cover image Paper Doll

Paper Doll

Jim Shepard. Alfred A. Knopf, $15.95 (228pp) ISBN 978-0-394-55519-5

After Shepard's exhilarating first novel, Flights, this book comes as something of a disappointment. Set during World War II, it is the curiously static story of a bomber crew stationed in England. Though Shepard goes to great lengths in delineating a realistic portrait of these men, the book never takes off. Unlike the cliched Hollywood crew, who exude esprit de corps and gallant fatalism, the men of the bomber Paper Doll are little more than boys, dreading every mission. The central character, flight engineer Bobby Bryant, is immature and fearful, but he desperately wants the crew to become heroic buddies. Unlike Biddy, the protagonist in Flights, Bobby is not a compelling character whose pain becomes the reader's. Yet this novel is manifestly the work of a gifted writer, illuminating with unsentimental clarity the tragic confusion of men, young in years and experience, thrown into the senseless carnage of war. (October 14)