Inspired by fascinating, true, yet little-known events during World War II, The Long Flight Home is a testament to the power of courage in our darkest hours—a moving, masterfully written story of love and sacrifice.
It is September 1940—a year into the war—and as German bombs fall on Britain, fears grow of an impending invasion. Enemy fighter planes blacken the sky around the Epping Forest home of Susan Shepherd and her grandfather, Bertie. After losing her parents to influenza as a child, Susan found comfort in raising homing pigeons with Bertie. All her birds are extraordinary to Susan—loyal, intelligent, beautiful—but none more so than Duchess. Hatched from an egg that Susan incubated in a bowl under her grandfather’s desk lamp, Duchess shares a special bond with Susan and an unusual curiosity about the human world.
Thousands of miles away in Buxton, Maine, young crop-duster pilot Ollie Evans decides to join Britain’s Royal Air Force. His quest brings him to Epping and the National Pigeon Service, where Susan is involved in a new, covert mission to air-drop hundreds of homing pigeons in German-occupied France. Many will not survive. Those that do will bring home crucial information. Soon a friendship between Ollie and Susan deepens, but when his plane is downed behind enemy lines, both know how remote the chances of reunion must be. Yet Duchess will become an unexpected lifeline, relaying messages between Susan and Ollie as war rages on—and proving, at last, that hope is never truly lost.
“Hlad adeptly drives home the devastating civilian cost of the war.”
|Product dimensions:||5.70(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.40(d)|
About the Author
Alan Hlad is a corporate executive turned writer. He is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Literary Cleveland, and the Akron Writers’ Group. Alan lives in Ohio with his wife and children. The Long Flight Home is his first novel. You can find him online at alanhlad.com, Facebook.com/AuthorAlanHlad and on Instagram @AlanHlad.
Read an Excerpt
Epping, England — September 7, 1940
On the day of the atrocity, Susan Shepherd was working in a pigeon loft, sprinkling feed — a mixture of sorghum, wheat, and field peas — into a long metal tray. A few sleepy squabs lifted their heads from under their wings but made no effort to leave their nests. Most of the pigeons were outside, circling the rolling green sheep pasture or decorating the bending birches of Epping Forest.
"You're going to help us save Britain," she whispered.
The loft was a twelve-foot-by-twelve-foot wooden shed lined with cubbyholes like a primary-school classroom. But instead of holding rain boots, hats, or wet gloves, the tiny compartments were the homes for more than sixty pigeons. This was the original loft, constructed by her grandfather, Bertie, before she had been born. And over the past year, a dozen new lofts had been hastily built. Except for more pigeons, her grandfather's farm hadn't changed since she'd left to study zoology at the University of London. Same musty smell: a mixture of down feathers, droppings, and grain. She hadn't expected to return home so soon, but her volunteer work for the National Pigeon Service had postponed her studies in lieu of a more important endeavor — raising war pigeons.
As Susan brushed away specks of feed from her well-worn skirt — repaired with darn and patch — her eyes were drawn to the faded pencil marks on a wall Bertie had made to record her growth as a wee child. She had pressed her back against the wall and stretched her neck like a giraffe. Desperate to grow, she had even resorted to stuffing her shoes with tissue. And six months later, Bertie only laughed when his granddaughter, who failed to remember her tissue, had shrunk an inch. During her childhood, she had grown quite fond of the pencil gracing the top of her head, the sound of scratching lead, and turning in anticipation to check her height as an audience of pigeons cooed in amusement. Susan kneeled and touched her first marking as a toddler, a date shortly after she had come to live with Bertie.
I had a little bird, its name was Enza. I opened the window, and in flew Enza.
Susan shook the childhood jump-rope rhyme from her mind, then picked up a wooden spoon and rapped the side of a can, once used to hold the paint that now peeled from the siding of her grandfather's cottage.
Pigeons flocked through a hole cut near the ceiling. One by one, they entered the loft and fluttered to the ground. The pigeons scuttled along the floor, jutting their heads and flicking their feet, while their bodies remained eloquent and steady, as if they could balance acorns on their tails. The last bird entered, stood on the grain barrel, and tilted its head.
"Hello, Duchess," Susan said.
The bird — unique with its glowing, purplish-green neck plume, more appropriate for a peacock than a pigeon — fluttered to the floor and waddled to Susan's feet.
"I'm afraid I've spoiled you." Susan poured feed into her hand and kneeled.
