Battle of Britain, 1940: The Finest Hour’s Human Cost – Book Review

By: Dilip Sarkar
Published On: July 8, 2020

In the summer of 1940, Germany began developing plans to invade Britain. Every other nation they had invaded had fallen so quickly how could Britain not fall as well? Their first task to accomplishing this goal would be to dominate them by air. Beginning ‘officially’ in July 1940, Germany waged war over certain objectives like air fields, radar, and other essential infrastructure. Many books have been written on this four month period of WWII that includes strategies, timelines, or even recollections from those who survived. This particular book focuses on the war from the perspectives of those who fell during this period of time. Those who never made it home.

In The Battle of Britain 1940, Dilip Sarkar uses each chapter to introduce us to an individual who gave the ultimate sacrifice during this period of the war. The chapter begins with the individual’s name, squadron or group, and date they were killed in action or went missing. But instead of taking the reader straight to the date in question we first learn of who they were, their family and what brought them into the war and into the service they were part of. Later we hear in their own words, through official documentation, recounts of their encounters with the Luftwaffe where they safely made it back home. For the day when they did not make it back home we read someone else’s official account of what transpired.

As easy as it would be to stop at just the pilot’s sacrifices, the author pays homage to others individuals who lost their lives during this battle but whose sacrifice isn’t as well documented as the pilots may be. During the events convoys going from America to Britain were often a target of attack. What may not be as well known is that a significant number of the sailors or merchant seaman were not British. Many who crewed these ships were part of the Indian Merchant Navy or were from China or Hong Kong. Another ‘hidden history’ as the author calls it was that of the sacrifices made by those who on the ground, such as ground crew or women in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.

Overall, I liked how personal these stories were. A lot of photographs were included that were given by their families or from other sources. I suspect many history buffs will be happy to read these stories too, especially since it includes detailed accounts of what happened in the air during these fights against the Luftwaffe.

Thanks to Netgalley and Pen & Sword for an advanced reader copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.

Description:

The summer of 1940 remains a pivotal moment in modern British history – still inspiring immense national pride and a global fascination.

The Fall of France was catastrophic. Britain stood alone and within range of German air attack. America, with its vast resources was neutral, Hitler’s forces unbeaten, the outlook for Britain bleak. As Britain’s wartime leader, Winston Churchill, rightly predicted, ‘the Battle of Britain is about to begin’.

Famously, Churchill mobilized the English language, emboldening the nation with rousing rhetoric. In this darkest of hours, Churchill told the people that this was, in fact, their ‘Finest Hour’, a time of unprecedented courage and defiance which defined the British people. Connecting the crucial battle with Shakespeare’s heroic Henry V and Agincourt, Churchill also immortalized Fighter Command’s young aircrew as the ‘Few’ – to whom so many owed everything.

The Few comprised nearly 3,000 aircrew, 544 of which gave their lives during the Battle of Britain’s sixteen weeks of high drama. Arguably, however, the official dates of 10 July – 31 October 1940 are arbitrary, the fighting actually ongoing before and afterwards. Many gave their lives whose names are not included among the Few, as of course did civilians, seamen, and ground staff – which is not overlooked in this groundbreaking book.

In this unique study, veteran historian and author Dilip Sarkar explores the individual stories of a wide selection of those who lost their lives during the ‘Finest Hour’, examining their all-too brief lives and sharing these tragic stories – told here, in full, for the first time. Also included is the story of a German fighter pilot, indicating the breadth of investigation involved.

Researched with the full cooperation of the families concerned, this work is a crucial contribution to the Battle of Britain’s bibliography. 

The 50 Most Extreme Places in Our Solar System

By: David Baker and Todd Ratcliff
Published: 2010

About a decade ago I was listening to NPR during a long drive when they had an interview with the author of this book. Immediately hooked, I sat mesmerized as I learned about all the fascinating things in our solar system. Yes, I knew some of them, but definitely not all. From diamond hail on Uranus and Neptune to Eiffel tower-sized lightning strikes on Saturn this book offers a lot of interesting facts when looking for science and solar system information in an easy-to-read format.

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A Year at Brandywine Cottage

By: David L. Culp
Published on: March 31, 2020

I love this time of year where everything starts to come to back to life after what always seems to me to be a winter that went on way too long. As I start getting restless for the weather to turn warmer, I love turning to books that inspire the inner gardener in me to start dreaming and that is exact what A Year at Brandywine Cottage did.

