Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle
UNDER An English Heaven is the story of an American bomber crew,
stationed in Suffolk, in 1943, and the 'typically friendly and
hospitable' inhabitants of Bedenham, a 'very quaint and English'
village, and how the lives of both became inextricably entwined
- a scenario that was played out for real, many times over, during
the dark days of World War Two.
Through the brilliance of author, Robert Radcliffe, himself a
pilot, war-time England becomes all too real and something of
a shock to a generation accustomed to an altogether more luxurious
life-style. What, for instance, would we make of a spam casserole
and powdered mashed potato dinner?
And while we react in horror to the atrocities of September 11,
and its like, Under An English Heaven is a poignant reminder that,
for the men flying B-17s, or the Flying Fortress as it was more
commonly known, into enemy territory, such horrors were an everyday
occurrence. And Radcliffe spares us none of that horror which,
in this context, is never gratuitous.
Lt John Hooper is the pilot of 'Misbehavin Martha', who takes
a 'rookie' crew through a long and dangerous tour of duty.
There is, though, one last mission - possibly the most dangerous
of them all - to Munich.
And if you think this sounds distinctly reminiscent of David
Puttnam's Memphis Belle, you would be right. But Under An English
Heaven goes much further.
It takes us into the minds of the men and women whose lives the
war so dramatically changes, and their dogged determination to
survive against appalling odds.
But, because it's a story about people, it isn't by any means
all doom and gloom, for human nature being what it is, it has
its share of humour.
A story of loyalty, honour, courage and friendship, Under An
English Heaven will enthral and inspire from beginning to end.
Published by Abacus and available in paperback.