Bomber County: The Poetry of a Lost Pilot's War

Daniel Swift, Author
Daniel Swift, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26.00 (304p) ISBN 9780374273316
Reviewed on: 09/06/2010
Release date: 08/01/2010
Paperback - 268 pages - 978-0-374-53303-8
Paperback - 270 pages - 978-0-14-103699-1
Ebook - 304 pages - 978-1-4299-9592-4
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In this elegant memoir, Swift traces the interstices between the bombers of the Royal Air Force, his grandfather's service before his death at the age of 30, and selected passages from Dylan Thomas, Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden and other writers working during World War II. Meticulously researched, Bomber County chronicles the London Blitz and bombing raids in Germany without elegizing or romanticizing the era. Notes from logs kept by crews mingle with the author's recollection of his grandfather and oral accounts of survivors and family members, reinforcing Swift's belief that "archives are cathedrals, holy houses where may be answered even the hardest human loss." Among the more unusual discoveries to be found within is the author's acceptance of the mythology associated with his tale; psychological warfare often lead to unreliable perceptions of scale, and the author admits that "even as I write this a small doubt still holds" about his grandfather's fate. With its inherent tension and quiet moments of deliberation, the subject of bombing is well-suited to the literary memoir, and Swift renders a potentially narrow slice of history with warmth and sophistication. (Aug.)
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