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Bomber (1970)

de Len Deighton

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5831731,241 (4.08)20
The classic novel of the Second World War that relates in devastating detail the 24-hour story of an allied bombing raid.Bomber is a novel of war. There are no victors, no vanquished. There are simply those who remain alive, and those who die.Bomber follows the progress of an Allied air raid through a period of twenty-four hours in the summer of 1943. It portrays all the participants in a terrifying drama, both in the air and on the ground, in Britain and in Germany.In its documentary style, it is unique. In its emotional power it is overwhelming.Len Deighton has been equally acclaimed as a novelist and as an historian. In Bomber he has combined both talents to produce a masterpiece.… (més)
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After reading the war propaganda book [b:Bombs Away|486666|Bombs Away|John Steinbeck|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1211316827l/486666._SX50_.jpg|539117] by [a:John Steinbeck|585|John Steinbeck|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1182118389p2/585.jpg] I was deeply disappointed. Instead of being a realistic story about the life on a bomber during WW2, it was a book written for the American military. The purpose was not to describe anything real but to make it easier for the US Air Force to recruit people willing to perform the allied terror bombings.

Immediately afterwards I was determined to find a better, more realistic book, but it is not a topic that attracts good authors. There is probably a mix of shame and the feeling everything is just too random to make a story seem meaningful. Or it's just a depressing topic.

One exception is this book, by Len Deighton, one of the major thriller writers of the second half of the 1900s. This is not a thriller, but, as he describes it, a story about how the war machine chews up people and throws out bodies. Paraphrased.

The book takes place in a time frame of 24 hours in the summer of 1943 when 600 British bombers go for Krefeld in the Ruhr. Deighton tries to cover a lot of different people and different places. There are British bomber crews, parents to bomber crews, ground crew. German villagers and pilots and radar operators. Really too many people, but it was his choice.

Deighton describes people in love, people hating each other, people that are experts at what they do and people that are novices or just incompetent. The common factor is that they all clash in the skies over western Europe, or on the ground of western Europe if you are on the wrong side of explosives.

It is clear that, opposite of Steinbeck, Deighton tries to convey that war sucks, and nothing sucks more than the randomness of area bombing. People live or die based more on luck than anything else and very little is accomplished.

The book is not a great literary piece but it's a valuable counter point to the war propaganda. And a reminder that there are few good guys in a war. It is also, intentionally or accidentally, rather mean against British upper class officers. In the foreword Deighton says it didn't come out as he intended and he regrets that he created a fault line between the NCOs and the officers. Maybe because it's distracting. Maybe because it's misleading.

If anything, I would have liked to see more of those who were missed by lady "fortune". Those that from luck came through unscathed. Now the book mostly focuses on everything that went badly for people.

As a historical tidbit, Len Deighton claims this is the first novel written at a certain IBM machine. Since this was published in 1971, word processors was not something anyone had, so maybe he is right. ( )
  bratell | Dec 25, 2020 |
This was one of those books that were popular when I was a young man. I always assumed that it was another of those Day of The Jackal type of action novels. So I was surprised to read it and discover that it was nothing like that at all.

It is about 24 hours in the life of an airbase that runs bombing raids over Germany at the end of WW2. It has all the undercurrents of class that you’d expect with a group of men conscripted into service. I remember reading once that conscription was the last time that classes mixed in England. However, class is a sub-plot to this book. It deals with the simple horrors of the mass bombings that took place over Germany at the end of the war.

It details the methods used to create the most destruction and loss of life amongst the civilian targets, there is little pretense about military targets. I think the thing that astounded me the most was to learn that while the first bombers were dropping their load over the target others were still queueing to take off back in East Anglia, mission of 1500 planes were not uncommon. ( )
  Ken-Me-Old-Mate | Sep 24, 2020 |
Len Deighton would have been 14 years old at the time of this story. The war left a life-long impression being old enough to remember but a few years too young to enlist. He is of the generation that venerated older siblings - they were the heroes. So it was he wrote a novel about it -- but not a hagiography. Deighton frames a single bombing raid and humanizes nearly everyone who took part - the British aviators, the German night-fighters and ground crew, their wives and girlfriends, even local people from the town that was bombed. In all over 100 characters in a Towering Inferno style. More than half the book goes by before the plane lifts off, we gain an appreciation for the people and circumstances. Then he pitilessly and dispassionately kills most of them off, or scarred for life. We learn the monetary cost of this single bombing run is astronomical. The raid resulted in no military benefit nor had any historical importance. This is a WWII book but also a product of the Vietnam era solidly an anti-war book. ( )
2 vota Stbalbach | Mar 20, 2020 |
This is indeed a very good book, and I like it even though it did not grip me emotionally.

The style of writing, somewhat journalistic, is seemingly simple and yet it does so much to portray the pilots and protagonists in such a human manner.

