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The Last Flight of Poxl West

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  894 ratings  ·  161 reviews
A stunning novel from award-winning author Daniel Torday, in which a young man recounts his idolization of his Uncle Poxl, a Jewish, former-RAF pilot, exploring memory, fame and story-telling.

All his life, Elijah Goldstein has idolized his charismatic Uncle Poxl. Intensely magnetic, cultured and brilliant, Poxl takes Elijah under his wing, introducing him to opera and art
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 17th 2015 by St. Martin's Press
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Diane S ☔
Jan 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
A Jewish teenager, Elijah, reveres the older man who is his Uncle Poxl. This man has time for him, takes him to museums, discusses art and literature with him and tells him stories of his life during the war. This is the bare bones of the story but this is a story within a story and telling more would ruin this book for future readers.

There is something so tender in the way this is written, the characters so likable. The art of storytelling, the interpretation of memory, experiences and regrets,
Robin Black
Sep 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I had the joy of reading this pre-publication and trust me, this is a book you want to read. More in a bit as I sort through what is and what isn't a spoiler, but for now just Hooray!! ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Mar 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Joan Jett once sang that “Everybody needs a hero,” which is certainly the truth for fifteen-year-old Eli Goldstein, who is searching for a touchstone to transcend his Jewish consciousness, in 1980s Boston. His hippie-ish rabbi in Hebrew school has tried to turn him on to the kabbalah, but Eli worships his surrogate Uncle Poxl, a flamboyant and charismatic scholar, and a bomber pilot in WW II. During museum, opera, and symphony outings, Poxl taught Eli to appreciate the finer nuances of art; over ...more
Jan 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Thank you to St Martin's Press and Netgalley for an opportunity to read an advance copy of The Last Flight of Poxl West. It's a narrative within a narrative. Eli recounts the story of his relationship with his "uncle" Poxl, a family friend who wrote a memoir about his experience as a Jewish fighter pilot during WWII. Eli idolizes Poxl and his stories. Interspersed with Eli's narrative is Poxl's memoir of his time during the war and just after. I really liked Eli's narrative and parts of Poxl's m ...more
I was excited to read this novel. The story of a Jewish WWII RAF pilot who goes on to publish his memoirs more than forty years after the war, sounded interesting. Poxl West, born Leopold Weisberg, tells a story within a story, as we read his memoir as well as his nephew's narrative set in 1986 as Poxl's book is published.

I was eager to be taken back in time and learn about Poxl's experiences during the war but half way through I realized the past didn't come alive for me, I wasn't engaged by th
Apr 05, 2015 rated it liked it
Because he last eighty pages or so of this novel are so good, I regretted that I didn't find the first 200 pages more compelling. I was never convinced that the mock memoir that lies at the heart of this novel (occupying 70-80% of the pages) could really have caused the stir among the reading public that occurs in the novel. However, as the novel comes to a close, we alternate more frequently between Poxl West's memoir which is centered around World War II, and the 1980's story of Poxl's nephew ...more
Sylvia Abrams
Nov 11, 2015 rated it liked it
The last Flight if Poxl West is a troubling story. Told as a memoir within a novel, the plot revolves around the flawed hero, Leopoldo Weisberg,, aka Poxl West. The narrator of the novel is Elijah, Poxl's young nephew. I liked the sections in the voice of Eli. They rang true as the young boy who idolized his uncle matures into a man who realizes his uncle's flaws. Less successful, in my view, is the memoir. Why Poxl found Francoise to be his true love was not convincing at all. Her tawdry charac ...more
Alana Cheshire
Dec 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
***Received through a Goodreads Giveaway***