Duchess pecked at the grains.
The touch of the beak tickled Susan's palm. She knew she shouldn't be hand-feeding a pigeon — it wasn't the Pigeon Service's protocol, or her grandfather's — and would no doubt cause problems if Duchess were put into service. But this bird was different. All because a feral cat had managed to scratch its way under the door and take the lives of Bertie's prized racing pigeons, Skye and Islay.
Three years earlier, Susan and Bertie had found what was left of Skye behind the grain barrel. They had found Islay in her nest with a severely injured wing, sitting on an egg she had laid before her attack. They had tried to repair Islay's wing with tape and splinters of wood, but she was too weak to eat, and she sat feebly on her egg for five days before she passed. They had buried her in one of Bertie's tobacco boxes, next to Skye near the edge of Epping Forest.
When none of the other pigeons would sit on the egg, tainted from the feline tragedy, Susan insisted on incubating it, despite her grandfather's belief that the chances of the egg hatching were extraordinarily slim, especially without a calibrated incubator that they could not afford. Stubborn like her grandfather, Susan retrieved a blue ceramic bowl, once used by her grandmother to eat oatmeal. She warmed the bowl with water from the teakettle to establish a good base temperature, then delicately wrapped the egg in a lightly moistened towel and placed it inside. Setting the bowl under Bertie's desk lamp, she adjusted the distance to reach the ideal temperature by using a medical thermometer, which she had tested by sticking it under a nesting pigeon.
For two weeks and two days, Susan rotated the egg every eight hours and sprinkled drops of water onto the towel to keep the proper humidity. And despite the odds of having to bury the egg next to its parents, the egg quivered early on a Sunday morning. Susan and her grandfather skipped church, pulled up chairs, and watched for three hours as the egg slowly cracked open. As church bells rang over Epping to release their congregations, a shriveled hatchling poked its way into the world.
"Your parents and your granny would be proud of you," Bertie had said.
Susan, a heaviness in her chest, had smiled and gently caressed the hatchling.
It had been a miracle, but Susan knew that this hatchling still had a slim chance of survival without the aid of her parents' pigeon milk. Undeterred, she took to grinding seed into paste and feeding the hatchling by hand. Within a few days, the hatchling was able to stand, unfurl its wings, and peck. One week later, it was eating feed with the others in the loft. And Susan named her Duchess, despite her grandfather's fondness for naming his racing pigeons after remote Scottish land masses, none of which they had ever visited.
Duchess had grown into something extraordinary. And it wasn't just her looks, even though her neck plume shimmered like mother of pearl. It was the bird's intelligence — or odd behavior, as her grandfather believed — that made her stand out among the flock. While homing pigeons were trained by the reward of food, Duchess seemed to be driven by the need to understand the world around her, a strange sense of curiosity hidden behind her golden eyes. Instead of joining the group, Duchess was content to watch her companions eat as she stood on Susan's shoulder, cooing in response to Susan's words, as if the bird enjoyed the art of conversation. And even more impressive was Duchess's athletic ability; she was typically the first to arrive home after the pigeons were released at a distant training location. Bertie had commented that Duchess was the fastest to return only because of her desire to get a few minutes of Susan's undivided attention. Susan laughed but knew there was some truth to what he said.
As Susan stroked Duchess's back with a finger, a siren sounded. She stopped. The horn began as a low growl, then grew to an ear-piercing roar, tapering off, then repeating. Goose bumps cropped up on her arms. Pigeons fluttered. Walls vibrated. Seed in the feeding tray quivered.
The door flew open. Her grandfather, a bowlegged man wearing a tarnished tin helmet, shouted, "Luftwaffe!" He grabbed Susan's hand and pulled.
Susan saw the spring door closing behind her, Duchess standing calmly on the ground as the other pigeons scattered. "Duchess!" She broke her grandfather's grip, threw open the door, and scooped up the bird.
Susan, with Duchess tucked into the crook of her arm, ran with Bertie toward the bomb shelter, just like they had rehearsed, praying each time that this day would never come. But they knew it was merely a matter of time. As they ran across the field and past several other pigeon lofts, the siren wailed from nearby North Weald Airfield.
Bertie paused as he struggled to catch his breath. He pushed up his old military helmet that kept falling over his eyes. "Hurry!" he shouted.
