As part of the build up to our readers gathering in early October, I'm working my way through a selection of books on the theme of war. I daren't think how long ago it was I last read HE Bates but suffice to say I thought The Larkins were old hat (until I saw Catherine Zeta Jones in the TV adaptation and that must be 20 years ago at least?).
Anyway, somewhere along the way either Fair Stood . . or me has changed - and I think I have to admit it's me. This was a far better book than I remembered it: a Wellington crashes in France on the way back from an Italian bombing raid. The five crew survive unscathed apart from skipper Franklin whose arm becomes a growing problem until it has to be amputated.
Sanctuary on a French farm with attractive Francoise means the four sergeants have to be despatched elsewhere to allow the relationship to blossom. Similarly, the father - a bit of a cipher - needs to take his leave so his daughter can follow her heart. I'm making it sound cynical but in fact it is all done with slow decorum and you feel for the predicament they all find themselves in.