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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prepare to be Amazed, 1 Aug. 2009
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This review is from: Bomber: Events Relating to the Last Flight of an RAF Bomber Over Germany on the Night of June 31st, 1943 (Mass Market Paperback)
How truly delighted I am to see another reviewer's reference to Kingsley Amis supposedly having considered this to be one of the ten best books of the 20th Century. To this accolade can be added Anthony Burgess's opinion of it being amongst the finest 99 books written in the English language since 1939. After that, anything I can contribute will be of little consequence I suspect. But this is a book like no other so I'm going to weigh in.

Five hundred pages, around one hundred characters and set within a single day and night, Deighton has pulled off an impossible feat. Further, I would boldly venture that this book should become the definitive work of reference about the British bombing campaign; the author, after all, claims to have read more than two hundred books in order to have written this one. On the one hand, the detail is mind-boggling in its rigour, whether it be the exact cost of a Lancaster bomber, the colour of the dashboard lights on a German night fighter or the arrangement of sewage pipes in a German town. On the other hand, the experience and reaction of ordinary townspeople to being bombed by seven hundred aircraft will surely never again be portrayed in all of its forensic horror like Deighton has done here. What makes Deighton unique, though, is his being a single voice in describing both sides of the story. It's probably impossible to remember all one hundred characters but one comes to care a great deal for almost all of them, whether British or German.

And so for me, above all else, this magnificent novel gave me startling new insights into my own qualities of compassion and humanity, ones that perhaps I didn't really expect to experience within the confines of a novel about a vicious and savage war. Maybe this is Len Deighton's supreme achievement, and if so it's no wonder that Amis and Burgess should have shown this novel such high regard. Either way, this is a work of staggering accomplishment, and not a little genius. Everyone should read it.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 2 Oct 2011 13:54:10 BDT
P. J. Clarke says:
Agree entirely with your sentiment. This is probably the finest world war 2 book I have ever read. It is utterly gripping from start to finish. Deighton's technical knowledge is superb, it is quite evident he did a tremendous amount of in-depth research. With regard to the large number of characters incorporated within the account, I concur with you entirely, the reader does care a great deal for all of them, regardless of nationality. Perhaps that is Deighton's greatest achievement with this work, as you put it succintly, the book gives the reader new insights into their own qualities of compassion & humanity-absolutely! It brings home the folly & brutality of war like no other book. I believe that this book above any other relating to war, should be on the national educational curriculum. EVERYBODY should be exposed to this superlative, though provoking book. It is impossible to read it without developing a huge amount of sympathy for ALL sides involved in the madness of war. There is bravery and decency shown on all sides, as well as savagery, ie the casual, merciless killing of the RAF Flight Engineer caught by his parachute in a tree by a German rescue worker with a shovel. The casual manner in which the killing is mentioned in the passage, makes it all the more abhorrent & shocking. My only regret is that I did not read this book sooner. A work of genius that has established a Gold Standard unlikely to ever be surpassed.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Oct 2011 20:25:51 BDT
Your eloquent comments about this book put my own modest efforts to shame. I subsequently read another of his novels which, unlike this one, seems to have aged somewhat. Which I think all tends to confirm that this is probably Deighton's masterwork, for all the reasons we've both mentioned - and probably several others. And I couldn't agree more that this fine book should be on the national curriculum. A work of genius indeed.
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