Filled with numerous pictures of the gardens at Brandywine Cottage, I very much enjoyed the time I spent in the book, growing more and more envious with each page of the beauty and tranquility created. The book is broken out into 6 seasons of his garden (The six seasons include early spring, late spring, early fall, and late fall) and then chapters by month. In each chapter are descriptions about what grows and blooms that month and what is done in the garden or what is focused on. Then, at the end of the chapter is a recipe that fits the month. Two of my favorites were February’s chapter that includes a very tantalizing heart-shaped dessert and August’s Summer Squash pizza – both of which I am fairly certain I am going to have to try.

I now have several new plants I want to try and find for my own garden as well as reminded me of a wonder flower I had at a previous house and absolutely loved, but haven’t yet planted at my current house: Snowdrops. This dainty white flower is so beautiful and I always loved looking at it every time it bloomed. Plus, it’s one of the first blooms of spring, which is always a welcome sight. I immediately had to look up where I can purchase it when it is time to order bulbs.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thanks to Netgalley and Timber Press for the advanced reader copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.

Description:

How to Live Your Best Gardening Life

David Culp has spent more than 30 years creating Brandywine Cottage—a sensational year-round garden that provides an abundance of joy, both indoors and out. In his new book, he urges home gardeners everywhere to do the same in their own space. Organized by the garden’s six natural seasons, A Year at Brandywine Cottage is packed with fresh ideas and trusted advice, whether it’s choosing plants for twelve months of interest, weaving edibles into the mix, or bringing the bounty indoors with simple arrangements and homegrown recipes. Packed with glorious images and practical tips, A Year at Brandywine Cottage will inspire you to live a life enriched by nature every day of the year.

Shrubs and Hedges – Book Review

By: Eva Monheim
Published on: March 3, 2020

If I have a forte in gardening, it is in growing vegetables. Anything other than that is a learning experience that I often fail at. This year my plan was to put in a few bushes and shrubs, especially in the shadier areas where I can’t grow vegetables. With that in mind, I picked up the book hoping to solve this particular mystery of gardening that eludes me.

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The Complete Book of Ferns – Book Review

Indoors – Outdoors – Growing – Crafting – History& Lore By Mobee Weinstein
Published on: January 14, 2020

For whatever reason and for the life of me I cannot keep an indoor plant alive. I really like ferns. They are so green and lush and yet they struggle to survive for me. So, when I saw this book I immediately scooped it up in hopes that it can shed light for me on how to keep my last two ferns alive.

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Is it Ok to Change Your Rating on Review Sites?

Recently, I have been thinking about all the books I’ve read, reviewed, and rated on Amazon, GoodReads, Audible, etc. Generally, I try to review a book very soon after I read it so that the impressions are fresh in my mind. But in doing this I may miss important points that my mind later fleshes out over time – things that it didn’t have time to process immediately after reading. Parts of the story that might have been small nags at the time of the review/rating, but grew in size as my subconscious finds time to process it all. A missing plot moment, a character trait I find more and more incredulous leading me to want to downgrade a rating. Of course, there have also been times when I’ve wanted to upgrade – where I was thinking…”Forget these flaws, I really enjoyed that one!” This is where my struggle is today – can I go back and change the rating on the review sites? Or, is it rude and in poor taste?

Generally, I see 4 and 5 stars as those more desirable by authors. They both mean that the book is decent, readable, and enjoyable. It’s in the 3-star category where things change a bit. I once saw a very long Twitter discussion on whether or not reviewers should even given 3 stars or less and if this is considered rude. Some truly only believed that 4 and 5 stars were appropriate. But, let’s be honest. Not all books are created equal. Some are good in quality, but are not necessarily one’s cup of tea. Then, there are others that are just poorly written or executed. It’s these in the latter category that my main concern is over. Books I’ve given 4 stars that I now find reason to see them as 3 stars.

So, my question is: Is it ever OK to go back and change one’s rating on one of the review sites? Is it rude? Is it acceptable, but only in certain circumstances? What if the author has seen the review and retweeted it? Or, is a book you’ve reviewed from Netgalley and so potentially the publisher may notice too? What if the author only has less than a handful of reviews, then it really is quite noticeable.

I’m in a quandary and am looking for any thoughts or comments anyone may have on the subject. There aren’t hundreds of ratings I want to change, instead it is only a few that I’ve rethought over time, but they still nag at me and won’t let me go – especially the books that I want to change the rating from 4 stars to 3 stars.

What do you think? Have you ever gone back and changed a rating on Amazon or GoodReads? Is this something you would do?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com