16 November 2018

A Discovering Diamonds review of The Turn of Midnight by Minette Walters

alas, only 2 stars


Note: At Discovering Diamonds we rarely give 3 star or less reviews, our policy being if a novel isn’t at least 3+ stars there is no point in recommending it. There are a few exceptions: the occasional mainstream/traditional published by well-known authors which don’t come up to scratch…

Fictional saga
14th century
England

I dislike not finishing a novel. It seems to me to be disrespectful to the author. But when the author shows disrespect to the reader, it is justified.
And I'm afraid I couldn't finish this novel.

A second instalment of a story following a village who are doing all they can to protect themselves from the onward march of the plague in 1348, chiefly by cutting themselves off with a convenient moat around the manor house, this novel continues to explore the lives of those affected, Lady Anne, the lady of the manor, Thaddeus her steward, her step-daughter Eleanor, and various inhabitants. There is a fairly thorough character analysis at the beginning of the volume to explain who everyone is and what they are doing, but even so, even if you can plough through that, this is not a stand-alone novel and doesn't even pretend to be. There is no backstory in the narrative at all. Unless you've read the first one, don't attempt this sequel.

There is often debate about how accurate historical fiction should or shouldn’t be. General consensus of opinion is that the author has a ‘duty of care’ to be as accurate as research permits for the bits that demand accuracy. What people actually did and said or reacted to situations is usually the ‘made-up’ bits of fiction, balanced against the factual side of how they dressed, what they ate – how they lived.

When I say that Ms Walters has disrespected her readers, I mean that although she has obviously researched some of her book - some of it is well depicted - she has fallen into almost every trap set by a plethora of Hollywood films that purport to be accurate. It falls into parody in places, and just sheer confusion at others. Had Ms Walters been an Indie or lesser-known author she would be drummed out of Amazon for the glaring errors, and branded as a charlatan author. Because she isn’t indie or less-known, however, has she got away with it? Here on Discovering Diamonds, no she hasn’t.

There now follows a history lesson. Ms Walters, please take note.
Ms Walter's tension built between Saxons and Normans. This is 1348. Not far short of three-hundred years after the Norman Conquest. That is, put into context, like saying you are a Jacobite today or an American Colonist with no concept of Independence from British rule. The fourteenth century is the great era of Englishness, the start of the cult of St George, Edward III and the victory of Crecy, England versus France, the quartering of the English coat of arms. England was populated by the English.

A few pages on she decides that a man she has referred to as French is in fact Norman and that is why 'Saxon' Lady Anne dislikes him. The Normans who came to England with such devastating effect in 1066 would have been insulted to be called 'French'. They were not French, even their language differed. So, if Master de Courtesmain is Norman, he is not French. And if he is French and happens to come from Normandy, well, Normandy had been under the control of France since 1204. So he's French and the tension is not because she's Saxon and remembers 1066, but because he's not English. (And anyway, it’s likely that being even minor nobility in the fourteenth century would mean you were, even partially if not wholly, of Norman descent.)

Master de Courtesmain is also the catalyst for the next part of our history lesson. Lady Anne refers to him as 'sir' with all the disdain of a disgruntled Customer Service assistant. Except he's not 'Sir', he's Master. He isn't a knight and so Anne would not be calling him 'sir' any more than she would call him 'Duke' or 'King'.

Ms Walters' peasants reckon time in seconds. Considering that the oldest clock in England still extant was built around 1386 and it can only count in hours, and has no dial, how can a peasant know what a second is in 1349? (‘A heartbeat’ is fine as a way of describing time. Seconds isn’t.)

The word ‘demesne’ means land that is occupied by the lord of the manor for his own purposes, not rented out to a sub-tenant. The more mundane but accurate 'village' would have been more correct.

And what decided me on giving up on the book? A demand to see a piece of parchment with orders from the king - with his 'signature' on the bottom. Kings in the fourteenth century didn't 'sign' things. They sealed things. Or, rather, others wrote the document and sealed it on his behalf.

And according to my Kindle, all this above is in just the first 16% of the novel. Lord knows how Hollywoodised the rest of it is.

To be fair, if you prefer Hollywood History, are not bothered by inaccuracies and don’t mind buying the first book in order to make sense of this second one in the series, then you’ll probably enjoy the read. Minette Walters does what she usually does very well indeed – crime thrillers. I strongly suggest that she sticks to them and gives up on pretending to be a writer of historical fiction.

