped worms, almost like small carmine watch-springs coiled in the clay. She spent five minutes getting enough worms to fill the tobacco-tin she carried in the bag....."
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