LenaLena's Reviews > Skybound

Skybound by Aleksandr Voinov
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Jul 03, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: mm, short-stories
Read in August, 2012

What really worked for me in this story is the 1st person, present tense narration by Felix. Usually, Voinov's characters are a bit stoic for my taste and tend to keep their distance. The POV here solved that really well, and although Felix is tongue tied most of the story, I still connected with him and felt for him.

The one missing star is for not making the most out of the setting for the story: an airfield in the middle of territory surrounded by the enemy, fighting a losing battle. I was reminded of a few chapters in Roald Dahl's autobiography Going Solo where he describes his time as a WWII fighter pilot in Greece while it is being overrun by the Germans. Dahl, like Voinov, is not an emotional writer, but those chapters are, decades later, still seared into my brain. Fifteen Hurricanes, piloted by 15 young men, against hundreds of Messerschmidts and Ju-88s, sacrificed for some Superior-behind-a-desk-in-Cairo's need to state that 'We fought to the last man and the last plane". The fatalism, the frustration with nonsensical orders, the conversations with men who know they're likely to die next time they go up ("I left some wash water, just in case you came back"), who know they are being sacrificed for nothing. The frantic routine of taking off, fighting, making it back, repair, reload and refuel the plane and then taking off again an hour later to do it all again, over and over. Getting out of the plane, drenched in sweat, hands shaking too badly to light your cigarette, to learn that 5 of the 12 haven't come back after the farce that will be called 'The Battle of Athens'. Knowing that your make shift airfield has been spotted, and that the enemy will be back in an hour and a half to ground strafe you, but your superiors won't change take off time to allow the 7 Hurricanes that are left to be in the air when they get there. Spotting the yellow scarf one of the German pilots is sporting as he's coming in low over the airfield, clumps of sod flying around your ears from where the bullets hit.

As I said: seared in my brain. And I missed that tension in the descriptions of Felix's last days at the airfield.
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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Nice review. I've never read his autobiography. Apparently my TBR is not big enough. Damn you.


Aiko more books I want to read. yay ^.^ *toss onto pile*


LenaLena It may be my favorite Dahl book and that is saying something considering the fact that I adore his kid's books. He's very matter of fact, but he paints such a vivid picture of the last years before, and first years of the war.


Enny I'm German and I've talked to several old men who used to be soldiers during WWII and I very much liked the way Aleksandr Voinov described Felix' and his comrades feelings.

The difference to stories from a US/GB point of view is that those soldiers were fighting a war which they knew they couldn't win. They knew all those deaths were completely pointless and yet they felt they couldn't do anything about it. They shut down their emotions because there was no hope for them. The only ones still enthusiastic about fighting the enemy were those poor clueless schoolboys who were sent to war during those last days of the Nazi Regime and even they realized quickly that there was no glory in war.


LenaLena Going Solo is about the early days of the war though, when Germany was still overrunning Europe and the US wasn't even in the war yet. The situation as described in this book, when Britain is getting it's ass kicked in Greece (the Axis took the country in only 24 days) and has no chance whatsoever against the invasion, is very similar to the situation as Aleks describes it on the German side, but four years later.


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