Before they reached the shelter, the siren died, replaced by the buzz of mechanical bees. Susan looked up, swallowed, and pushed up the brim of Bertie's helmet. Hundreds of enemy bombers, and nearly twice as many fighters, darkened the late-afternoon sky like a swarm of black flies. Antiaircraft fire boomed. Black bursts exploded below the aerial armada.
The shelter was a broad earthen mound under the canopy of a large beech tree. Green grass now covered the embankment, blending the refuge into the rolling pasture. Except for the front door, which made it look like a home for a hobbit, the sanctuary was camouflaged. Susan had helped her grandfather build the shelter, piling up wheelbarrows of dirt and mixing concrete in buckets to line the inner walls reinforced with remnant bricks and scrap steel from a demolished cannery. And for the entrance, they used a door from an old outhouse.
As they reached the shelter, the bellies of the bombers cracked open. Instead of hunkering into the pit, they were compelled — despite their own safety — to watch scrambling Royal Air Force Hurricane fighters soar over the trees and pitch sharply to the sky. The fighter squadron was sorely outnumbered as enemy escort fighters bearing the Iron Cross swooped down to surround them. The RAF put up a short but valiant effort. One Hurricane exploded after rounds of enemy gunfire pierced its fuel tank, sending shrapnel over Epping Forest. Another had its tail shot off, sending the Hurricane into a spinning dive and crashing into a field with no sign of the pilot bailing out. One by one, the RAF Hurricanes were shot down, and the few planes lucky enough to suffer only minor damages retreated with smoke pouring from their engines.
Susan and Bertie watched the invaders fly toward London, a mere twenty miles away, contested only by inaccurate antiaircraft fire. Seeds of destruction dropped from the bellies of the bombers and whistled to the ground.
"My God." Tears flowed down Susan's cheeks as the first bombs exploded.
As night set in, the horizon of London glowed with scores, perhaps hundreds, of great fires. And with the darkness came a second wave of bombers dropping their payloads throughout the night, using the burning fires to identify their targets. White-hot incendiary bombs flared. Echoes of explosions filled the air.
At 4:30 AM, the bombing stopped. Susan stepped to Bertie, sitting on the ground, and helped him to his feet. With weak legs, he shuffled into the shelter, then curled onto a cot with his tin helmet covering his face. Unable to rest, Susan stood outside with Duchess cradled in her arms and watched the glow on the horizon. The grinding continued as the German planes flew overhead, masking the stars and crescent moon. She closed her eyes and prayed that they would not return. But the following evening they came back. And again the night after that.CHAPTER 2
Buxton, Maine — September 8, 1940
Ollie Evans, lured by a squeaky porch swing and the roasted-nut aroma of chicory coffee, opened the screen door. He found his parents gently rocking, sharing a wool blanket and a cup of coffee, as an orange sun rose above the dew-glistened potato fields.
The cup in his mother's hand, Ollie noticed, was a misshapen toad-green mug he had made in industrial arts class in the seventh grade. He chuckled. "Where did you find it?"
His mother shrugged, wisps of faded brown hair resting on her shoulders. She sipped. Steam swirled in the cool air.
Ollie was no longer a little boy. He was six feet tall, give or take an inch, with wavy brown hair and caramel eyes, a gift from his mother. The dimple on his chin mirrored the one on his father. As Ollie took a seat on the porch steps, an unsettling feeling that he should be somewhere else filled his belly. It wasn't unusual to be home in the fall. After all, most of the schools would soon be on potato recess. Unfortunately, his harvest break was more permanent.
"I'm proud of you," his father said.
"For what?" Ollie asked.
"For putting family first." He accepted the mug from his wife and drank. "I'm sorry you're still home." He nudged the cane hanging from the side of the swing. "It wasn't fair that you had to stay."
"That's okay. The farm's important. And so are you."
Three years ago, his father's muddy boot slipped off the tractor's clutch while attempting to pull out a stump. The machine flipped backward, pinning his father's right leg, shattering his hip, and snapping a femur in two places. Ollie, unable to lift the tractor, dug him out with a hand trowel from the garden shed. His mother had called for an ambulance and helped by scraping earth with her bare hands, ripping off three of her fingernails. It had been a painful recovery, including two surgeries and agonizing rounds of physical therapy. And now his father, held together with screws and wire, was able to perform some of the farm duties, except for plowing and crop-dusting. He was no longer able to work the pedals, the strain too much for his brittle leg. His father didn't seem to mind moving as slowly as a tortoise, the constant ache in his joints, or the pronounced limp in his walk. It was the inability to fly that had stolen his spirit, his once-dark hair turning gray with the passing of days spent grounded, as if the lower altitude accelerated the aging process.
