Flight Path by David Hill. Pub. Puffin NZ, 2017.
This excellent novel about Bomber Command in World war 2 is released tomorrow and if I were you I would get down and get it because you will not read a better novel about this topic than this one.
Jack is a NZ boy of 19 years and he can’t wait to get off the ship and join in the fight against Hitler. He is allocated to F Fox Lancaster bomber sitting in the freezing cold perspex nose cone as a bomb releaser and gunner. He sees all the action front on.
After two raids Jack was scared and felt like he had been doing the job for ever.
The Lancaster has a multi national crew of seven and they are told if they get shot down to head for the dirtiest cafe in town sit in the corner and wait. Jack hopes it will never happen.
The crew take part in bombing raids over Germany, France and the English channel at night time. Starting after 10.00 o’clock and sometimes out there for 6 hours. Every mission has major risks from flack from ground fire or attack from German night fighters and even from their own bombers who are flying in close formation. There are missions at the D-Day landings and a hunt for the Battleship Tirpitz.
The dogfights and descriptions of the bombing raids are superb and after each mission a white bomb is painted on the nose of the Lancaster. However with each mission the tensions get higher. When will it be F Fox’s turn to be shot down or suffer casualties.
A superb novel that could be compared to Brian Falkner’s novel of 1917 reviewed below. David Hill is equally superb in his observations as Brian Falkner especially when the English pilot says things like what-ho and wizard. There is also a bit of romance so read it and find out.
Intermediate readers could easily read it but it is essentially high school and Young Adult.
Kiwis at War 1917. Machines of War by Brian Falkner. Pub. Scholastic, 2017.
Seventeen year old Bob Sunday took his dead brother’s identity and signed up to be a pilot in the newly formed Air Corps in WW1. He was made an observer instead with his back to the pilot in a new Bristol fighter handling a Lewis machine gun but he will be made a pilot later.
His first encounter with action won him the Military Medal without even leaving the ground, but he was still put on a charge. In the coming weeks he learned that newcomers were not treated very well because of their high attrition rate. Many did not last a week, nobody wants to get to know a man who is going to die. His survival and bravery ensured that he made friends and enemies as the Flying Corps is revealed as elitist and tarnished with the social structure of England.
The highlights of this superbly told story are the airborne dogfights and the parties around the piano in the evening as the pilots mourned those that never came back and toasted victories. The Red Baron and Herr Voss the German Aces in their tri-planes, featured in the fights as did the contrast between the war in the air and that of the soldier in the trenches, the PBI or poor bloody infantry.
Told between April and November 1917 the War is still very much even culminating in the bloodiest battle of all Passchendaele. The view of the battle from the air is a revelation as is the use of the new technology, Tanks.
An on going controversy through this period was the non use of parachutes by the airmen even though the technology existed. Top brass cared little for the parachute as they considered the pilots would fight harder if the knew they would die. It was the sort of decision making that was a feature of WW1 made by heartless officers who had never fought themselves and cared nothing about casualty rates.
Brian Falkner does not miss a beat in this superb novel for intermediate and high school students. YA,s and adults will also get a lot out of this excellently researched novel.
The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky. Pub. Allen&Unwin, 2017
This novel for Intermediate and junior secondary readers is set in Sydney after the fall of Singapore in 1942 to the Japanese when great grey warships sat in the harbour like a herd of tired elephants.
It is an absorbing and lyrically novel with a sense of dread about it and ends in a surrealistic way. It recreates Australian life before World War 2 that prompted the then Prime Minister of Australia to observe “Australia is a British land of one race and one tongue”
Columba and her best friend Hilda are about 11 years old and they live on the North Shore of Sydney. Their neighbours are two elderly sisters Miss Hazel and the harp playing Miss Marguerite who say things like “people are ignorant they don’t know any better”.
Daylight saving has been introduced and it is lights out after dark to stop the enemy seeing in the dark. Darwin is bombed in the middle of the story.
Ellery a young boy from You-rope comes to town with a watch on his wrist, a bearded father and without a word of English.
At the same time an archangel blue cat wonders into the lives of Columba and her neighbours. This cat sees all and is important in providing the serendipitous ending to this story.
Easy to read with primary sources of literature, advertisements and Government directives of WW2 Australia spread throughout the novel that will intrigue the reader and provide an insight into life at that time.
I have never read a children’s novel like this before.
The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry. Pub. HarperCollins, 2016.