© DDRevs reviewer


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15 November 2018

The Mid-Month Extra - A Tribute to Daphne Du Maurier


A Tribute to Daphne du Maurier
by J. G. Harlond

Young Daphne du Maurier.jpg
Dame Daphne du Maurier, Lady Browning, DBE 
13 May 1907 – 19 April 1989
It is 80 years now since Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca was first released. Back in 1938, du Maurier’s publishers were nervous about the novel’s future, but the story has become a classic: a world-wide favourite, a play, a television series, even an iconic black and white movie. For a while, back in the '90s, new editions of du Maurier’s novels were hard to obtain, but with the recent film version of My Cousin Rachel she is very much back in the public eye. Which is as it should be, because Daphne du Maurier was a very accomplished novelist.

Despite her success, du Maurier would probably make a modern publisher nervous, too. She did not, or would not, stick to one genre. Worse: she wrote books that were the antithesis of best sellers. The Glass-blowers (a fictionalised version of her French family history) was written in direct opposition to the hugely popular Scarlet Pimpernel and Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. In this novel it is the skilled artisan not the aristocrat who takes centre stage: the novel tells not of heroes but of ordinary people striving to survive and make a future for their children during the French Revolution. And this, I think, is why many new readers are being drawn to du Maurier’s fiction. Despite Hollywood casting’s best efforts to the contrary, her protagonists are real people. They are ordinary men and women confused by events, over-awed by more glamorous or charismatic people around them, caught up in situations beyond their control. They may triumph in the end, but it is never a certain or perfect ending.

We may not be like the timid heroine of Rebecca or Rachel’s doubting, bewitched young man, we aren’t the frightened girl in Jamaica Inn or the bored wife in Frenchman’s Creek, but we understand their worries and motivations. Hungry Hill includes extra-ordinary events, but what happens is grounded in normal family life.

Reading the Glass-blowers recently I was struck by this, and the simple wisdom in the story. Du Maurier understands the difficulties her characters face: like real people (like us) they may present one facet of their personality to the world, but underneath, inside, they are much more complex. As was Du Maurier herself.

There is also a sense that no matter how fantastical or exciting the plot, and most stories are page-turners, there is something very ‘lived’ in each book. Du Maurier was classified as a Romantic Novelist, and I’m not belittling romantic fiction, far from it, but the sum of her writing goes well beyond that genre description. In an article on the anniversary of Rebecca in the Guardian (23rd February, 2018) the writer Olivia Laing says:
What really startled (du Maurier) was that everyone seemed to think she’d written a romantic novel. She believed Rebecca was about jealousy, and that all the relationships in it – including the marriage between De Winter and his shy second wife – were dark and unsettling. (“I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool” hardly betokened love between equals.) The idea had emerged out of her own jealousy about the woman to whom her husband, Tommy “Boy” Browning, had briefly been engaged. She had looked at their love letters, and the big elegant “R” with which Jan Ricardo signed her name had made her painfully aware of her own shortcomings as a woman and a wife.’

Many of du Maurier’s books address the past like this, they take on our concerns and confusions related to ‘what happened when’. Her writing examines what Laing calls the ‘oddities of time’. Regarding these ‘oddities of time’, I remember with absolute clarity reading the time-slip novel The House on the Strand during the course of a family Christmas day. The paperback transported me out of a modern household into an ancient house on a tidal reach, out of the 20th century into the 14th century. Listening to the story on the radio some months ago, I was taken back to those three time periods: that Christmas day and the two epochs in the novel. Some weeks later I picked up a battered hardback of My Cousin Rachel and remembered worrying about the laburnum seeds in our garden. I have now re-read most of du Maurier’s novels. On each occasion, opening the first page I have a clear vision of a place and/or moment in the story, and how it affected me the first time I read it. I remember reading the end of Frenchman’s Creek during the last lesson of a rainy Friday afternoon when I was about 16 – I remember feeling the tears on my cheeks. The teacher confiscated the book, naturally. I’ve read that story twice since then, and each time I’ve seen something new in it; I relate to something I hadn’t recognised before, but each time I have been taken back to that classroom. It is a curious experience. A good historical fiction author can take a reader back in time in the space of a paragraph, but I wonder how many can mark their readers for life like this?


