Kelsmeath, 1940 (The World War Two Series)
The Battle of Britain as experienced by a young Royal Air Force pilot and his nurse girlfriend, who try to lead a normal life during a summer when the average life of a pilot is a mere two weeks, and invasion by Nazi Germany is expected any day.
Whenever I pick up a book about England written by a child of England, I am struck by how differently two countries that share a common language use it. For most British movies and television shows, I need subtitles plus a slang dictionary. Monty Python left me scratching my head for the most part and even though I loved Four Weddings and a Funeral, it took me about ten minutes to adjust my tin ear.
It was the same with Kelsmeath 1940. It took a few chapters before lingo shock subsided and I started to really "get" what an ambitious, passionate piece author David Andrew Westwood has produced. Of course, any book about airplanes is okay by me -- and this one is filled with Hurricanes, Spitfires, Messerschmits, and Stukas whirling and swirling through the skies of 1940 Britain. But there's more to it than the roar of engines and the whine of wings slicing through air. What emerges from the cacophony of aerial combat is the realization of just how thin the line of defense was that spring and summer -- and how England's courageous pilots were simple young men trying to squeeze as much as possible out of life overshadowed by war.
Perhaps all stories of warriors dying for their countries have the power to make us angry while filling us with pride. Kelsmeath 1940 is oddly charming. Everyone is at risk. Luftwaffe bombers threaten both civilians and their protectors. Yet, life continues on the ground -- young folks struggle to find themselves, parents love their children but are irritated with their risky life choices, couples search for each other behind cheese and pickle sandwiches. It's so ordinary -- and yet, sometimes extraordinary efforts come from such as these.
Separated from this story by culture, a common language, 72 years, and thousands of miles, I was moved by the plight of Daniel and Rosalind -- lovers who never loved in a world not of their making. This emotional connection is due to the author's clear affection for his characters and appreciation for the deeds of the real people they represent. In the Afterword, I wasn't surprised when Westwood identifies some of his cast as relatives.
Kelsmeath 1940 will attract young audiences, those who enjoy airplanes, and readers who get a kick out of how authors blend fact and fiction into something educational and entertaining. I understand that Mr. Westwood has written several other pieces about World War II and I look forward to reading them.
Reviewed by: Joyce Faulkner (2012)