What I also like is the somewhat matter of fact manner in which Len Deighton describes some of the deaths. The almost deadpan nature of the writing brings out the horror of the war and death much more graphically than an overly emotional bit of writing would.

The epilogue is a masterpiece. We forget what happens to people after the war. The epilogue is a masterly link to this. It makes it so very human and tragic. ( )
  RajivC | Jun 23, 2016 |
This is the story of an RAF bombing raid--the hours leading up to the raid, the raid itself, and the aftermath, told from multiple points of view, including the pilots and crews at the RAF base, the pilots and crews at the Luftwaffe fighter base, the German radar base on the coast of the Netherlands tracking the bombers, and the inhabitants of a small Germany town--not the target but the place where the bombs were actually dropped. The novel is full of accurate historical detail, but reads like a thriller, with dozens of characters and many storylines. My interest was held through-out the book, and I read compulsively.

It's easy to forget that aviation was still in its infancy during WW II, and the mechanical detail about the difficulties of flying the planes was fascinating, even to me. Deighton conveys the sense of helplessness of the pilots flying in total darkness (the ideal circumstances for such raids and there was no such thing as night vision goggles), knowing that another plane might be only inches away, but nevertheless invisible. Navigation was also rudimentary, and there were apparently many misdirected bombs. This particular raid was directed toward the industrial Ruhr Valley, but due to mismarking of the target, the bombs were actually dropped on a small residential civilian town with no military value.

To a certain extent, the novel functions as an antiwar novel in that it graphically shows the horrors of war from both sides in presenting a single typical night of war in England, in Germany, and in the air. I recently read A God in Ruins, a novel about an RAF pilot who experienced many of the same sorts of circumstances described in this book. In that book, Teddy, the pilot, reflected many times in his later life on the implications of his actions as a bomber pilot, knowing that he was responsible for many civilian deaths.

Highly recommended.
4 stars ( )
  arubabookwoman | Nov 14, 2015 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 17 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Bomber was the clearest proof that Deighton possessed an unmatched gift for analysing complex systems. How the RAF went about the sad business of burning Germany by night, and how the Germans tried to stop them doing it, formed an elaborate, interlocking, technology-intensive closed system which nobody before Deighton had ever succeeded in bringing back to life. The sinister poetic force of the original events had not been captured by the official historians, while the full facts were either abridged or distorted in the pop memoirs. Deighton got everything in. I can remember reading the book in a single night, marvelling at the intensity of detail. He even knew what colour flashes the bombs made when they went off. (Like most members of the generation growing up after the war, I had always assumed — because of news reels — that the bombs had exploded in black and white.)

The weakness of Bomber lay in its characters. Deighton invented a representative battle and staffed it with what he fancied were representative types. Actually they weren’t as clumsily drawn as you might think. Deighton is not quite as bad at character as the critics say, just as John le Carré is not quite as good. A book like Yesterday’s Spy, one of Deighton’s recent fictions, is not only stronger on action than le Carré’s later work, but features more believable people. The cast-list of Close-Up is indeed hopelessly makeshift, but the characters flying around in Bomber, though divided up and labelled in what looks like a rough-and-ready way, are deployed with some cunning to bring out the relevant tensions. You could be excused, however, for not connecting them to the real world.
afegit per SnootyBaronet | editaNew Statesman, Clive James
 
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Ritual: A system of religious or magical ceremonies or procedures frequently with special forms of words or a special (and secret) vocabulary, and usually associated with important occasions or actions.
Dr J. Dever, Dictionary of Psychology (Penguin Books)

Between February 1965 and July 31st, 1968, the American bombing missions in Vietnam numbered 107,700. The tonnage of bombs and rockets totalled 2,581,876.
Keisinger’s Continuous Archives The attitude of the gallant Six Hundred which so aroused Lord Tennyson’s admiration arose from the fact that the least disposition to ask the reason why was discouraged by tricing the would-be inquirer to the triangle and flogging him into insensibility.
F. J. Veale, Advance to Barbarism (Mitre Press, 1968)
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It was a bomber's sky: dry air, wind enough to clear the smoke, cloud broken enough to recognize a few stars.
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Bomber was the first fiction book written using what is now called a ‘word processor’.
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The classic novel of the Second World War that relates in devastating detail the 24-hour story of an allied bombing raid.Bomber is a novel of war. There are no victors, no vanquished. There are simply those who remain alive, and those who die.Bomber follows the progress of an Allied air raid through a period of twenty-four hours in the summer of 1943. It portrays all the participants in a terrifying drama, both in the air and on the ground, in Britain and in Germany.In its documentary style, it is unique. In its emotional power it is overwhelming.Len Deighton has been equally acclaimed as a novelist and as an historian. In Bomber he has combined both talents to produce a masterpiece.

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