No secret, books are my comfort and escape. While I’ve been blessed to work every day just as I would have if there was no pandemic, and further blessed to be able to start taking my annual vacation time, there were books I knew I wanted to read back in March, when the world shut down.
Not Neville Shute’s On the Beach. I’ve read it, I don’t remember any suggestion of comfort there. It’s a tale of people coping, with no hope, no hope whatsoever. Not the effect I was after!
Piece of Cake by Derek Robinson. I picked up in England the year it came out in paperback there, 1985. Read it then. Loaded it onto my Kindle because I was just too eager to re-read it to wait and dig it out of the shelves of books.
And then I let it sit after a chapter or so. Deflected by other escapes, e-books and physical books both. But I came back to it in September.
It’s about an RAF squadron before and during the Battle of Britain. Knights of the Air, gallant young men in powerful machines. Some of them are not very nice people, but they’re ideal fighter pilots. Most of them won’t live long enough to grow out of arrogance or childishness. Nice young men die far too soon—and so do the budding psychopaths, sooner or later. There’s boredom and confusion, frustration and moments of sheer terror. There’s politics and bureaucracy. No one knows how it will come out in the end. They’re making it up as they go along. Answers, no. Common ground, yes.
I’ve read since that the author caught a lot of flak—no pun intended—for refusing to tell the romantic version of the story. For hewing to the truth even when it was not popular. That’s timely too—I’m sure it was the same at Agincourt, and most likely at the siege of Troy.
There’s a sequel--A Good Clean Fight. Some of the surviving members of Hornet Squadron go on to serve in the war in Africa. I’m reading it now—and trust me on this, it’s not The Rat Patrol I watched on TV many years ago!