“Pegasus Falling” – by William E. Thomas

Cover ImageFor Captain Stanley Adam Malcolm Parker, salvation from the torment of incarceration in a concentration camp was not provided by the allied soldiers who liberated him. It was provided by the Jewess who shared his despair, who clung to him as his strength dissipated. And after the war was won, he needed to find her again to give his life meaning.

Pegasus Falling is the first part of a trilogy called The Cypress Branches and the story of its writing is almost as interesting as the story itself. Firstly, William E. Thomas writes from experience as he served in the parachute regiment during the second world war and then continued to serve in Palestine – the setting for the second half of this novel. So although I expect quite a bit of license has been taken to tell a good story, it is no doubt informed by experience. The author dedicated many years to seeing this book in print just before Alzheimer’s had him placed in care. The publishing of the original story as a trilogy is being accomplished by his grandson, Mike.

The story follows the plight of a captain in the paratroopers, trapped behind German enemy lines due to an intelligence blunder and taken to a concentration camp after an act of violence against an SS officer. The initial battle scenes did not dwell perversely on the horror of war. Actually it might have succeeded in glorifying it just a little as Captain “Sammy” Parker provides an entertaining focal point with his pluck and courage in the face of capture. Regardless, by the time he is rescued by the allied troops, it’s hard as a reader not to have been impacted by his say at the concentration camp.

However, it’s at Sammy’s rescue that I began to understand that this was not going to be just an historical war drama. Instead, the author starts examining Sammy’s broken life and the interdependence that has been created between him and Naomi during their imprisonment. Both souls remain empty and unfulfilled without the other until they meet again in Palestine. But again I’m foiled as this is not really the love story that the author necessarily wants to tell and another relationship develops until its rather abrupt conclusion in the closing chapters of the book.

Pegasus Falling was an interesting terrain to explore for me. It starts off as a war drama, moves into a post-war psychological exposé of concentration camp survivors, develops into a romance, examines the post-war situation in Palestine before the creation of the state of Israel, and ends in a thunderclap that admittedly left me shocked.

The narrative is carried mainly by three characters, the irrepressible Captain Sammy Parker, Naomi – the Jewish concentration camp survivor, and Lesley – a senior foreign official who worked in Germany at the end of the world war and afterwards in Palestine. All three characters are pretty well developed even if somewhat idealised by the author. Interestingly, all three of them also offer a stance on the creation of the state of Israel either indirectly or directly which made me feel that the author wanted to make a statement on Palestine more-so than he wanted to make any statement about Nazi Germany. Naomi’s final speech was more profound than anything stated or implied earlier:

“No Michael, this is your home. My home is in Germany. Sammy was right, he was always right, I don’t belong here. You might, but not me. I am a German, not a Jew. I am just an ordinary German Hausfrau who happens to be Jewish and I am going home.”

There were weak points for me. The romance between Lesley and Sammy was almost cloying and the existence of sexual inexperience of that magnitude for characters that age seemed a little hopeful. The soap box on Palestine was fine, except I did feel that the author had set up a particular scene to deliver “the lesson”. As mentioned, Naomi’s parting words had more impact than any lecturing through the other characters regardless of eloquence. But overall, I really enjoyed the story. It carried me along allowing me to experience places I’ve never been in a sweeping tale of war, love, loss and the unbreakable bonds that are created through a horror shared.

It is probably too late for William E. Thomas to understand that someone is reading and enjoying the work he committed decades of his life to writing. But for what it’s worth, I’m announcing it anyway.

Rating: 4/5

Price at the time of review: $2.99 US

Available: Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Diesel

Author site: http://www.acuteanglebooks.co.uk/
GoodReads page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13606888-pegasus-falling

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