Of all the eras of human habitation on this planet the one that I would least liked to have lived in is the medieval period when the power of the church was at it’s highest and most vicious.
In this novel for senior students and young adults Julie Berry has created that medieval world with all its poverty, cruelty and religious fervour. Once I had become fond of the characters who are largely female, young, clever and questioning I was scared witless of what fate may become them. You will too.
Dolssa is the key character who believes god speaks to her and through her and she refers to him as her beloved. This brings her into conflict with the Inquisitors who see heresy spreading and spoiling the vineyard of the lord. This role is played by Lucien de Saint-Honore who wishes to destroy anything that conflicts with the teachings of the church and believes that this will please the blessed Saviour.
After watching her mother burnt at the stake by Lucien, 13 year old Dolssa flees and is eventually rescued by teenager Botille an arranger of marriages and her sisters Plazensa who is a prostitute and Sazia who can read fortunes. The girls hide Dolssa from the Inquisitors and this brings drama and danger into their lives.
You will have to read the novel to find out more and believe me it is captivating reading.
Narrated by Dolssa, Botille and Lucien mainly but other characters do contribute. Chapters are short and the writing is lofty and crude at the same time in line with the characters of the Medieval period. A superb piece of writing.
Sympathy For the Devil. The Birth of the Rolling Stones and the Death of Brian Jones by Paul Trynka.
Sympathy For the Devil. The Birth of the Rolling Stones and the Death of Brian Jones by Paul Trynka. Pub.Trans World Books, 2014.
It’s school holidays and I always give time to myself to read an adult book. This is it, and although you could say it is riddled with childish behaviour, it was the 1960,s and it deals with the birth of the Stones and the rise and fall of Brian Jones.
I have read all the books about the Rolling Stones because they introduced the world to the Blues music of the great American black Blues artists like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf Jimmy Reid etc etc etc. It was Brian Jones that was responsible for this and it was him that gave blues back to America. It was his passion, his vision that formed the Rolling Stones in 1962 and gave Mick Jagger and Keith Richards the platform to strut their stuff on the stage but it was a gateway to his own destruction.To this day I still want Jones’ creation of Little Red Rooster played at my funeral.
Brian Jones put the devil into the Stones, he introduced Keith Richards to Open G tuning which gave the Stones their distinctive sound and he taught Mick to make love to a woman. Brian Jones was the experienced one in the early days and sadly has been given no credit for it by his fellow band members. Mind you Bill Wyman fared no better but came through it all. Brian was sensitive, had poor parents and a weak body. His fate was inevitable on the evidence of this book.
Brian Jones was destroyed by the toxic culture of the Stones, nankering they called it, by his own appetite for drugs and by being hounded by the Establishment through obsessed and proven corrupt Scotland Yard police officer Norman Pilcher. To see and hear Scotland Yard police officers lying through their teeth was frightening to Brian Jones. He had no hope.
This is a great read for 60’s fans and Stones fans it is just regrettable that none of the Stones has come to the party. He is the elephant in the room for the Stones who have airbrushed him out of their history and the truth may never be told. The conspiracy theories about Brian’s death are handled but after reading the book you have to say they are a load of codswallop.
The Featherston Incident has become known as a shameful event in New Zealand history but after reading David Hill’s junior story of this event I would say it was inevitable and understandable.
Whether he intended this is another matter.
Featherston was home for up to 600 Japanese prisoners from 1943 to the end of the war. The prisoners were a mixture of civilians and soldiers and sailors captured by the Allies.
This story is narrated in diary form by Ewen a standard 5 boy whose father works in Featherstone camp and had been a soldier in Greece who lost part of his arm in war against the Germans. His humanitarian stance throughout the story is a highlight and an example to all.
Ewen has friends Clarry and Barry Morris with Clarry suffering from polio. His story is also an example to all of us. The boys attend school at a time when you had ink monitors who filled the inkwells from a large bottle and teachers who would rap you across the knuckles for holding your pencil wrong.
The boys are given Japanese lessons from an English speaking Japanese officer called Ito. From him they learn that for the Japanese in the camp “for us to be prisoner is to be dead person”.
Throw in the Americans seeking information from the Japanese, Japanese pride and loyalty and hostile reactions from those who have fought the Japanese and been tortured and you have a mixture primed for conflict.
Superbly written in short diary entries that primary and intermediate students can easily read, coupled with David Hill’s easy style and you have great historical fiction. The account of the event itself with the boys looking on is sensitively done. A very readable novel.