One issue that lies at the core of this book is that of human frailty, the wrong decisions that we make at times, how those choices affect the arc of our lives, how we come to terms with the mistakes we've made. At one point, Torday writes that when we apologize, we're really asking for a gift: the gift of forgiveness. The question then has to be: Can we bestow that gift upon ourselves? Further, if the one who has been wronged cannot forgive, are we then doomed?
The other issue is: When telling a supposedly true story, how important is it that it all be true? If parts of it were made up, so as to tell a good story that people would like, is the entire thing a fraud? Should we feel cheated upon discovering some falsehoods? Or is the story still valid AS A STORY?
I don't know the answers to any of those questions. I do know that Torday writes very well and that he has succeeded in presenting us with two quite believable characters, Poxl and his surrogate nephew Eli. Despite all of that, I debated giving the book only two or perhaps 2 1/2 stars because in the end I found it disappointing. I guess that's because what it boils down to is that Poxl is himself a failure and not really a likable man; he's not evil or cowardly, just ineffectual.
Without Eli the book would have been much better. Still the part without Eli was rambling and dreamy. Not a very good book.
Interesting idea for a book. Poxl West is a Czech Jewish war hero who emigrated to England and was a bomber pilot for the RAF. Eli Goldstein is his nephew-by-friendship who worships the exploits of the old man, which have been published as a memoir.
Most of the book is Poxl's "memoir" with brief chapters of Eli's doings and reactions. The "memoir" is heavy on sex, longing and regrets with one compelling section of the terror and exhilaration of flying a bomber into enemy Europe.
For me, Eli was a distraction. I think this could have been a beautiful book about Poxl alone. The "memoir" is lyrically written and Eli's clunky sections are an abrupt crash back to earth. Eli offers little insight into Poxl, only reaction, and for me what's going on in Eli's life doesn't add anything to the narrative.
A very compelling story of a youth dealing with him coming to grips with the reality of was once a story of a hero, his uncle. The story is told from the points of view of the youth and the uncle who are separated by more than 60 years. Well written and an insight into life in London during WWII.
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