His mother adjusted the blanket covering their laps, took the mug from her husband, and handed him the newspaper.
Ollie's father slid the rubber band from the paper, wrapped it around his forefinger, and shot it at Ollie.
Ollie ducked, even though it whizzed two feet over his head.
The smile fell from his father's face as he unfolded the paper. "Good God."
Mother's eyes widened.
"They've bombed London," Ollie's father said, showing her the paper.
"Those poor people," Mother said.
Ollie stepped to his parents and stared at the newspaper headline: Nazis Strike! German Planes Raid London! He took a deep breath and exhaled.
"The Nazis took France in just over a month," Ollie's father said. "Without our help, they'll take Britain in a year. And before we know it, we'll have a regatta of U-boats in Casco Bay."
Ollie crossed his arms as another debate about the war began to dominate their conversation. It usually started with the newspaper but always ended with his father's proclamation of their British heritage.
"FDR says we're going to stay neutral," Mother said.
"We'll be in this war eventually." Ollie's father tapped his thigh. "If I didn't have a bum leg, I'd have a mind to walk to Montreal and join the Merchant Navy. At least the Canadians have the guts to stand by Britain." He lowered the paper. "Our family may have lost our accent ..."
"But our blood is, and always will be, British," Ollie said, cutting off his father. "We know."
The porch turned silent, except for the creek of the swing and the caw of a crow in the potato field.
"I suggest that you never forget it." Ollie's father dropped the paper, retrieved his cane, and stood.
"Dad, I didn't mean to ..."
Father raised his hand. "Your mother and I have errands to run." He turned and went inside, the screen door banging against the frame.
Mother sighed and looked at Ollie. "Have you forgotten how your father lost his brother?"
"I'm sorry," Ollie said, recalling the uncle he had never met. Uncle Henry was killed in the Great War, two years before Ollie was born. Each year on Henry's birthday, Ollie's father honored his brother's memory by going salmon fishing, their favorite childhood sport in northern England. Ollie often joined his father for the day, fly-fishing in the solitude of the Saco River's rippling waters. Although his father spoke little of the details, Ollie had managed to piece together that a cloud of chlorine gas had forced Henry to abandon his trench in exchange for machine-gun fire. Henry died, and so did a piece of his father, in a French field on the Western Front.
"You should be more respectful of your father's feelings about the war. And mine." Mother paused. "Want something to eat?"
Ollie shook his head, feeling as if his stomach was filled with clay.
"You and your father can continue this discussion when we get back from town." Mother stood. "And I expect you to apologize."
She placed her hands on her hips.
"I promise." Ollie retrieved the rubber band and slid it onto his wrist. "I better get going. Lots of dusting to do."
"Be careful," his mother said, going inside.
Behind the barn, Ollie saw the weathered canary-yellow biplane, looking like a prehistoric bird warming its old bones in the morning sun. The plane was fully fueled and loaded with insecticide, or what his father aptly called pixie dust. He checked the tension wires strung between the upper and lower wings, stepped into the cockpit, and put on his leather cap. As he flipped the ignition, the engine coughed and the propeller turned over, sending a vibrating buzz through his body. He advanced the power, moving the plane down a bumpy earthen runway that split the potato field. The plane accelerated, and the tail began to rise. Sensing the proper speed, considering the instrument panel didn't work, he pulled back on the stick, and the plane lifted into the air. He circled their house, wondering how he would smooth things over with his father. Flying west to the farmlands, he replaced thoughts of war with his longing of someday going away to college.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Long Flight Home"
Copyright © 2019 Alan Hlad.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - Epping, England — September 7, 1940,
Chapter 2 - Buxton, Maine — September 8, 1940,
Chapter 3 - Epping, England — September 11, 1940,
Chapter 4 - Buxton, Maine,
Chapter 5 - Portland, Maine,
Chapter 6 - Epping, England,
Chapter 7 - Halifax, Nova Scotia,
Chapter 8 - Epping, England,
Chapter 9 - London, England,
Chapter 10 - North Weald, England,
Chapter 11 - Epping, England,
Chapter 12 - North Weald, England,
Chapter 13 - Epping, England,
Chapter 14 - Epping, England,
Chapter 15 - Epping, England,
Chapter 16 - Epping, England,
Chapter 17 - Epping, England,
Chapter 18 - Epping, England,
Chapter 19 - North Weald, England,
Chapter 20 - Epping, England,
Chapter 21 - North Weald, England,
Chapter 22 - North Weald, England,
Chapter 23 - 10,000 Feet Above the English Channel,
Chapter 24 - Epping, England,
Chapter 25 - Epping, England,
Chapter 26 - German-Occupied France,
