Thursday 11 April 2013

Historical Fiction Book Fair

Barbara's War  ISBN 1481862324
"BARBARA'S WAR by Fenella J Miller is a gripping tale of a young woman in wartime changing the course of her unhappy life. Some very dark moments. A really excellent read. Maureen Lee ‘A captivating story, so evocative of the period.’ Jean Fullerton. "If you liked War Brides you will love this book." As war rages over Europe, Barbara Sinclair is desperate to escape from her unhappy home which is a target of the German Luftwaffe. Caught up by the emotion of the moment she agrees to marry John, her childhood friend, who is leaving to join the RAF, but a meeting with Simon Farley, the son of a local industrialist, and an encounter with Alex Everton, a Spitfire pilot, complicate matters. With rationing, bombing and the constant threat of death all around her, Barbara must unravel the complexities of her home life and the difficulties of her emotional relationships in this gripping coming-of-age wartime drama.

Barbara's War is a novel about a young woman who comes of age in England during World War II. The first thing that is striking about this novel is the beautiful cover. It truly highlights the period. Something else I enjoyed was that the story was more about the characters and their conflicts rather than the historic details of World War II. The drama of the war years sits nicely behind the strength of the story, lending credulity and historical detail.

The story unfolds with a gentle cadence and not too much drama. This is due to the fact the novel is character driven rather than plot driven. But there were moments throughout that were truly dark and gripping. When Barbara Sinclair's two younger brothers are sent to boarding school to avoid the danger from German bombs, and her childhood boyfriend, John Thorogood leaves to join the RAF, she too wants to leave the doomed town. In an emotional farewell scene with Thorogood, Barbara agrees to marry him when he returns from war.

Barbara sets out to find her paternal grandparents whom she has never met. Her grandfather, Dr Edward Sinclair, welcomes her wholeheartedly, but her grandmother is cold and distant towards her. Nevertheless, Barbara settles into her new life and enjoys the ease and comforts that come with wealth. Accompanied by her grandfather, Barbara is compelled to return home and that's when her life takes a new turn. Two men are very interested her - Simon Farley, the wealthy son of a business tycoon, and Alex Everton, a pilot. Danger surrounds her and one of the three young men in her life will come to her aid.

Lovely, flowing prose and well defined characters make this story memorable and romantic. Set against a tumultuous period, Barbara's War is about one woman's struggle to comes of age and learns who to trust and love in one of the world's most darkest eras. A pleasant, enjoyable novel

