I receive a lot of emails from authors asking me if I'll review their books, but few of them tug at the heartstrings as much as the one that I read from the grandson of William E. Thomas, author of Pegasus Falling, which is the first episode in a series of books called The Cypress Branches trilogy. He explains that his grandfather, now 87, started writing the novels 20 years ago when he retired and, since then, he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and seen his health deteriorate. His family have decided to push for the release of the trilogy rapidly while it will still mean something to him. I found this really poignant and agreed to read and review the book, while keeping an open mind about what I would actually think of it.
The central character of the novel is Sammy, a young, rather brusque and intimidating Britsh Paratrooper who is dropped into Arnhem in 1944. Surrounded by the Nazis, his platoon has no choice but to surrender, but Sammy's hot-headedness and acute sense of what is morally right and wrong, gets him into trouble and he lands himself in a concentration camp rather than a slightly less horrific POW camp. I was expecting some really hard-hitting scenes in the death camp but found it to be rather understated, with Sammy kept in an outbuilding slightly removed from the utter horror of the main camp. Another violent outburst sees him thrown into the camp itself though, where he and the tragic Naomi, forced into being the Nazi camp officer's whore, cling to each other for survival.
I expected the book to focus on this period in the concentration camp but this is actually a brief interlude. The war soon comes to an end and Sammy and Naomi are released but separated. They have survived but their life has no meaning apart. The novel moves into a new phase, showing how Sammy and Naomi, but also the whole world, comes to terms with post-war lfe, trying to fit in again. I was largely unaware of what happened to the Jews after the horrors of the Nazis so it was interesting to see how the situation in Palestine developed. This has actually led me to do a bit of research after finishing the novel to fill in the blanks in my post-World War II knowledge.
I have very eclectic reading tastes and have to say, I really enjoyed the book from beginning to end. I did wonder, however, who the target audience is supposed to be. The early part of the novel is a classic and well-written war story, with the light-hearted army banter and poignant tales of life in a warzone reminding me very much of my own late grandfather's WW2 memories. (The author was in the parachute regiment during the war and served in Palestine afterwards so almost certainly draws on his own experiences to add such authenticity.) Fans of historical fiction will enjoy the realistic and well-informed description of life during and after the war, and the whole epic love story will appeal to women and anyone who enjoys a good weepie. But reconciling all the different genres in one novel is a risky business. By appealing to such a diverse audience, will it ultimately leave them all feeling slightly unsatisfied ?
I didn't have a problem with the mixed genres. The only thing that perturbed me was the very ending of the book. I won't give you a spoiler but it left me confused about where the next episode will pick up - certainly not where I thought it was heading.
Pegasus Falling was a finalist in the Kindle Book Review Best Indie Books of 2012 awards, so maybe my concerns about it not finding its target audience are unfounded. I was certainly won over and could actually see this being made into a Hollywood blockbuster - it certainly has all the right elements in bucketloads.
star rating : 4.5/5
RRP : £8.99
- Paperback: 348 pages
- Publisher: Acute Angle books (26 Mar 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0956229913
- ISBN-13: 978-0956229915
Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.
Other reviews you may be interested in :