Chapter 27 - Airaines, France,
Chapter 28 - Epping, England,
Chapter 29 - Epping, England,
Chapter 30 - Airaines, France,
Chapter 31 - Airaines, France,
Chapter 32 - Epping, England,
Chapter 33 - Epping, England,
Chapter 34 - Airaines, France,
Chapter 35 - Airaines, France,
Chapter 36 - Epping, England,
Chapter 37 - Epping, England,
Chapter 38 - Airaines, France,
Chapter 39 - Airaines, France,
Chapter 40 - Epping, England,
Chapter 41 - Epping, England,
Chapter 42 - Airaines, France,
Chapter 43 - Airaines, France,
Chapter 44 - Airaines, France,
Chapter 45 - Epping, England,
Chapter 46 - Epping, England,
Chapter 47 - Airaines, France,
Chapter 48 - Rouen, France,
Chapter 49 - Epping, England,
Chapter 50 - Epping, England,
Chapter 51 - Ascain, France,
Chapter 52 - The Pyrenees,
Chapter 53 - Epping, England,
Chapter 54 - Epping, England — March 21, 1941,
Chapter 55 - Epping, England — July 18, 1996,
Chapter 56 - Rochford, England,
Chapter 57 - Epping, England,
Chapter 58 - Epping, England,
Chapter 59 - Epping, England,
Chapter 60 - Home,
THE LONG FLIGHT HOME ABOUT THIS GUIDE,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A tender story of love and sacrifice on several sides. Interesting historical background. Believable characters set in a bygone era. Highly recommended. pbn
Characters you really care about against the awful background of war made for an excellent read
l loved this book . A wonderful story.
You don't have to know a lot about pigeons or aviation to follow the story. But on the same token, you will not learn much. Most of it centers more around the relationship between one specific pigeon and her owner. I was hoping there would be more information regarding the pigeons war effort; for example, the messages that they delivered that were helpful to the RAF, the training, etc... Yet, the only messages the reader is made known of are the messages that the pigeon delivers between the two main characters who have a budding romance. The encounters that the pigeons had with the war, spies, citizens, and enemies itself are not detailed in this novel. The dates for the chapters suddenly stop after chapter 3, so you have to guess the timing of the rest of the novel while reading. This novel doesn't go into details of the Nazi war crimes, and the Jews are never mentioned. The focus is on the romance between the two main characters rather than on history or the homing pigeon's role played in WWII. You will be reading this novel solely for the story rather than for the interesting information that can be gathered around the build up of the plot. Relationships and dialogue are romanticized. On the other hand, the development between the two main characters is carefully calculated which makes for an enjoyable, light read. The ending was wonderful. No sex. No obscenities. Minimal vulgarity. Would be okay for high school student to read.
No matter how much you read and learn about WWII there is always more to learn. In the Long Flight Home by Alan Hlad we learn about Source Columba, a secret operation using carrier pigeons to get information from behind enemy lines. This operation remained fairly secret for decades after the war was over, despite several pigeons actually being given awards by the British government. The Long Flight home not only tells us about the operation, it also offers accounts of what it was like to live under the constant bombing of the Blitz, as well as trying to escape from behind enemy lines. It is well written with characters you care about, you feel as if you are right their experiencing everything with them. The love story was predictable but not a deterrent to the enjoyment of the book.
Recently there seems to be a larger number of historical fiction books based on stories that came out of World War II. This is one of the best of those. The Long Flight Home by Alan Hiad is based on a 2012 British news report about the skeletal remains of a war pigeon found in a Surrey chimney. Attached to the pigeon's leg was an encrypted message, which baffled code breakers for years. Some 250, 000 pigeons were used by the British between 1939 and 1945 to provide intelligence to Britain. The author imagined Susan and her grandfather Bertie as part of the National Pigeon Service, a volunteer civilian organization, who kept and trained these pigeons. Ollie is an American who wants to fly with the Royal Air Force. he works his way to England, only to be jailed for coming to Susan's aid when a British officer gets too fresh. Bertie has him released to serve his time working with them getting the pigeons ready. Ollie is in a plane loading pigeons when it takes off to avoid an airstrike. The plan goes down in France where Ollie and the pilot take refuge with Madeleine and her truffle hog, Louis. Susan and Ollie are able to communicate more than military intelligence through coded messages sent via pigeon. This is a story of British resilience, of love that blooms even in the worst of times, of the amazing job done by the war birds. If you enjoy historical fiction, you will not want to miss this book.
