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Another spare novel from the author of The Navigator (1955) again has its focus on men who fly but here the locale is North Africa at a time of armistice. Lt. Ferrer, the squadron's best pilot, has been permitted to have his wife join him and her presence is a torment to two of the commanders Dumard and Rousseau. When Ferrer's plane is reported presumably wrecked off Bone they begin their search for Helene to tell her of his death and, as they trace her, the story of Rousseau's maddened affair with her, of Dumard's unfulfilled passion for her and of the other men in her life comes to light. For Ferrer's dedication to the planes and the sky, his simple faith and love for her has brought her, defiant and self indulgent, to Dr. Lelong, Rousseau and now the wealthy Pellegrin. For the wear and tear of the planes Dumard substitutes the wear and tear of the stupidity of men that caused Ferrer's friends to try to steal his wife so that perhaps, between the demands of Helene and his planes, he has chosen to die. Finding her at Pellegrin's and telling her of Ferrer's death they see her ruin and her guilt. A sensitive probing of the secret and savage domain of the sky -- and the flesh -- this handles its theme and its characters with precision.

Publisher: Knopf