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MORAL FIBRE by Helena P. Schrader


by Helena P. Schrader

Pub Date: May 16th, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-73531-392-4
Publisher: Cross Seas Press

A novel focuses on a British bomber pilot in the waning years of World War II.

This latest book from Schrader, the author of many historical novels (including 2014’s Knight of Jerusalem), centers on Christopher “Kit” Moran, a pilot and officer in the Royal Air Force Bomber Command. As the author explains in a foreword, Kit appeared in her novella Lack of Moral Fibre (2021), in which he was sent to a psychiatric center after he refused to fly a bombing raid on Berlin. As this novel opens, the action finds Kit being offered a second chance to return to the flying crew, first taking a break to visit Georgina Reddings, the former fiancee of his dead flight leader, in the Yorkshire countryside. During their time at the home of Georgina’s vicar father, the two young people almost involuntarily become closer to each other. “It was ridiculous to pretend he was like a brother to her,” Georgina muses. “She could sense that if she saw more of him, she would lose her heart to him.” Matters between them are unresolved when Georgina goes back to the teaching field and Kit returns to the RAF for retraining and reassignment. The narrative follows both characters as they deal with the world of England in the final years of the war, not just professionally, but personally. Georgina and Kit cope with all manner of people and challenges, from the tedium of bureaucracy to the realities of wartime shortages and how to overcome them. Schrader helpfully adds an index of ranks and definitions for readers unfamiliar with the terminology of the period to aid in the immersive experience of the novel.

The author does a smoothly confident job shifting the action of her story from the very separate war experiences of her two main characters, which include Kit attending the “finishing school” for training on gun flights and Georgina teaching children in the village. The thread binding these two halves of the narrative is the growing relationship between Kit and Georgina, which is overshadowed by their separate loyalties to her former love. Is she embracing Kit as a kind of emotional extension of her relationship with her fiance? And is Kit rejoining the RAF out of some sense of guilt that his leader died instead of him? Schrader does such a great job creating the vibrant, involving scenes these characters share that readers will look forward to them despite the dramatics of the separate plotlines. The sense of the young lovers’ mounting awareness of their feelings for each other is executed with considerable skill. “If he had once felt he ought to die,” Kit realizes at one point in this moving story, “Georgina had cured him of that madness.” Likewise, Kit’s experiences in the RAF are vividly portrayed: He “felt an unexpected thrill to be flying over England again. Roads, streams, woods and hedges broke the green and hilly Gloucestershire countryside into mosaic pieces.” The two narrative strands beautifully balance each other up to the book’s climax.

A richly textured, absorbing war tale that works equally well as a touching love story.