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Bomber by Len Deighton (1970)


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This is indeed a very good book, and I like it even though it did not grip me emotionally.

The style of writing, somewhat journalistic, is seemingly simple and yet it does so much to portray the pilots and protagonists in such a human manner.

What I also like is the somewhat matter of fact manner in which Len Deighton describes some of the deaths. The almost deadpan nature of the writing brings out the horror of the war and death much more graphically than an overly emotional bit of writing would.

The epilogue is a masterpiece. We forget what happens to people after the war. The epilogue is a masterly link to this. It makes it so very human and tragic. ( )
  RajivC | Jun 23, 2016 |
This is the story of an RAF bombing raid--the hours leading up to the raid, the raid itself, and the aftermath, told from multiple points of view, including the pilots and crews at the RAF base, the pilots and crews at the Luftwaffe fighter base, the German radar base on the coast of the Netherlands tracking the bombers, and the inhabitants of a small Germany town--not the target but the place where the bombs were actually dropped. The novel is full of accurate historical detail, but reads like a thriller, with dozens of characters and many storylines. My interest was held through-out the book, and I read compulsively.

It's easy to forget that aviation was still in its infancy during WW II, and the mechanical detail about the difficulties of flying the planes was fascinating, even to me. Deighton conveys the sense of helplessness of the pilots flying in total darkness (the ideal circumstances for such raids and there was no such thing as night vision goggles), knowing that another plane might be only inches away, but nevertheless invisible. Navigation was also rudimentary, and there were apparently many misdirected bombs. This particular raid was directed toward the industrial Ruhr Valley, but due to mismarking of the target, the bombs were actually dropped on a small residential civilian town with no military value.

To a certain extent, the novel functions as an antiwar novel in that it graphically shows the horrors of war from both sides in presenting a single typical night of war in England, in Germany, and in the air. I recently read A God in Ruins, a novel about an RAF pilot who experienced many of the same sorts of circumstances described in this book. In that book, Teddy, the pilot, reflected many times in his later life on the implications of his actions as a bomber pilot, knowing that he was responsible for many civilian deaths.

Highly recommended.
4 stars ( )
  arubabookwoman | Nov 14, 2015 |
To me this is a perfect synthesis of the technical and the emotional sides of war. Both sides are shown with their flaws, both mechanical and social. The brits are riven with class war, and the Germans are beginning to understand the evils of Nazi medical experiments. That night, a target marking Mosquito Bomber is shot down by a night fighter, and thus, the town, whose biggest industry is an amputee's hospital, is bombed by mistake.
It's no fun, but I find the book a perfect tragedy. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Jan 10, 2014 |
The title of this book implies it's the story of a single British bomber crew flying over Germany during 1943. It's much more. Deighton, known for his in-depth research, has given us a very realistic portrayal of both sides, the families of the bomber crews, the German citizens and defenders. Soldiers on both sides are frustrated by awkward interpersonal relationships and comrades with differing motivations. Deighton follows the crews of several bombers, sent on night-time raid against the Ruhr. Lacking night-vision goggles the crews had to release their bombs guided by flares dropped by scout planes. On this raid, the scout plane is shot down and its flares released short of the intended target, on the innocuous little town of Altgarten — of no military significance.

British strategy was to drop bombs in the center of cities, usually targeting more civilians than military installations and to mix in lots of incendiaries and horrible phosphorous bombs to increase the damage. The soldiers of both sides are beleaguered by insidious forces in command. On the German side, Himmel, one of the best night-fighter pilots has stolen some medical documents that expose SS medical researchers using concentration camp as human guinea pigs in freezing experiments, so the Abwehr and Sicherheitsdienst want him arrested. In Britain, Lambert has the temerity to want to be with his wife rather than play cricket for the squadron team in an important match. He's also something of a rebel and because of that is being labeled LMF (Lacking Moral Fiber), i.e., a coward.

In the meantime, the farmers and citizens bemoan the loss of excellent farmland to huge airfields, land they know will never be returned. Neither are the citizens without flaws, as they funnel stolen and looted goods into their own pockets.

I particularly enjoyed one exchange. August Bach, a German pilot, is returning to his base with his friend, Max, when they are held up by a convoy directed by Vichy police.
"A Frenchman," said Max angrily. "They are a logical race. They should make good traffic police."
"Huh," said Max. "Logical. They put a knife between your ribs and spend an hour explaining the rational necessity of doing it."
"That sounds like a lot of Germans I know."
"No, a German puts a knife into your ribs and weeps a sea of regretful tears."
"August smiled. "And after the Englishman has wielded the knife? He says, 'Knife? What knife?' "

Sometimes the horror of war is brought home more vividly by almost dispassionately describing the raw facts. For example, a crew member’s chute fails to open after bailing out from his Lancaster. Falling from 16,000 feet at 120 miles per hour (his body's terminal velocity) he hits the ground in 90 seconds and makes an indentation 12 inches deep.

Neither side is favored in this work. Deighton read several hundred books in preparation and interviewed many survivors and the epilogue tells us where they are today. He focuses on the shared humanity and suffering, selflessness and heroism endemic to war. This book rivals Slaughterhouse Five and Hiroshima as a statement of the horror and stupidity of war. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
I really can't understand all the praise for this book.

There's very little character development and page upon page of insufferable technical detail. All the characters have exactly the same tone of voice apart from those whose accents are written with abysmal phonetics. Virtually nothing happens until over half way through. Yes, the deaths are described in cold detail, but that doesn't make them interesting.

Frankly, I found it dull from start to finish. Really not my cup of tea. ( )
  Rynooo | Sep 20, 2011 |
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It was a bomber's sky: dry air, wind enough to clear the smoke, cloud broken enough to recognize a few stars.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0586045449, Mass Market Paperback)

The classic novel of the Second World War that relates in devastating detail the 24-hour story of an allied bombing raid. Bomber is a novel of war. There are no victors, no vanquished. There are simply those who remain alive, and those who die. Bomber follows the progress of an Allied air raid through a period of twenty-four hours in the summer of 1943. It portrays all the participants in a terrifying drama, both in the air and on the ground, in Britain and in Germany. In its documentary style, it is unique. In its emotional power it is overwhelming. Len Deighton has been equally acclaimed as a novelist and as an historian. In Bomber he has combined both talents to produce a masterpiece.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:19 -0400)

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The classic novel of the Second World War that relates in devastating detail the 24-hour story of an allied bombing raid.

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