The Long Flight Home not only illuminates the human struggle during the war, but also tells the story of some unsung heroes from the war: pigeons. It is quite fascinating to see that these birds were used to gather and deliver intelligence from Nazi occupied countries. While this book is a work fiction, that aspect of the story is true. Your admiration of these marvelous creatures only grows after seeing the tender way in which Susan and Bertie care for the birds. These creatures have integrated their way into their hearts. I especially love the way in which Susan regards them. She is truly in awe of them which also shows us her truly compassionate personality. When Ollie, an American, comes to help Susan and Bertie with their pigeons, He and Susan don't exactly hit it off. It doesn't help that he doesn't know much about pigeons, Susan's passion, and makes the egregious mistake of referring to the pigeons as birds. Once they get to know each other, a mutual attraction develops. However, they are soon literally separated by war. While Ollie was a kind person, I was never able to become fully invested in his character. I was certainly rooting for him, but not in the way I was for Susan; Bertie; and; let's be honest here, the pigeons. Flight Lieutenant Boar at first comes off as an arrogant jerk who mistreats women. He actually is both of those things; however, I was caught off guard by the fact that his character grew on me. I wouldn't say I liked him, because his character isn't meant to be liked, but I certainly didn't despise him as I thought I originally would. The vivid imagery and captivating story telling was a treat to read. This story full of woe and love will keep you up far too late into the night and will surely change your perception of the common pigeon. I received an ARC of this book. I am voluntarily leaving a review. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.
The Long Flight Home by Alan Hlad is a historical fiction novel that takes place during World War II on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Susan Shepherd and her grandfather Bernie live in London, which undergoes nightly bombings by the Luftwatte. With her parents long dead from influenza and Bernie’s health failing, Susan is entirely self-dependent but unsure of her future. But Susan has some unique friends that keep her company and are pivotal to the war effort. These friends are dozens of homing pigeons, which have the ability to covertly transport messages beyond enemy lines. Because of this, Susan and her birds are recruited into the National Pigeon Service. Soon after that, Ollie Evans from the small town of Buxton, Maine makes his way into Susan’s life. Ollie is trying to join the British Royal Air Force to honor his recently deceased parents, who are of British descent. However, after aggravating a high-ranking officer, Olllie finds himself with Susan and the National Pigeon Service. Ollie and Susan hit it off, bonding over their shared experiences. But when Ollie is unexpectedly sent behind enemy lines, Susan worries that they may never meet again, or worse that Ollie will be killed. In this time of war, will Susan and Ollie ’s fates intersect, or break apart forever? Read the book to find out! As a World War II enthusiast, I really enjoyed the interesting glance into the importance of homing pigeons in the war. Discussions of the world’s most prolific war often revolve around recounts of battles and the names of great leaders, so focusing a book on the pigeons provided a fresh, exciting perspective into the war. Though I initially had my doubts about the direction of the story line, the homing pigeons provided a stable foundation to build a gripping plot. The emotional connections built between characters were powerful and purposeful, and the clarity of the writing made it easy to connect with the characters. I would recommend this book to anybody over the age of eleven. It is not necessary to have much prior knowledge about World War II to appreciate the book, and the book itself is not a dense read. For those reasons, The Long Flight Home is more accessible to younger readers. I would give this book a five star rating because it was a well-written story that brought an underappreciated aspect of World War II into the spotlight. Thanks to the homing pigeons of World War II and The Long Flight Home, readers will remember that the smallest of creatures can make the biggest of differences. Review by Anya A, 15, Metropolitan Washington Mensa
The Long Flight Home by Alan Hlad is an amazing book for anyone interested in World War II History. The book is about how the British Army utilized homing pigeons during the war. This is told through the story of Susan and her grandfather Bertie, who trained homing pigeons and were “recruited” by the British army to provide them with homing pigeons for various missions. Of course, what good historical fiction book doesn’t include a romance, and this one had an interesting one. Ollie, and American came to join the British Army and ends up helping Susan and Bertie train the pigeons, but also ends up on a mission with the pigeons. I thought this story was a great way to tell the less known story of the use of homing pigeons, and my description doesn’t give this story justice at all, because if I tried to tell you more I’d ruin the story for you. I give this book at 4 out of 5 I really enjoyed Alan’s writing. I was not only invested in what was going to happen to Susan, Ollie and Bertie, but I also found myself invested in the pigeons themselves. The Long Flight Home by Alan Hlad was released on June 25, 2019, and is available to read NOW.
