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review 2018-04-19 23:21
there's delight in every sentence
A Long Way From Home - Peter Carey

It's been a long time since I've found such delight in a story's every sentence.

 

The telling is all fine wordsmithing and sharp phrase-turning and frank soul-searching, neither sentimental nor cynical nor pretentious, and thoroughly engaging.The story is also satisfying and among the best I've read, and it's not the only Peter Carey work to earn that status with me.

 

It's told in first person, primarily by two narrators, each nearing 30 and introduced as neighbors in small-town Bacchus Marsh. The woman, Irene Bobs, is married to car aficionado and would-be Ford dealer Titch Bobs, and they're raising two children. The man, Willie Bachhuber, is a school teacher and quiz-show whiz, who left his wife and child over a misunderstanding about the child's parentage. The latter leads to much of the story's depths and surprises, and takes the reader into the thick of Australia's troubled racial landscape. The narrators wind up in a car called a Holden (Ford's Aussie competitor) in Australia's 1954 Redex Trial, a cross-continent auto race over much grueling outback.

 

Irene is my favorite narrator, but I've grown very fond of both voices. Irene, who considers herself little more than a pretty decent mum, turns out to be a bad-ass driver. Willie is her spot-on though occasionally delirious navigator. Their personal journeys progress apace with the race, eventually along separate but criss-crossing paths, never stereotypically and always with great heart.

 

Here's a taste of the telling, from Irene's perspective:

 

"The smell of a rally car, the stink, the whiff, the woo, you will never find the recipe for this pong in the Women's Weekly but ingredients include petrol, rubber, pollen, dust, orange peel, wrecked banana, armpit, socks, man's body. I drove into the night on the ratshit regulator. My headlights waxed and waned depending on the engine revs. Beneath us was bulldust, two feet thick. It was always smooth and soft-looking but the Holden banged and thudded like an aluminium dinghy hitting rock. It is a miracle our suspension didn't melt. Sometimes I saw the shock absorbers of a car in front, white hot, glowing like X-rays. Cattle loomed from the blackness and if I had rolled or hit a roo, if I killed us all, what then?"

 

What then, indeed. It is well worth the read to find out.

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text 2017-08-15 11:44
Reading progress update: I've read 8 out of 1100 pages.
Ursula K. Le Guin: Hainish Novels and Stories, Vol. 1: Rocannon's World / Planet of Exile / City of Illusions / The Left Hand of Darkness / The Dispossessed / Stories (The Library of America) - Brian Attebery,Ursula K. Le Guin

Rocannon's World.

 

The first Library of America volume of Le Guin collected all the works about Orsinia. The next two collect all the Hainish works. Earthsea next?

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review 2016-07-04 01:09
"PER ARDUA AD ASTRA"
Flight of Youth - Ron Graham

"FLIGHT OF YOUTH" is a well-written, poignant novel about a young man of humble origins from Northern England (Bill Proctor) who joins the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) during World War I, trains as an air mechanic, and by virtue of his proven mechanical skills, advances to become an observer/gunner in 2-seat aircraft in combat, and thus earns the opportunity to receive pilot training back in England. He returns to France as a pilot in an observation squadron during 1917 and 1918. The novel also shares with the reader various aspects of Bill's personal life away from the Front.

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review 2016-05-15 01:45
ICARUS RISES
The Blue Max - Jack D. Hunter

I picked up this novel in an airport after having seen on TV during the 1970s the movie adaptation of "The Blue Max", which impressed me a lot.

The novel is centered on Bruno Stachel, a young man of humble origins (his father worked in a modest hotel in the Black Forest), who had transferred from the infantry to the Imperial German Air Service. As a newly minted fighter pilot, he arrives at a Jasta (fighter squadron) situated not far from the Front. It is early 1918, several weeks before Germany would embark on a series of offensives to win the war before the Americans could arrive in strength and help ensure an Allied victory. Stachel is a bit ill-at-ease for he is the new guy at the Jasta, the greenhorn. So he puts up a brave front with his comrades. He wants so much to be the hero and join the pantheon of the great German aces (e.g., Boelcke, Immelmann, and Manfred von Richthofen aka The Red Baron) by earning Imperial Germany's highest award for bravery: the Order Pour le Mérite. Better known as the Blue Max.

But in order to earn the Blue Max -- not an easy feat --- a fighter pilot has to earn his mettle through the crucible of air combat by shooting down a significant number of enemy aircraft. Stachel is on a steep learning curve and has to prove himself. So, his commander, Hauptmann Heidemann (himself a holder of the Blue Max) assigns him a Pfalz DIII, which though graceful in appearance, is one of the unit's cast offs, a marked contrast to the standard Albatros and Fokker Triplane fighters with which the majority of the Jasta is equipped.

As the novel progresses, the reader experiences the ups and downs of life at the Front (with some views of life back in Germany), as well as Stachel's burning ambition to be the best fighter pilot in the Jasta. It is an ambition that alienates Stachel from many of his comrades, who resent his growing arrogance as he grows in experience and skill as a combat pilot.

This is a novel that I -- as a student of World War I air combat -- thoroughly enjoyed reading. It's packed with adventure, excitement, raw human emotions, and tragedy. And it's well-written. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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review 2015-11-06 21:06
great behind-the-scenes take on the air war
The Bombing Officer - Jerome Doolittle

Glad to find this behind-the-scenes take on the air war in Laos via fiction. It's a page-turner and full of insights as well, as intelligent as it is engaging. I was reminded of Simon Toyne and hope to see more like this from Doolittle.

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