Under an English Heaven, Paperback
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


1943. The sleepy Suffolk village of Bedenham is jerked into the twentieth century and the harsh realities of war by the arrival on its doorstep of an American bomber base and its three thousand inhabitants. For Billy Street, fourteen, a London evacuee uneasily billeted with the village blacksmith, the American invasion is heaven sent - unlimited opportunities and acceptance at last within a community he loves.

Yet a concealed past threatens his new happiness. Billy's schoolteacher, Heather Garrett, awaits word of a husband missing for eighteen months.

A stranger to Bedenham, Heather's sense of isolation - and village suspicions - are heightened when troubled American pilot John Hooper, reaches for her friendship. And daily the skies fill with the bombers and their ten-man crews who, during that bleak autumn of 1943, suffered losses on a catastrophic scale.

For Hooper, tormented by earlier loss, leading Misbehavin' Martha and her disorderly crew safely through their 25 designated bombing missions becomes a personal crusade.




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Before picking up this book I had not heard of the author but am a fan of history based books and throughout I could not resist comparisons with Sebastian Faulk's Birdsong albeit in a different theatre of War not to mention different War but it had the same poignancy about it. This was perhaps a little harsh if true.The book is set around a USAF Bomber base near the Suffolk village of Bedenham and in particular the crew of Misbehavin' Martha and it's pilot Hoops as he tries to help them to complete their tour of 25 sorties before they are released from their obligations and can return home to the US. The story takes place as the US 8th Airforce are taking terrible losses and the chances of surviving 25 sorties are very slim. The detail of the flying sorties are realistic and I felt that I was living with them but the story is not about macho aviators but rather a tale of wasted young lives and sacrifice. I found the scenes of the village life in Bedenham an interesting counterpoint to the main story, as it shows how war touches everyone whether serviceman or civilian and how not everyone appreciated the sacrifices that these young men made.I won't ruin the ending other than that the chapters about the crews 25th mission was very touching and I willed them on all the way. Once again I saw familiarities in Faulk's Birdsong as there were parallels to the first day at the Somme in that particular book.Overall I really enjoyed this book it built up nicely in pace throughout it's 430 pages. I felt that the characters were well portrayed even the civilian ones and the flying action descriptions realistic without being too technical. Perhaps not as good as Birdsong but a good read nonetheless and I will certainly look out for any more books by this author

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