Flat characters and well-trodden situations mar book two of Burland's trilogy about the Berkeley family of Bermuda. This outing is a treacly coming-of-age story set in ravaged WW II England. Following the brutal Atlantic crossing chronicled in A Fall From Aloft (1969), 12-year-old James arrives at his great-aunts' house in Lincoln, England, acutely self-conscious, with a sailor's vocabulary and a voluminous library of nightmares. His awkwardness and litany of fears gradually abate, however, under his feisty aunts' onslaught of love. Soon young James is off to boarding school, where he proves to be a sports star and--more central to his popularity--develops a knack for spinning erotic bedtime stories. James skitters through his education, suffers brutal but predictable losses, but always bounces back, more of a man than ever. Told parallel to the tale of James' slow thaw is a muttered monologue, spoken by his gentle older brother Chris, an unflaggingly wise but increasingly crazy Royal Air Force pilot. Chris describes his love and fear of flying and his harrowing adventures when his plane is shot down over occupied France. Chris' story roughly echoes James', but the consequences of his fears and his loves are eventually more deadly. For those who like to indulge in sentiment by the tablespoon, there's a certain comfort in watching nice James flourish and grow in the nurturing company of twinkling-eyed oldsters and generous peers. And Chris, the sensitive pacifist who's a casualty of a war he hates, makes up with his misunderstood dad before it's too late. Those with less stomach for such goings-on, though, will find this one tough going.