Barbara brushed the crumbs from her beige jumper and ran her fingers through her curls hoping to restore some sort of order. She held her breath, watching, waiting for the door to open. John’s mother hurried to the cooker and bent down to remove the bowl of soup and a pasty from the warming oven.
The door opened and he walked in. His expression immediately changed from smiling to wary. He ignored her and addressed his mother. ‘Sorry I’m late, Mum, I went for a drive around. It might be some time before I’m back here. I wanted to say goodbye to the old place.’
Barbara stood up trying to find the words she needed to ease the tension. ‘John, before you eat, we have to talk. Come we go somewhere for a moment?’ His eyes narrowed and his mouth thinned. She saw him force a smile.
‘All right - but it will have to be quick - I’ve got to leave in thirty minutes and I haven’t eaten.’
He turned and led the way back down the passage, but instead of going into the sitting-room he opened the door into a large wood panelled room that the Thorogoods only used for formal occasions. He wasn’t going to make this easy for her.
He didn’t hold the door open, just strode in leaving her to follow. The overstuffed chintz furniture with well-plumped cushions and matching poufs had obviously not been used for months. The dust was thick on the various wooden surfaces and the mantelpiece.
She closed the door and crossed to stand behind him as he glared out over the walled rose garden, his shoulders rigid, his back firmly to her.
‘John, please look at me. I don’t want you to go away like this.’ He didn’t turn; gave no sign he’d even heard her. Tentatively she reached out and touched his arm; he shrugged her off.
‘For goodness sake, John, don’t be so childish. I overreacted when you kissed me and I’m sorry, but you shouldn’t have sprung it on me like that, and in public in front of those three WRVS cronies of my mother’s. What were you thinking of?’
These words finally achieved her objective and he slowly turned, a rueful smile hovering around his lips. ‘I’m sorry too, Babs. It was stupid of me, but I’ve wanted to kiss you for so long and I just couldn’t help myself.’
She tilted her head, considering his reply. ‘Well, you can try again now if you want, I promise I won’t scream or run away. I’m quite ready.’
He stepped closer and gently brushed away a strand of hair from her cheek. ‘That’s the problem, sweetheart, can’t you see?’
Puzzled, she shook her head. ‘See what? You want to kiss me and I say you can. I can’t see any problems there.’
‘I shouldn’t have to ask you, Babs. If you felt the same way about me you’d be here, right this minute, in my arms. I wouldn’t have to say.’
She saw the sadness in his eyes as he spoke and finally understood. ‘John! I never realised you felt like that. I thought we were just good friends. Why didn’t you say something, do something, before this?’
‘Would it have made any difference? I love you, Babs, you’re only fond of me, and it’s just not enough.’
 Tears seeped from the corner of her eyes and she brushed them aside angrily. ‘I could learn to love you, John. What are we talking about, I do love you; in fact I love you more than any other living soul. Surely that’s enough?’
He rubbed away her tears with his thumbs. ‘No, darling, it isn’t. I’m in love with you, that’s quite different and I wouldn’t dream of forcing you into a relationship you’re not ready for.’
She ducked her head and sniffed, recognizing  she was losing her dearest friend and didn’t know how to prevent it. What did he want from her? She loved him; she could learn to love his kisses if it meant she wouldn’t lose him. She came to decision.
Allowing no time for him to retreat, or for her to change her mind, she jumped forward, flinging her arms around his neck. His arms shot out, gripping her waist, more to steady himself than to reciprocate her gesture. But she tipped her face to receive his kiss. She stared at him and he couldn’t resist her appeal.

Thanks for dropping by - hope you have time to visit all the other writers in this fair.

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Fighter pilots in WW2.

Spitfire with pilot.
Hurricane Fighter
For Part Two of Barbara's War I've begun to research the life of a fighter pilot. My hero, Alex, is a Spitfire pilot and I became fascinated  and have spent far too long on this.
It is hard to credit what these very young men lived through in the early days of the war. Dowding's code meant they were taught to fly in close formation - wing tips almost touching - which proved to be a lethal method. Many 'tail-end Charlies' were shot down by the  ME109s because they just didn't see the German fighters. Sometimes these missing planes weren't noticed until the squadron actually landed.
Early in the war a group of Spitfires shot down a Blenheim -and claimed it as the first kill of the war - because of faulty information from bomber command. The Blenheim looked similar to a Dornier17. A Spitfire was shot down by a squadron of Hurricanes - it seems this sort fo thing wasn't that unusual.
The myth that German pilots were poorly trained was believed, but was soon proved erroneous and many of our brave young fighter pilots lost their lives because they thought they were better trained than the Germans. In fact it would appear they were wrongly trained - they should have flown in pairs - not a V-shaped close formation - making an easy target for the opposition.
Hurricane pilot WW2
Lessons could have been learnt from the way the Luftwaffe performed in the Spanish Civil War -but this was ignored by Dowding.  After the fall of France some squadron leaders changed their tactics and flew in pairs but others stuck to the obsolete manual.
Air-Vice-Marshal Johnnie Johnson said at the time, "These formation attacks were useless for air fighting because the tempo of air combat did not allow time for elaborate manoeuvres in tight formations and as a result the last words too many splendid fighter pilots heard were 'Number ...Attack .. Go.'
Another thing I discovered is that the Battle of Britain would have been lost if the Germans hadn't turned their attention from bombing fighter command airfields to bombing London. This gave the squadrons time to       reform and recover and they were never in serious danger again.
 Also the claims of the Air Ministry for British 'kills'  was grossly exaggerated. They stated that 2735 German planes were shot down and 375 RAF pilots lost - this just wasn't true. Fighter command said, when asked where the remains of these shot down planes were, that 80.5% of them fell in the sea! Whatever the truth behind these hugely exaggerated claims - no one can dispute the fact that the RAF pilots were a brave group of young men and we  owe them a huge debt.
Blueprint for the Hurricane.