Never So Young Again

‘Never So Young Again’ is a book written back in 1943 by Dan Brennan. It is one of the books I inherited from my father some years ago. Finally, a couple of weeks ago I got around to reading it.

My father’s copy is a second edition from 1944 but I don’t know if he bought it or was given it then or a year or years later. It is a story about an American guy who volunteers to join the RAF early on in the Second World War before the United States enters the conflict. To sum up, he completes a tour of 30 operations and then, at the end of the book, he finds himself being transferred to the US air force as his country is now in the war.

It is partly a love story as Mack falls in love with an English girl, Diana, but it is more about why certain young men from abroad came to Britain and joined the war before their own countries entered the fighting. And perhaps it is mostly about how these young men coped with the loss of their friends and colleagues. The only way was to forget them while they, the living, fought on but once the war was over, to remember them and never to forget them.

The story is written in an unusual style in that the narrator, Mack, speaks not as ‘I’ or ‘he’ but as ‘you’. It takes a bit of getting used to but it becomes quite hypnotic after a while and it has the affect of dragging you into the story, literally by using ‘you’.

The descriptions of the flying are very accurate as Dan Brennan served in the RAF and USAF. In fact, his wartime experiences are really those he puts Mack through, although I don’t know if there was a ‘Diana’ in the real version.

As my father was in the RAF and completed some 45 operations I found the book very interesting and very revealing. It gave me an insight into how my father might have coped with similar situations and gave me a picture of what he went through on the ground in the bases and in the air. I don’t know how he and the other men did it all.

The love story in the book has a rather unconvincing conclusion. It’s a little ‘corny’ and cliched. Another, more believable, version could have been written and still brought about the same conclusion. That’s my only criticism of the story.

Dan Brennan wrote 40 novels and had a British and US best seller in 1946 with ‘One of Our Bombers Is Missing’. He was a highly decorated tail gunner, flew 80 missions with the RAF and USAF then became a news reporter and highly published outdoor sports writer. Many of his stories after the war appeared in Sports Afield, Field and Stream, Argosy and other magazines. He stayed on in England for some time before returning to Minneapolis where he became somewhat notorious for his ‘potboilers’ and war books.

In later years his writing appeared in the L.A. Times, in particular a piece picking out the inaccuracies in the movie Memphis Belle. He married Helen from South Africa and they had five children. He met Helen during the war when she was a WAC Battery commander in London. Dan died in 2002.

You can find copies of this book, maybe others of Dan’s, on eBay. His bestseller, I believe, can be bought from an American publishing company.

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Circe by Madeline Miller

 

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A shout-out for this book, published a few months ago. If you buy into the Greek myths you will love this story about Circe, a character most of us only come across when she appears in The Odyssey. The author has researched the myths well and put her own spin and interpretation on various aspects, especially at the end where she both shows awareness of the sparse surviving remnant of The Telegony and makes a slight change to this elusive text.

It is the overall style that will capture the reader, however. It reads like a myth itself, and what greater praise can you give such a book than to say it reads like a translated version of a tale.

Some critics might argue that the author had an easy ride in that she had most of her plot already written for her – some 2,000 years ago! – and most, if not all, of her characters already created and their personalities at least hinted at in various other myths. But it is still a heck of a task to tell the story in a knowledgeable and coherent form, and to keep it entertaining and moving at the same time.

Time now to track down her earlier publication about Achilles…

Personally, I am still trying to edit a story I wrote two years ago and continuing to add another three or four hundred words to another tale whenever I am in a coffee house alone. I find it very difficult to concentrate on writing at home , hence my absence from posting here.

 

 

 

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Wow.

Oh wow.

Long time since a book made me say that.

I found The Essex Serpent on Waterstones’ Clearance shelf about two weeks ago. I remembered the title from The Times’ bestseller lists earlier in the year and the cover and inside blurb suggested it was worth the Β£8 investment.

What a buy.

It’s about relationships, and love in particular. Tell me that prior to reading the book and I might not even have started it. But the blurb mentioned the story was set in the 1890s and the cover, a mix of gold, black and blue swirling flowers caught my imagination.

And after just a few pages the writing style absolutely caught me.

Thomas Hardy came to mind with the vivid descriptions of the countryside, in this case the Essex countryside around the Blackwater area. The writing is quite mesmeric, and having played around with different styles myself, I found the language hypnotic. The characters too are memorably drawn and developed, with the story having a third person POV but giving us an insight into everyone’s feelings too. This might break some rules somewhere but, heck, it works.

It’s interesting that when I came to read the book I had forgotten about the blurb mention of 1893 and I couldn’t quite get a finger on what year it was meant to be set in, I felt it was late Victorian but the lack of any further mention of a date left me in a haze – rather like the story itself, the descriptions of the surroundings and changing seasons making me feel I was almost in another world or in some place frozen in time, that’s the dizzying effect the writing style and the story had on me. Wonderfully intoxicating.

It’s one of those books which you want never to put down yet at the same time never to finish. The main story line of Cora and William is just one which you fear isn’t going to end the way you wish. But I think the author handled that aspect very well. No spoilers here.

I was quite surprised how young the author seems from her back flyleaf description and photo, the understanding of relationships and the perception of Nature suggested a more experienced writer. This, I believe, is only Sarah Perry’s second book.

It’s also one of those books which I think will survive a second reading, and why not more. The countryside descriptions in themselves are worth a revisit and study.

There’s a potential movie here surely or a TV short series.

Right, I’m heading back to that Clearance shelf in Waterstones…

 

 

Book Review – The Double Game by Dan Fesperman

The Double GameThe Double Game by Dan Fesperman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall I found this to be an engrossing book. It took a while to really grab me but the plot moved along well and the references to other spy thrillers made for a fun idea. Having the main character as a 50-something man made a nice change from the usual younger men who are able to muscle their way out of incidents or are experts with an array of weaponry. On the odd occasion, and I can only think of one right now, that he has to take direct action he is genuinely surprised he managed it. The character’s relationship with an old flame is well handled and is left nicely open at the end. There’s a good ‘subplot’ of the relationships between the main character and his father and his own son.

One criticism might be that the book moves at a relatively slow pace and there are few dramatic moments. The tension comes through the main character’s perception of being followed or watched rather than being physically threatened. I’ve not read a Dan Fesperman novel before so it might be that this is his trademark style. In some ways it is a refreshingly old-fashioned type of thriller. Give it a try and stick with it if your attention falters.

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Book review: The White Devil by Justin Evans

The White DevilThe White Devil by Justin Evans
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I started this book I wasn’t sure it would hold my attention. However I have to admit it did grow on me and after a couple of lengthy reading sessions I was quite addicted to it. I raced through the last fifteen pages or so as I was keen to find out the ending.
It’s a fairly conventional ghost story, there’s nothing new or novel in the plot and early on I found some of the erotic scenes a little voyeuristic and unnecessary – although as the story unfolded I did see why the writer included these brief, really quite innocent scenes.
The POV does alter throughout the book although Andrew is the main one used. It is a little distracting switching the POVs but I suppose it was done to show us the motives and ‘baggage’ of the other characters. As Andrew is in his late teens I suppose he would not have understood or guessed at the other characters’ motivations.
Andrew’s relationship with Persephone did strike me at times as just a grown up version of Harry Potter and Hermione but again, as the story unfolds, I could see why it was there.
The ending was well done. I’m sure readers will immediately think of an alternative one as I did. But the author probably got it right with the one he went for.
A surprisingly enjoyable read. Strange Justin Evans hasn’t seemed to have written anything else since 2011.

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