File:Quay at mouth of Frenchman's Creek - geograph.org.uk - 1371500.jpg
Frenchman's Creek
attribution: Graham Loveland

Was du Maurier aware that she had this skill, this gift to transport readers through time and into other lives? I don’t know. Accounts of her own life tell of a troubled woman at odds with her gender and circumstances; a woman trapped in a troubled marriage with a man who had a breakdown because he was having two extra-marital affairs simultaneously. She is often linked to the house named Menabilly on the Cornish coast, where she apparently went to escape the real world. Big houses, full of private tragedies and secret histories feature in many of her novels. Looking at photographs of Menabilly I wonder if that house stands as a metaphor for her fiction – as full of conflicting emotions, versions of the past and fantasies as the house on the strand. Such thoughts and ideas are only suggested, it is up to each reader to interpret them of course, and as in real life we interpret them according to our own way of thinking and personal experiences. Readers bring their own baggage to any book.

MenabillyB&WPhoto.jpg
Menabilly
Not all is what it seems in du Maurier’s novels, though, and they can’t be limited by a genre label. “Don’t look now,” we are told in that famous story about grieving parents in Venice, but if and when you do, you will find something disturbing, a theme that is both honest yet fantastical. For me, du Maurier’s novels are like a haunted room full not of ghosts but of real lives from the past – and the present.

© J.G. Harlond

 Publications Daphne du Maurier
Fiction
The Loving Spirit (1931)
I'll Never Be Young Again (1932)
The Progress of Julius (1933) (later re-published as Julius)
Jamaica Inn (1936)
Rebecca (1938)
Rebecca (1940) (du Maurier's stage adaptation of her novel)
Happy Christmas (1940) (short story)
Come Wind, Come Weather (1940) (short story collection)
Frenchman's Creek (1941)
Hungry Hill (1943)
The Years Between (1945) (play)
The King's General (1946)
September Tide (1948) (play)
The Parasites (1949)
My Cousin Rachel (1951)
The Apple Tree (1952) (short story collection, later published as The Birds and Other Stories, and in the USA as Kiss Me Again, Stranger)
Mary Anne (1954)
The Scapegoat (1957)
Early Stories (1959) (short story collection, stories written between 1927–1930)
The Breaking Point (1959) (short story collection, AKA The Blue Lenses)
Castle Dor (1961) (with Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch)
The Birds and Other Stories (1963) (republication of The Apple Tree)
The Glass-Blowers (1963)
The Flight of the Falcon (1965)
The House on the Strand (1969)
Not After Midnight (1971) (short story collection, AKA Don't Look Now)
Rule Britannia (1972)
The Rendezvous and Other Stories (1980) (short story collection)
Classics of the Macabre (1987) (anthology of earlier stories, illustrated by Michael Foreman, AKA Echoes from the Macabre: Selected Stories)
The Doll: The Lost Short Stories (2011) (collection of early short stories)

Non-fiction
Gerald: A Portrait (1934)
The du Mauriers (1937)
The Young George du Maurier: a selection of his letters 1860–67 (1951)
The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë (1960)
Vanishing Cornwall (includes photographs by her son Christian, 1967)
Golden Lads: Sir Francis Bacon, Anthony Bacon and their Friends (1975)
The Winding Stair: Francis Bacon, His Rise and Fall (1976)
Growing Pains – the Shaping of a Writer (a.k.a. Myself When Young – the Shaping of a Writer, 1977)
Enchanted Cornwall (1989)

about J.G. Harlond
Originally from the south west of England, J.G Harlond (Jane) studied and worked in various different countries before finally settling down with her husband, a retired Spanish naval captain, in rural AndalucĂ­a, Spain. Despite being ‘rubbish’ at history at school because she wanted to turn everything into a story, she survived the History element of her B.A. and went on to get an M.A. in Social and Political Thought. Her historical fiction, set in the 17th century and the first half of the 20th century, features many of the places Jane has visited – along with flawed rogues, wicked crimes, and the more serious issues of being an outsider. Apart from fiction, Jane also writes school text books under her married name. Her favourite reading is along the Dorothy Dunnett lines: well-researched stories with compelling plots and complex characters. Jane is currently writing about the theft and fate of the Crown Jewels during the English Civil War for the third in her Ludo da Portovenere trilogy.

J.G. Harlond is a reviewer for Discovering Diamonds
Twitter: @JaneGHarlond


what is your favourite du Maurier novel? 
Mine is Frenchman's Creek.

