Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, this is Derek Robinson's masterly novel of the war in the air over the Western Front in 1918. World War One aviators were more than just soldiers - they were the knights of the sky, and the press and public idolized the gallant young heroes. But for Stanley Woolley, commanding officer of Goshawk Squadron, the ...
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, this is Derek Robinson's masterly novel of the war in the air over the Western Front in 1918. World War One aviators were more than just soldiers - they were the knights of the sky, and the press and public idolized the gallant young heroes. But for Stanley Woolley, commanding officer of Goshawk Squadron, the romance of chivalry in the clouds is just a myth. There are two types of men up there: victims and murderers, and the code he drums into his men bans any notion of sport or fair play. This produces better killers but, even so, Wolley believes the whole squadron will be dead within three months. Derek Robinson quietly builds the day-to-day details of these men's lives and deaths into a powerful indictment of war. But this classic of war literature is also very funny - often painfully so.
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Derek Robinson has written an excellent book about the air war in WW1. His writing style is unadorned. He sketches characters and situations with a minimum of words but the reader gains a great appreciation of the terrible price paid by these young airmen. They arrive on the scene naive and full of enthusiasm and gradually descend into despair and hopelessness as they experience the madness of war. Goshawk Squadron is an early work and it presages Robinson's later books about the airwar during WW1 and WW2. This is not a typical war novel full of flash bang action. It is much more about individuals coping with extreme circumstances. I have searched for every work of fiction by Derek Robinson and I immediately read them from cover to cover.
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