Shelley McKibbon (coneycat) wrote,
Shelley McKibbon

What I'm reading...

I believe I mentioned, over the summer, that I'd gone on a bit of a rampage with regard to books about the RAF in World War II. The aforesaid rampage caused some very interesting items to pop up in my "Recommended" lists on Amazon. (And let me note, Amazon recs have improved a great deal since the days when my purchase of Seabiscuit got me recs for books about general American history!)

One of them was a book called First Light, written by Geoffreyy Wellum, one of the youngest pilots in the Battle of Britain. It was originally written as a piece of personal reflection in about 1971 and then put away in a drawer, but historian and novelist James Holland, doing research for a work of fiction about the Battle of Britain, interviewed Wellum around 2000. Wellum apparently offered him a chapter that described a day in the life of an operational squadron, for research, and Holland was so impressed he asked to see the whole thing and then took it to his publisher.

Some of you may have read it already. Everyone else, if you're interested in aviation or WWII history, should look for a copy immediately. I can't vouch for the accuracy of details but the sense of immediacy and emotion are really striking, and the character feels like a very young, likable guy at the beginning of the book and then ages rapidly throughout. The flying sequences are extraordinarily vivid, and I especially liked his description of his first trip in a Spitfire--if you've ever read a "pony book" in which the heroine tries to ride a horse who's too much for her, gets run away with, and hangs on until she can persuade the horse to listen to her--that's pretty much it. It was hilarious and harrowing, frankly.

I'm about halfway through and trying not to get attached to anyone but Geoff and the three guys who are identified in a photo as having survived the war, but that's not easy. This really is a well-written and engaging memoir.
Tags: books, flying, history, writing

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