14 November 2018

A Discovering Diamonds review of A Suggestion Of Scandal by Catherine Kullman


AMAZON US  

Regency Romance
1800s
England

I have had the pleasure of reading Ms Kullman’s previous novels, so it was with quite some anticipation I settled myself in a chair to read her latest novel. Ms Kullman writes intelligent regency romance—the plot devices are realistic and grounded in the historical realities of the time, with little tendency to overly dramatic gestures. To do this, the author must not only know their period inside out—I am no expert in the 19th century, but I would say that judging by how effortlessly Ms Kullman transports me back in time she most definitely is—but must also be capable of breathing life into their characters. This Ms Kullman does with aplomb.

Rosa Fancourt is a well-born lady who, through a sequence of misfortunes, has found herself obliged to make her living as a governess. When the story opens, she has been with the Loring family for years and is clearly very fond of her young charge, Chloe. But Chloe is growing up and Rosa has to face the rather unpalatable reality that it is time to move on, start all over in a new household. However, things are about to become substantially more complicated for Rosa, and suddenly her main concern is not having to adapt herself to life in a new household but rather if any new household will even consider taking her in.

Fortunately, Rosa has a champion of sorts in Chloe’s older half-brother, Sir Julian Loring. Unfortunately, there are skeletons in Ms Fancourt’s past—well, that of her family, at least—and then, of course, there’s the deliciously nasty Mrs Overton, who has her eye firmly set on the handsome and rich Sir Julian.

Other than the growing attraction between Rosa and Julian, Ms Kullman’s novel also offers an insight into the constricted role of the 19th century woman and her dependency on her male betters. This is a society where a husband had total control over his wife, where even a whisper of immoral behaviour can ruin whatever hopes a young woman might have had. It is a society where the women pay the price—always, held to far higher standards of behaviour than their male counterparts.

A Suggestion of Scandal is a most enjoyable read. Other than two sympathetic and well-developed main characters, it offers a peep-hole into the world of the early 1800s, complete with an engaging story which had me quite unable to put the book down. Not because it had me chewing my nails to the quick, but because it immerses me in the whispers of the past while making me genuinely care for Rosa and her Julian.
Well done, Ms Kullman—again!

© Anna Belfrage




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13 November 2018

A Discovering Diamonds review of A Murder by Any Name by Suzanne M. Wolfe




Mystery
1500s Tudor
England

In A Murder by Any Name, a new series debut for Suzanne M. Wolfe, Nicholas Holt, the younger son of a fictional nobleman, is a soldier as well as a spy for William Cecil. He is home in London to report on his mission from the Continent when he is instead assigned to investigate the brutal murder of Queen Elizabeth’s youngest, most innocent lady in waiting, right in the heart of the court. The murder is disturbing, not only because it strikes at a young and innocent girl, but because the body was posed in the chapel in a gruesome imitation of prayer.

When a second lady in waiting is murdered shortly after the first, the stakes get even higher for Nick, whose loyalty as a member of a recusant family might be in question if he cannot discover the identity of the murderer. The political overtones imply that someone is striking at Elizabeth herself, implying that her reign is illegitimate and that Catholics should be ruling England. Nick relies on the help of his friends - Spanish Jewish doctors Eli and his beautiful twin sister Rivkah, his childhood friend John, and his faithful and well trained wolfhound Hector - to home in on a cold-blooded killer who won’t stop until forced to by the Queen’s executioner.

A Murder by Any Name was a fast-paced and entertaining read. It held my attention throughout, even though I totally figured out who the killer was quite early on. I’ve read too many mysteries to be surprised by very much, and this plot was really pretty standard. However, the historical details and character development were really well done and more than made up for any lack of surprise for me. Wolfe’s attention to detail was such that I could practically smell the stench of the Thames - or Elizabeth’s breath from her black and rotting teeth! Gnarly. The atmosphere she created was rich and full of emotion, enhanced by the physical details surrounding the characters. The brittle cold, icy water, foggy riverbanks, echoing chambers or chapels, all contributed to the feelings of fear and paranoia that pervaded society at the time. So often, the Jewish communities were the scapegoats for anything that went wrong, as Eli and Rivkah had painful reason to know.