Truly wonderful book
I could not put this book down once I started reading it. Fascinating !!
This book is historical fiction, but it is so much more! It is a romance with a story within a story. There is the tale of Ollie, an American crop duster who wants to help fly planes for the RAF in Great Britain. Then, there is the story of Susan, a young woman who dropped out of college to help her grandfather raise pigeons. The most interesting part of the story was how the pigeons that they were carefully tending became war pigeons, flying behind enemy lines to deliver messages. I must say that I normally do not read historical fiction, but when the publisher sent me this book and I read the first chapter, I was totally hooked. It was fascinating to read and to imagine such a time and such horrors of war, with the characters who became like real people to me. The author did a stellar job of presenting the characters in a realistic way and writing a plot that drew me into the story right away. Fans of historical fiction will love this book, and those like me who are reluctant readers of this genre will find this book mesmerizing. Disclaimer Disclosure of Material Content: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kensington Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”
I must be a sucker for sad books. Historical fiction is my favorite genre to read and it mirrors true historical events that have happened. There are a lot of tragic events that have happened in past history. I enjoy reading the description of events leading up to a historic event, even a sad one. The history is past and I can't change it but I sure would like to take the characters and say don't do that, or run away, so and so is going to happen to you if you don't do a certain thing. They say hind sight is 2o/20, whoever they are. Not sure it does any good anyway. I have read a lot of books about World War II but what fascinated me about this is the book deals with little known events during World War II. I have heard of war pigeons but in this book you will find the full scope of how useful they were . I felt a compassion for the pigeons especially the main one, Duchess who is based on an actual war pigeon. With bombs raining down and war shelters debatable if they even offered proper shelter this story of the London Blitz is amazing . So many men,women and children perished under the Nazi reign. The Long Flight Home is about outstanding courage during one of our darkest times. Such strength and resilience despite the odds being against them! I strongly recommend this book! Published June 25th 2019 by Kensington Publishing Corp. I was given a complimentary copy of this book. Thank you. All opinions expressed are my own.
Susan Shepherd lives with her grandfather Bertie near Epping Forest in England and the book begins a year after the start of WW II. Susan was raised by her grandparents, her parents died when she was a little girl from the Spanish Flu and they live very close to London. They live a quiet life, they breed and race homing pigeons. Susan was studying zoology, but the war starting halted her studies and she decides to help her aging grandfather care for his pigeons as he has very bad knees, he finds doing every day tasks a challenge and he's in a lot of pain. As the German's start bombing London Susan and her grandfather spend most night's in a shelter they built in the backyard. In the morning they wake up to see fires burning in London, the damage the Luftwaffe has done to buildings and witness the terrible loss of life. The War Office contacts them requesting Bertie to attend a meeting as they have a plan using pigeons to carry military information between England and France. The idea is to drop hundreds of pigeons into France as part of undercover mission called Columbia, they need as many pigeons as they can get from breeders all over England and join the National Pigeon Service. Susan attends the meeting as it's too hard for her grandfather to travel due to his aging knees. Buxton Maine, Ollie Evans is living with his parents on a potato farm and he also helps them by flying a plane as a crop duster. His parents die in a tragic accident and the bank forecloses on the family farm. Ollie has no choice he leaves the farm with the idea of somehow getting to England and joining the RAF. Once he arrives in England he is traveling on a train where he notices a young lady being harassed by an English officer. He saves Susan Shepherd from the unwanted advances from Clyde Boar and before he knows it he's in trouble with the military police. Ollie is released but he is told that he must help the Shepherds for three months as a type of good behavior bond and then he hopes to join the RAF. Soon all the trained pigeons are to be loaded on to a truck, taken to the RAF base to be loaded onto planes and to be dropped in cages over France. But a mistake has been made and Susan's pet pigeon Duchess the one she hand raised has been taken as well and Ollie tries to find her in one of the cages in the cargo hold of a plane. Before he knows it the plane takes off in a hurry as the German's start bombing the air field , he and Duchess are soon on the way into enemy territory. Of course disaster strikes and the plane crashes, Ollie, Duchess and the planes pilot Clyde Boar all find themselves stranded in France. They eventually find help from a elderly French lady and they're drawn into the war and start helping the French resistance. Duchess provides a link to England and soon she is flying back and forth carrying important messages all written in a secret code to help win the war! Soon both Ollie and Clyde begin the journey to escape France, it's too dangerous for them to stay and they must try to return to England. Do they make it? Will they both survive the trip? What happens to Susan and Bertie waiting in England? The war eventually ends but the story doesn't and it only gets more interesting. The Long Flight Home is one of the most incredible, enthralling and beautiful books I have ever read. I loved it, I enjoyed reading every page, well done Alan Hlad and I gave your book five stars.
