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November 23, 2021

Lightning Down: A World War II Story of Survival by Tom Clavin ~ a Nonfiction Review

by Donna Huber


I read a ton of WWII fiction. In the last few years, I've been more drawn to biographical WWII fiction about real people (i.e. Code Name Helene). But I haven't read any WWII nonfiction. I remedied that during Nonfiction November by reading Tom Clavin's new book Lightning Down.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

Lightning Down
November 2021; St. Martin's; 978-1250151261
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); history

At first, I wasn't sure if this was nonfiction. Many parts of the book read much like what I find in the WWII fiction stories based on real people and events. Clavin largely follows the life of Joe Moser, a WWII fighter pilot who was captured in the waning days of the war.  The plane he flew was called a Lightning.

Quickly it became obvious that this is not fiction as in other parts of the book it was like reading the author's notes I read at the end of a historical novel. 

Both "parts" (they aren't really parts as the texts weaves between a close look at Moser's actions and a broader look at the events and people around him) were enjoyable to read. While it did take me longer to read this book, it was not because it was dull or dry. It was because I really wanted to absorb the information - much that I didn't know before or only knew a little about. 

I have read, both in novels and in history classes, about D-Day, but most of the time it is more from the perspective of those making the beach landing. Because Moser is a fighter pilot, we learn about their efforts during the Normandy invasion. 

I remember in my high school American History class being told that the German POW camps were not anything like what was portrayed in the television show Hogan's Heros. Yet, in Clavin's description of Stalag III, there were some similarities - like the recreation facilities (they had a theater where they put on plays). So I wonder if my teacher thought the POW camps were the same as the concentration camps. Moser and 167 other airmen did spend time in a concentration camp and it was nothing like the POW camps. The POW camps were under the authority of Luftwaffe (the German air defense service) and the concentration camp was under the authority of the SS (the Nazi state police).

I am so glad I read Lightning Down. I don't know about you, but when I'm reading WWII fiction I usually have Google nearby because I want to know more about the events or a side character is mentioned that I want to know more about. With Clavin's book, I didn't feel the need to do any Googling. While he stays pretty focused on Moser's experiences, he gives information about the people who crossed Moser's path. He also put what Moser was doing in perspective with the larger events taking place throughout the war.

If you write WWII fiction, you will want to add this book to your resource shelf. If you are like me and enjoy reading WWII fiction, then you should read this book was it will fill in many gaps in information that just doesn't make it into a novel. I think I will also enjoy my next WWII novel more because I will have more factual knowledge about the period.

One thing that kind of irked me is that there is a mention in the epilogue of the Japanese sending balloon bombs to the west coast of the U.S. I've never heard of this and now I want to know more. Maybe Clavin will write about it in his next book.

Buy Lightning Down at Amazon


Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.
 


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