In Flight Path, David Hill masterfully immerses us in two contrasting settings – the grinding, grey privations of beleaguered England, and the intense, relentless danger of each flying mission of the Lancaster bomber squad, which 18-year-old Jack joins around 1944 as the Allies undertake the invasion of mainland Europe.
The action is compelling, but to me the underlying interest was in the characters – one of David Hill’s strengths. Jack is not a glamorous pilot but a bomber aimer, huddled cramped and cold in the claustrophobic nose turret, the one who releases the bombs on their targets and warns of oncoming enemy fighters.
I could strongly relate to this young man, who has to search again and again for a desperate resolve in the face of unrelenting danger and crushing terror. First-hand experience of the indiscriminate destruction caused by the enemy’s weapons fires up his personal hatred, even as he questions what he himself is doing, unleashing death with every bomb he releases.
The cast of characters through which Jack learns the value of friendship and teamwork are presented with clarity but also with twists to underline the themes of the complexity of war and human nature.
There is a sweet and touching love story, but the dearth of female characters, and the stereotyping of those few who do appear, is a little disappointing.
The ending is unexpected but, on reflection, well judged.
Flight Path is a compelling, gripping read for young adults, with ample scope for reflection on moral dilemmas. It does not glamorise events but it does reveal something of the contribution made by New Zealanders in an often-overlooked and unappreciated theatre of war.
Title: Flight Path
Author: David Hill
Publisher: Penguin Group (NZ)
Date of Publication: April 2017
Reviewer: Moira Spicer
Position: Teacher-in-Charge, Library
School: Catlins Area School