Skillfully, Wolfe crafted a protagonist who was sympathetic as well as empathetic while retaining historical accuracy, a tremendous balancing act in itself. Nick Holt was a product of his time, but he was not hardened or indifferent to the suffering of those beneath him on the social scale. Wolfe did a fantastic job of weaving feminism into her story while still being accurate to the social mores of the time – excellently done in fact. Nick was a wonderful, sensitive, believable character, and I wish there were more period pieces with men like him in them as opposed to sexist men who are written behaving like barbarians simply because the author seems to think that is how it was back in the day, or maybe because an author is himself a sexist? A Murder by Any Name is the best of what happens when you get a woman to write a well-researched historical fiction. I am looking forward to reading more books in this series, and I can happily recommend this one.

© Kristen McQuinn



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12 November 2018

A Discovering Diamonds review of Lancelot by Giles Kristian


AMAZON US   

Arthurian

As soon as I opened the packaging containing this book I was spellbound. It is gold, matt gold with a black bird on the cover. Glorious. If ever you want to judge a book by its cover, this is it.

This is a re-telling of the story of King Arthur from the point of view of Lancelot, a figure that the author is adamant is much overlooked, and tells his story from his childhood in Armorica to Camelot and beyond.

Lancelot is a child when we meet him, the night a rival king attacks the court of King Ban, Lancelot's father, and sends the family and those retainers who are not killed on the run to the court of the Beggar King, a place they would not choose to go but they are desperate. All Lancelot takes with him, short of the clothes he is wearing, is a sparhawk, young, untrained and angry. The court of the Beggar King is treacherous and Lancelot is helped to escape a massacre over dinner instigated by his uncle, by a large warrior and his mysterious lady. He is taken by boat to an island off the coast of Britannia, Kerrek Loos yn Koos, today's Mount St Michael. There he grows up surrounded by martial young lads, great warriors of legend and the Lady Nimue. Soon Lancelot learns that he has a gift from the gods for war and fighting.

This novel is very hard to put down. This is said of many novels, most in fact, that please their reader, but this really is a treat. The prose is rich and detailed, filled with colour and texture, but never heavy and ponderous. The set pieces of the novel, a foot race, battles, duels, skirmishes, are all described in flowing detail, vivacious, exciting, vibrant and truly accomplished. They are an absolute joy.

Lancelot himself is very human and real, written in the first person the reader comes to know him so very well. A hero who can do anything, who never loses, but who sees it not as something he is proud of as such, but necessary and useful. He knows he is the best but is never boastful, it is something as natural and mundane as the colour of his hair.

This novel is a labour of love, the author's note is poignant in that regard, and so to say anything negative about something that is a piece of the author's heart, seems, well, heartless, but I did feel that the friendship between Arthur and Lancelot is not well expressed. We are told they are friends rather than witness anything between then to confirm it. Even the gift giving seems strained and filled more with tension than love. And this makes the final betrayal a little hollow and sympathy for Arthur doesn't come. Lancelot therefore emerges through the narrative as a lonely person who has suffered loss at a young age and has never really replaced those he loved; war with the Saxons and Picts filling his life and being his natural state of being. He is not a home body and will never settle into a life of quiet. He wears his scale armour as naturally as he wears his skin.

A fantastic book, not without fault, but if only for the stunning cover, this volume will make a pleasing addition to any bookshelf.

© Nicky Galliers




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10 November 2018

The Weekend 10th November

No reviews over the weekend but...




* * ANNOUNCING NEXT SATURDAY * * 
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9 November 2018

A Discovering Diamonds review of The Bewitcher – A Mompesson Mystery by Hickory Crowl



Murder mystery/horror
17th century
England

It’s 1666 and the plague is visiting the Derbyshire village of Eyam for the second successive year. The new, young vicar, Will Mompesson, makes the courageous decision to quarantine the village, which does not make him popular with some of his parishioners. To add to the terror, the innkeeper is murdered by a demon. The old vicar persuades the villagers that these evils are a punishment from God. As a result, they find a scapegoat in the person of the Jewish baker and hang him. Mompesson is the only one to protest. The murders mount up and it seems the victims are chosen when they break one of the commandments.

This is a lurid and eerie tale. It’s an indictment of God’s role in mankind’s suffering and man’s need to find reasons for his suffering. The vicar is a pious yet practical man who does his best to assure the villagers that what is happening is not because of their sins. Yet with so much evil in the village, the death of his wife is too much for him to bear and he suffers a crisis of faith, which makes him ripe for…. Well, I can’t say.

What I can say, is that although this is a fictional story, William Mompesson is a historical figure who, by insisting on closing the village, probably saved countless lives. The reader should not neglect to read the quote from him at the end of the book for an extra shiver.

