The rain was falling steadily on Buxton that Thursday afternoon in March, the town veiled by drifting low clouds, grey and discouraging
–Christopher Priest - The Separation - c.2002 - pg3
Jack and Joe are identical twins. Medal winners in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, their lives diverge down different paths. One joins the RAF and flies bombing runs during World War II, the other is a pacifist and a conscientious objector.
But it is hard to describe the plot of this novel with a brief paragraph; it is about the choices people make, about the different possibilities that are out there, and about how there is no such thing as being totally right or wrong in war. It is an alternate history, starting with the present-day investigations of historian Stuart Gratton, who lives in a world where Churchill and Hitler stepped down from power after a deal negotiated by Rudolph Hess, and saw the emergence of a far different world order.
For the most part I really enjoyed this book. The two main characters were wonderfully written, and the whole style of the book makes it an easy, yet thought-provoking book. One of the central themes being the way the two brothers’ lives mirror and reflect each other. Both fall in love with the same woman. One marries her, the other has an affair with her. One bombs Germany, the other works as an ambulance driver in London at the time of the Blitz. Each is given the opportunity to get across their own reasoning behind their actions.
The popular press depicted the Luftwaffe crews as fanatical Nazis, Huns, Jerries, shorthand codes for an enemy impossible to understand, but sense told me that most of the German fliers were probably little different from me and the young men I flew with. Our own bombing missions to Bremen, Hamburh, Berlin, Kiel, Cologne were no different in kind from the raids that had brought the German bombers here to Acton and Shepard’s Bush. Today, in Hamburgm there would inevitably be piles of rubble, fractured water mains, homeless children, where A-Able’s high explosive bombs had fallen
With the outbreak of war, everyone’s life changed. Like many people, I found a renewed purpose to my own life in fighting a war I had not started, did not want and barely understood. War simplifies problems, sweeping up a multitude of small ones and replacing them with great concerns.To many people the shift in personal priorities was almost welcome.I was among them
But I cannot really say that I loved this book. The ending just didn’t seem right to me. Maybe because it offered no resolution and was quite depressing. I’m not sure. Despite that one problem I’d really recommend this one. A very good read.