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BLOG HOP - Moral Fibre: A Bomber Pilot's Story


Moral Fibre: A Bomber Pilot's Story by Helena P. Schrader

Genre: WWII Historical Fiction

Published Apr 2022; 436 pages



This is my first ever blog hop participation at the invitation of Nicole Pyles at WOW! Women on Writing blog. Above is the schedule of the hop - there will be author interviews and more so visit some of the other participants to get other perspectives on this atmospheric novel.


THE PLOT

Short and sweet? This is the well researched story of a British RAF bomber pilot and his crew toward the end of WWII. Of course there's more. This is the story of Flying Officer Kit Moran. He didn't start as a pilot; in fact, he started as a mechanic, then trained as the flight engineer. He flew a number of sorties with a crew who then had a battle in Berlin in which some of the crew, including his Skipper, died. Kit was justifiably traumatized and refused to fly the next day so was designated LMF (Lacking Moral Fibre) and sent for therapy.


Ultimately he ends up in training as a pilot and this meticulously researched book lays out what training was like as well as Kit's mixed emotions about pursuing this path. He misses his friend and skipper and feels like he'll never be as good, yet wants to honor his memory by becoming a pilot himself. It's a balancing act.


FURTHER COMPLICATIONS

In addition to his personal emotions, he's in charge of assembling his crew and the methodology behind that is truly weird. But eventually he ends up with what he thinks is a strong, capable crew of six. There's the engineer, navigation, radio, bomber, and a couple of gunners. Though the book focuses mainly on Kit and his crew, there is one other one that gets some coverage, one headed by a competitive, attention seeking Australian pilot (ala Top Gun).


In addition to being immersed in the ins and outs of training, Kit finds himself falling in love with his Skipper's now-widowed fiance`, Georgina, who is still deeply in mourning. Georgina makes it clear she can only be just friends which disappoints Kit. The relationship between Kit and Georgina reflects the stress and uncertainty of trying to have a romance during war time, and ultimately deciding to grab love when you can because there's no guarantees about tomorrow.

WWII BATTLES

I have to say I don't know anything about RAF (Royal Air Force) traditions or definitely not any specific battles or targets. When Kit and his crew are assigned to an elite flying force, the Dambusters Squadron 617, their targets are critical to the Allied push and extremely dangerous. The descriptions of flying conditions, difficulties, flying through flak as they approach their targets, etc. were brilliant and scary! Remember, this was before jet fighters - these were four propeller engine planes with OLD technology!


RACISM

Kit was raised in Africa where his father is a British colonial and his mom is African, so though he looks "white", he is of mixed race. That is referenced now and then through the story as various situations show the racism (or lack of it), but that Kit is very sensitive and private about his family. I thought that was an interesting side theme to work into the book.


MY THOUGHTS

My usual WWII history novels are about strong women trying to survive the effects of war. This is pretty far from my usual fiction in that it's about actual battles and from a pilot's perspective. In spite of that, I found that I enjoyed the book and was eagerly reading to see what happened next. Kit is a likable, believable character and one that embodies loyalty, duty, fear and bravery, uncertainty, and he shows amazing growth of character as he goes from a LMF soldier to a capable bomber pilot.

The romance is sweet and doesn't overwhelm the story but offers it balance so it's not just a textbook about war. It gives the characters the opportunity to show their humanity. While the secondary characters of his crew and Georgina's family are necessary and somewhat well realized, I did have trouble keeping the crew straight - somehow I couldn't connect their names to their jobs and what their personalities were. With the exception of the navigator, who played a larger role, there just wasn't enough there to hook my memory. There are a few moments of philosophical wonderings as various characters debate the purpose/idea/necessity of war which I found appropriate and well done.


This is definitely for readers who appreciate a different perspective on WWII and the battles in the air. There's lots of detail about the planes, the crews, the traditions, and the way sorties were organized and flown. More than I ever thought I'd want to know. And yet, it became endlessly fascinating! Not quite a page turning thriller, but a solid, authentic, absorbing read.


Thanks for stopping by and taking a minute to read this review - hope you'll hop around to some of the other bloggers who read this and see their comments. Does this sound appealing to you? Something you'll read?




photo of planes: Brett Sayles via Pexels





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