Magazine article The Spectator

Fighting Gerry on Two Fronts

Magazine article The Spectator

Fighting Gerry on Two Fronts

Article excerpt

A GOOD WAR by Patrick Bishop Hodder & Stoughton, £12.99, pp.392, ISBN 9780340951705 £10.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655

The Battle of Britain and the campaign by the French Resistance make ideal settings for fiction, since they are full of potential for conflict, romance, adventure, heroism and moral dilemmas. In this first novel, Patrick Bishop has exploited these rich possibilities to produce a gripping story. He has already proved himself a fine military historian, with two best-selling books on the second world war, the first about the fighter pilots who defeated the Luftwaffe in the summer of 1940, the second about the RAF's bomber offensive over Germany.

Bishop has put his understanding of the period to good use in this tale, conjuring up the atmosphere and linguistic idioms of wartime. Inevitably, given the author's previous work, there are powerful descriptions of the air battles and life on a RAF station, though he is equally good at capturing the mood in a rural pub, or a smoky, sweaty ballroom packed with uniformed personnel, where 'the women stood out from the drab groups of men like flowers in a cornfield'.

The story centres on the experiences of a young airman, Adam Tomaszewski, who has joined the RAF after the fall of his native Poland. Quiet, often gloomy, with a highly developed sense of morality but without any vanity despite his blond good looks, he flies Hurricanes during the Battle of Britain. The risk of death is ever-present.

In one particularly dramatic passage he is shot down over the sea, and, having suffered burns as his plane catches fire, he nearly drowns in the icy waters before he is rescued by a passing trawler.

The conflict in his life comes not just from the Germans but also from the British side in the form of an army officer, Gerry Cunningham, whose personality is the opposite of Adam's. …

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