This book was fantastic! I really enjoyed the unique story line involving war pigeons and their prominent involvement in the WWII effort. I've read a lot of HF and it seems like authors are trying to write the next best version of "The Nightingale" by Kristin Hannah. I appreciate that this book didn't try to do that. It picked a small part of the war effort that made a big impact on the outcome of the war. This book was wonderful! it focused on homing pigeons - the unsung hero! It was so fun to learn about another aspect of the war and the cleverness involved in outsmarting Nazi intelligence. Also, the author's note was a wonderful touch! I enjoyed finding out how much of the story was based on facts! ** I received this book as an ARC through NetGalley and all opinions are my own.
Based on true events, The Long Flight Home by Alan Hlad is an historical fiction lover's delight! The focus on homing pigeons used during WWII is a fresh and fascinating subject. I also appreciated Hlad's depth of research into the London Blitz. This debut novel is very well written and I look forward to reading more from this author.
In a historical fiction market that is somewhat saturated with World War II novels, stories that I happen to love, THE LONG FLIGHT HOME stands out from the pack. Inspired by actual events, it tells the tale of homing pigeons employed during the war. It is both amazing and fascinating that these small creatures helped the Allies win the war. The story follows American Ollie as his desire to join the Royal Air Force takes an unusual turn and National Pigeon Service members Susan and her grandfather Bertie as they put everything on the line for the war effort. Taking place in Maine, England, and German occupied France, readers feel viscerally the effects of the war on everyday life. All of the loss, despair, and fear are on full display within these pages but so are the determination, courage, fortitude, and capability to love. Hlad’s words are often eloquent, other times raw, and make quality story telling. The characters are engaging and the plot compelling even though I was somewhat disappointed with the ending. I really enjoyed THE LONG FLIGHT HOME and recommend it to any historical fiction reader or World War II history buff. I gratefully received and ARC of this title from Kensington Publishers and voluntarily shared my thoughts here.
Lovers of historical fiction will not want to miss The Long Flight Home. I enjoyed this story so much that I finished it and then a day later, started it again. I also found it interesting to learn about the role the pigeons and trainers played during the war. This was a great book and I look forward to reading more from this author.
A wonderful book and very interesting. I found this story to be inspiring and well thought out. It is set in WWII times which in itself is a sad area of history. I found it was written tastefully and showed the dedication and lives put into the act of survival during this hard time. Susan raised pigeons with her grandfather and was involived in the information gathering using trained pigeons. She meets Ollie Evans while in service with intel gathering. He is a pilot from the USA that joins the war effort with the Royal Air Force. The story tells how they use the pigeons to help defeat the germans and also to stay in touch safely. The characters are well defined and the world building is very vivid. Really worth reading.
In Epping, England in September 1940, Susan Shepherd and her grandfather, Bertie are raising pigeons for The National Pigeon Service to be used in the war. A chance meeting on a train between Susan and Oliver Evans, a potato farmer from Maine, add a romantic element to the book. I really enjoyed the history in this book concerning the use of pigeons during the war. I had heard mention of it but never heard the details so this was very interesting to me. This is a very exciting book and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves World War II historical fiction. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC of this very interesting book in exchange for an honest review.
historical-novel, historical-places-events, historical-figures, historical-research, England, France, love, WW2, war-is-hell This is essentially a love story. Love for homeland and way of life, love for the pigeons that gave their lives in the war effort, love of family, love of men to fly airplanes, and the author's love of a historical footnote. It's also about man's inhumanity to man. But mostly about perseverance in the face of insurmountable odds. It is an excellent read. I requested and received a free ebook copy from Kensington Books.