An extraordinary novel that explores glory, redemption, and our omnipresent need as humans to tell the stories we tell. This is a war story that isn't predominately about war; rather, the fighting is the backdrop of Poxl's story, not the thesis of it. The result is an intriguing narrative that is unafraid to stray from our typically black-and-white hindsight impressions of WWII, and makes a compelling distinction between what is true and what is honest.
Jessica Jeffers
Jan 05, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, netgalley
This was fine, but a little underwhelming. Maybe just because I figured out where it was going about a third of the way through? I dunno. A longer review to come.
Avery (ThePagemaster)
Aug 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: gave-away, goodwill
It was an ok WW2 book. Nothing really bad about it, honestly. I just wasn't as invested as I thought I'd be, or hoped to be. I did like the format of the book: the present day with Elijah, recounting the events, stories, and his undying admiration of his Uncle Poxl West; and then to Poxl's memoir being told, which is the story itself that we're reading. But, like I said, I didn't read anything that had me emotionally invested, even though there are some deep moments in here. It's not a bad book ...more
Wendy Cosin
Feb 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ww-ii
The Last Flight of Poxl West alternates between two related stories - a World War II “memoir” and a story about a relationship between young Elijah Goldstein and his uncle Poxl. This structure breaks up the story nicely and provides needed perspective to the memoir sections, which make up most of the novel. In summary, The Last Flight of Poxl West is a good story and extremely well-written, with characters that experience deep emotions and complex moral issues.

Eli, a Jewish teenager in Boston, w
Nov 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Eli is a teenager who adores his uncle, Poxl West, who is not really a relative but is more of a grandfather figure to Eli. When Poxl writes a memoir of his experiences during WWII, Eli is miffed that he never receives his signed copy, but still he reads the book several times and uses it as a basis for school assignments. This novel contains the entire text of Poxl’s memoir, and this book-within-a-book is the real meat of this novel. Poxl, a Jew, flees Czechoslovakia for the Netherlands as a yo ...more
Oswego Public Library District
This debut novel by David Torday employs a story-within-a-story plot device to dramatic effect. Beginning with the narration of Elijah Goldstein, a fifteen-year-old student, it recounts his relationship with his uncle Leopold Weisberg, known as Poxl West. Poxl introduces him to cultural life around Boston --opera, symphony, literature and art. As Elijah learns more about Poxl’s early life and exploits during World War II, his feelings progress from love and admiration to hero worship. He also de ...more
Mar 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book! It begins in the perspective of a 15-year-old Jewish teenager, Elijah Goldstein, growing up in Boston in the '80s, who idolizes his Uncle Poxl, a Czech Jew who was an RAF pilot in WWII. The novel then switches to Poxl's recently released war memoir and moves back and forth between the viewpoints as it goes on. I loved the interplay of the two very distinct voices of Eli and Poxl, with both of them strong enough to engage you equally. At first, I thought I wouldn't like ...more
Christopher Roblodowski
Dec 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I would like to thank Bookbrowse for this beautiful book. The focus of the story is a novel written by the protagonist's uncle, Poxl West. The fact that Poxl West is not his real uncle is revealed in the very first paragraph. It is in some ways a foreshadowing of things to come in Daniel Torday's brilliant examination of the memoir novel. The novel alternates between chapters narrating what is happening with the characters in the story, and chapters of Poxl’s memoir. This approach really worked ...more
Hella Comat
May 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Yes, the main reason I was interested in this book was because it had an airplane on the cover.... It's two stories told simultaneously. One is about a young Jewish boy who is taken under the wing of his uncle, who he adores. The other story is the text of a book the uncle wrote of his coming of age during WWII. The facts about living in London during the invasion of Britain were horrific - people living in subways and caves and the huge amount of destruction. Of course it was the same in German ...more
Freda Witt
Jan 06, 2016 rated it did not like it
I only gave it a one star because it doesn't have a no star. This was supposed to be heartwarming? This is nothing heartwarming about it. There are no likable characters, no story line that I could see. ...more
Sep 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Hard not to spoil this book, so if you ask me, I'm just going to respond by asking why you haven't read it already. It's truly senseless not to. ...more
A Reader's Heaven
(I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.)