There were a few typos/errors but nothing to spoil the story. Another Mompesson mystery is in the works.

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys dark mysteries and doesn’t have a queasy stomach.

© Susan Appleyard




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8 November 2018

A Discovering Diamonds review of Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas


AMAZON US  
#2 in a series

Mystery
1860s
England

In the second installment of the Lady Sherlock series, Charlotte Holmes has established her reputation as a consulting detective, albeit under the alias of Sherlock, her bedridden fictional brother. Here, she finds herself investigating the case of Lady Ingram’s first love, the man she would have preferred to marry rather than Charlotte’s friend Lord Ingram. The two former lovers have an agreement to meet but this year he misses the appointment, causing Lady Ingram to seek out help in finding him. At the same time, Charlotte’s sister Livia meets a handsome stranger and is being wooed by him, though he may not be who he seems. Through it all, Charlotte learns that her illegitimate half-brother may be involved, and she also has to decide what to do with an intriguing marriage proposal to boot.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, and I liked this one even better. Charlotte is growing as a person and it is interesting to see how it affects her logic. She kind of reminds me a lot of Cristina Yang in some ways - all cold logic and lack of emotions but hiding a caring person once she gets to know you. The way Thomas is handling original characters is really good. I still love Mrs Watson, and how shadowy Moriarty is in his (or her!) off-page debut in this novel. I really love the conclusion to this novel’s case, which is, I would like to believe, how Thomas will handle The Woman/Irene Adler. Maybe? I can see this particular character taking on that role, at any rate. I’ll be so interested to see how that plays out in later books. And that last line - loved it! I hadn’t actually seen that one coming. I love when that happens.

I really can’t talk in detail about the plot without giving spoilers, but this entire series so far is a genuine delight and I can’t wait to read the 3rd one!

© Kristen McQuinn



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7 November 2018

Below Us The Front by N L Collier

shortlisted for Book of the Month
AMAZON US   
#2 of a series

Fictional Saga
World War I
Western Front

Following on directly from the previous volume, Home Before The Leaves Fall, Franz Becker reports for flying school and upon passing is assigned to a squadron of Observer Corps photographing gun emplacements and troop movements on the Russian Front. Life is dull there, but the squadron is soon transferred to perform the same job over the Somme where Franz realises that he and his observer are sitting ducks with very little fire power to protect themselves. He longs to be a fighter pilot and to be reunited with his friend Karl, a sniper who has also applied to be a flyer to get away from the trenches.

I had been extremely impressed with the first book and when this one arrived I was keen to get into it, but wondered whether the author could maintain the high standard he had set himself. Quite simply, he did. I would, however, recommend reading Home Before The Leaves Fall first if you can although there is enough back story in this sequel to make it quite readable as a stand-alone.

There are a large number of characters as men die and are replaced, but never do you lose sight of any of them or get mixed up as to who is who - and the reason for this is that the author gives everybody a share of centre stage. His observer, Burkhardt, is a perfect foil and throughout you get to understand just how these young men felt about the futility of this war and their chances of survival. When they are in action, they feel fear, when they are not they are bored and so they get drunk, often, and find relaxation in the only way they can – the brothels of whichever town is nearest to their posting. Or not, as in the case of the Russian front. The language throughout is very strong yet only what you would expect from men who probably won’t live very long. If there are one or two phrases which sound too modern, it doesn't actually matter, so natural is the excellent dialogue.

Franz is an ordinary young man: he is not infallible; he makes mistakes, he suffers the nightmares that most of his colleagues do and we see him growing up rapidly. Nor is he the dashing hero we might expect from a different storyteller. We also see, through letters, the effects the trenches have on Karl.

The writing is utterly convincing – I can only assume the technical details of aircraft and the flying of them are equally accurate –  and demonstrates powerfully to us that the German Army (and Air Force) suffered no more or no less than their British counterparts. We are not embroiled in the history or reasons for the war; the men are out there, they volunteered just as our boys did and they simply get on with their job. The author handles the inactive periods with the same intensity as he does the action sequences and the reader is never tempted to 'skip' these, former, sequences. The abrupt ending ensures that there will be at least one more book. And, like the previous book, the cover is simple yet effective and the two will look very eye catching on my bookshelf.

An excellent novel, a must read for anyone interested in that period of history and highly recommended by this reader.

© Richard Tearle



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