Author: Donald Michael Platt
Publisher: Fireship Press
Type of book: WWII, air fights, aces, Germany, aristocracy, training, friendship, romances, strong women, America, 1928-1945, Russia, running away, glamor, Knights of the Skies, boys book
Year it was published: 2014
Close to the Sun follows the lives of fighter pilots during the Second World War. As a boy, Hank Milroy from Wyoming idealized the gallant exploits of WWI fighter aces. Karl, Fürst von Pfalz-Teuffelreich, aspires to surpass his father’s 49 Luftsiegen. Seth Braham falls in love with flying during an air show at San Francisco’s Chrissy Field.
The young men encounter friends, rivals, and exceptional women. Braxton Mobley, the hotshot, wants to outscore every man in the air force. Texas tomboy Catherine “Winty” McCabe is as good a flyer as any man. Princess Maria-Xenia, a stateless White Russian, works for the Abwehr, German Intelligence. Elfriede Wohlman is a frontline nurse with a dangerous secret. Miriam Keramopoulos is the girl from Brooklyn with a voice that will take her places.
Once the United States enter the war, Hank, Brax, and Seth experience the exhilaration of aerial combat and acedom during the unromantic reality of combat losses, tedious bomber escort, strafing runs, and the firebombing of entire cities. As one of the hated aristocrats, Karl is in as much danger from Nazis as he is from enemy fighter pilots, as he and his colleagues desperately try to stem the overwhelming tide as the war turns against Germany. Callous political decisions, disastrous mistakes, and horrific atrocities they witness at the end of WWII put a dark spin on all their dreams of glory.
The main characters include Hank, Karl, Seth and their ladies are Winty McCabe, Miriam Keramopolous, Elfie Eohlmann and Mariya-Xeniya Narishkyn. I have to say that out of the men Hank and Karl really shone, and I am surprised by picking Karl because I seriously thought he was an arrogant and obnoxious man who seems too calculated and cold. Hank feels more like an everyday man who has to deal with countless issues and tribulations. His romance is the more interesting one, although I also liked one between Karl and Elfie. I do feel that Seth should be more developed as a character because while I understand the purpose of putting him in there, I feel that his role was small, especially when comparing it to Karl and Hank. Out of the ladies, the ones I like the most are Mariya-Xeniya and Elfi. While I did like Winty and do feel that her character is more rounded, she seems to pale when comparing her to Mariya-Xeniya and Elfie. Mariya-Xeniya was a very complex character who seems more aristocratic and noble than Karl, while Elfie is a gentle and loyal woman. In case if there will be sequel, I do hope that I can see more of Mariya-Xeniya in it and more character development for Seth and Miriam.
I'm not sure what was the lesson I learned, that we are more alike than different perhaps?
The story is told in third person narrative from Hank's, Karl's and Seth's points of view, and up until past the middle of the book, each chapter was dedicated to each character, to their training days, to how they met and how they fought in WWII through flying on airplanes. I haven't read or am familiar with air combat, but somehow I found this an interesting read. In some cases too the author simplifies some of the things, which allows for those not familiar to still be part of the action. I also enjoyed the dialogue and the atmosphere of the book that had something of old Hollywood in it.
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Although not quite five stars because I really want to know what happens and because the character of Seth Braham needs to be worked on, there is something strange, hypnotic and something movie like about this book that's hard to describe. Whatever that something is, it grabbed me and didn't really let me go until the last page. I'm not sure how else to describe it. I'm not really big on military strategies or conquests yet this was a fun book to read, and in some ways was enlightening. I actually had no idea that the royalty of Germany was anti-Hitler, and it was an interesting look at the differences and similarities between those who flew the planes. While I don't approve of what the Soviets have done nor what they are doing, I really didn't feel comfortable with the Germans's descriptions of them as well as how barbaric they are. I think I wanted a more fair and balanced description of the Soviets instead of one that's quite negative. While I do applaud the author's attempt at a Jewish character and how Holocaust affects him, I really do feel that it needed to be explored a lot more than it is in the book. Other than that, a fantastic read with fascinating characters that will not be easily forgotten.
Close to the Sun Blog Tour ScheduleThis is for Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)