Poxl West fled the Nazis’ onslaught in Czechoslovakia. He escaped their clutches again in Holland. He pulled Londoners from the Blitz’s rubble. He wooed intoxicating, unconventional beauties. He rained fire on Germany from his RAF bomber.
Poxl West is the epitome of manhood and something of an idol to his teenage nephew, Eli Goldstein, who reveres him as a brave, singular, Jewish war hero. Poxl fills Eli’s head
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Shelley Sherman
Jun 08, 2017 rated it liked it
this was an interesting and well written book about a close family friend, a Jew from Czechoslavakia writing his memoir of his experience as a pilot with the RAF during WWII. the book alternates between the manuscript of the memoir and the realtionship of the young boy who views Poxl as a surrogate grandfather.
The memoir (book within a book) tells a touching story as does the alternating chapters. Still i sometimes found the book dragged and especially in the first third.
I would recommend it an
Robin Kempf
Apr 16, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a book about a book. The narrative of The Last Flight of Poxl West alternates between (1) a young man‘s account of his relationship with a book called Skylock and its author Poxl West, and (2) excerpts of Skylock itself, a tale of Poxl West’s experiences in WW II. I myself preferred the sections of Skylock to the young man’s impressions. Nevertheless, as a whole, the author movingly explores how loss and trauma affects not only the person who experiences it but those close to him or her.
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
A young boy loves and admires his Uncle Poxl. He glories in his stories of flying Lancaster bombers for the RAF during WWII. Poxl, a Czech Jew who survived the holocaust, is an entrancing story teller. The issue of the book becomes one of the nature of truth. Was Poxl's book memoir or fiction??? If someone tells an "untruth" does it deny the reality of the story or cause all loss of respect?? Are some actions simply unforgivable??? Interesting story of the horrors of WWII and the relationships o ...more
Laura Walker
Mar 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a World War II story with a twist. The central characters are a boy and an “uncle”. The uncle wrote a memoir describing his journey from Czechoslovakia to Belgium and England, where he eventually enlisted for military service. Most of the memoir concerns the women he loved and regrets about things done or not done in his life. I don’t want to give away the surprises in the book, but things are not always as they seem. The chapters switch back and forth from the memoir to the teenage boy ...more
Oct 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Daniel Torday uses a classic story-within-a-story structure to explore the fascinating character of Poxl West and the nephew who hero worships him as a Jewish fighter pilot in The RAF during World War II.

How Poxl fled to England as a young Czech refugee just before the war started is fictional but authentically reflective of the real stories of many young people of the time. I really enjoyed reading his story but did think that the "big reveal" was not really much of a surprise.
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fictional account of a Czeck Jew who was sent initially to the Netherlands and eventually arrived in London. He puts his experience as a pilot to use as a pilot for his adopted country raining bombs on the Germans who killed his family. According to the book he wrote, telling the story to his adopted nephew over ice cream after visits to the symphony or art gallery, he wanted to revenge himself on the Germans. But that might not be the entire story.
Barbara Rhine
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
I dunno. I just couldn't finish this. About a hundred pages in, the writing still seemed clunky and I had not developed much interest in either of the main characters or the situation. Still, I attended my synagogue book group's discussion of Torday's book. Some folks shared my reaction; others didn't. In any event, the conversation was sufficiently complex that I was sorta sorry that I didn't perservere. Not sorry enough to pick it up again, though... ...more
Veronica Spaeth
Jun 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book because the author worked at my college. I didn’t know what to expect. It was really well written and the story was engaging and moving.

There are really two connected stories being told and the resolutions for both of them aren’t satisfying in a very intentional way. They’re not neat and tidy stories but they’re not supposed to be. I would definitely suggest the book. It’s worth a read.
Jan 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
This is an odd story of Poxl, an older man living out his memories from WW2 and his young fan Eli, growing up in a middle class Jewish home. While Poxl's stories are very interesting his immaturity is hard to take and he seems to take a long time to learn anything about himself and how he hurt others. Plus the writer repeats some unimportant things which are distracting like "T.S. Elliot was a fire watcher in London". So I say not a great execution of a good idea ...more
Joanie Driemeyer
Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
I slogged through this book. The format was unique and I wanted to like it, but I just couldn't get wrapped up in the story or the characters. There were some parts where the action picked up and I became engaged. But then Poxl would wax philosophical and I would need to reread the paragraph several times. Just ok. ...more
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Daniel Torday is a two-time National Jewish Book Book Award recipient and winner of the 2017 Sami Rohr Choice Award for THE LAST FLIGHT OF POXL WEST. Torday's work has appeared in Conjunctions, The New York Times, Paris Review Daily, Tin House, and on NPR, and has been honored in both the Best American Short Stories and Best American Essays series. He is the Director of Creative Writing at Bryn Ma ...more

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