A Dream Review, A Tribute to Pegasus Falling and the Life of William Thomas
September 14, 2012
Mike Harris fondly recalls his grandfather, William Thomas, the author of Pegasus Falling. William is now 87. Harris says, “As a teenager, he served as a paratrooper during the dying days of WWII and later in a peace-keeping role in Palestine – an experience which he has used to great effect writing his novel. After a career as an engineer and Merchant Seaman, he started writing the book on his retirement twenty years ago.
Shortly after completing the manuscript, his health started to deteriorate rapidly and he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. First his short-term memory started to fail him, then he lost the ability to read and write. Now he struggles to recognise even the closest of family members and he is now cared for in a home in Milton Keynes in the UK. I first read the book as a teenager and thoroughly enjoyed it then. When I picked it up again a few years ago, it hadn’t lost any of its magic and I knew it was a fantastic story that just had to be told. Because William’s health was deteriorating so rapidly, I decided to take the self-publishing route in order to get the book out there as quickly as possible.”
This is Mike’s review, with love, of his grandfather’s novel, selected as a Top 5 Finalist for Best Indie Book of 2012 in the literary fiction category. The contest is sponsored by Jeff Bennington and the Kindle Book Review.
Mike said: “I’ve decided to do the review for Pegasus Falling a little different to the others. I’m not the author, so I’ve written from my own point of view as a reader. These genuinely are my own thoughts on William’s book.“
Arnhem, 1944. Captain Stanley Adam Malcolm Parker – Sammy to his friends – and his platoon have fought bravely, but it was always a losing battle. The bridge was unwinnable. After he and his men are forced into cattle trucks and transported across Germany on a three day journey without food or water, Sammy lashes out at an SS officer with brutal and devastating consequences…for him and his German opponent.
Instead of spending the rest of his war as a POW, Sammy is sent to a concentration camp.
Spared an immediate death, Sammy discovers firsthand the full horror of the final solution. Amongst the desperation and destitution of the camp, he encounters Naomi, a Jewish housewife from Dresden. Having seen her family murdered, Naomi has learned to survive by making the most unimaginable of sacrifices. She is the woman who Sammy comes to depend on to survive himself.
But when the camp is finally liberated, the couple are separated and Sammy embarks on a journey across a continent devastated by war and wracked by ongoing tensions to find out what happened to the woman he loves.
There are some books, which will stay with you forever, and Pegasus Falling is one of those which I will find hard to forget. When I first read the Cypress Branches trilogy (of which Pegasus Falling is the first part) I instantly fell in love with it. It is a novel, which has stayed with me for many, many reasons.
This is a wonderful achievement by a man who obviously knows his craft extremely well, all the more astounding for being his first, and sadly his last, work. All at once, it manages to be an indictment of war, a lesson in Middle-East politics and history, a comedy, a tragedy … but at its heart it is a beautiful and emotional love story.
Within the pages of this one book, we witness a famous World War Two battle, the horrors of a concentration camp and the politically and emotionally charged post-war period in Palestine. These are huge subjects in themselves and could easily have proved too weighty for one book. But somehow Thomas manages to keep the novel well and truly centered on his characters, using the big settings to drive and shape the narrative perfectly. This is a book about ordinary people who find themselves, through design or fate, caught up in some of the world’s most devastating events. They are powerless to change the course of history, and yet they try, desperately and often in vain, to do good.
It is the characters who make this book a triumph. They are incredibly rich and it is a joy to get to know them. That’s not to say that all of them are easily likeable. Sammy, our protagonist, is not your average soldier. Sure enough, he demonstrates the bravado and violence, which is routinely drilled in to paratroopers as part of their training and he also shows an inability to suffer fools gladly, whether they are fighting with him or against him. This stark and brutal side of his nature makes us wary of him at first. However, through his relationships with Naomi and Lesley we get to know another, gentler side to Sammy Parker, a side which allows him to show compassion and love even in the darkest hours of his life. The brutal warrior has a heart and I am sure that many readers will follow Naomi and Lesley’s lead and find themselves falling in love with him, despite their initial misgivings.
Despite the bleak background to the novel, there is, perhaps surprisingly, no shortage of humour. Thomas manages to imbue his characters with the ability to find a joke in every situation. From absurd situations obviously drawn from his own experiences in the parachute regiment (the scene in which Sammy has to mediate a dispute between an errant Private and the regiment’s doctor who wants him disciplined for “occasioning a self-inflicted injury” on a night out in Beirut is hilarious), to brilliant plays on words and silly throw aways, this is a book which will have you in tears in more ways than one.
There are no heroes and villains in this book, no winners or losers. The war in Europe may have been declared over in May of 1945, but in Thomas’s eyes the cessation of violence didn’t mean the end of the suffering, and it certainly didn’t usher in the new era of peace that many have painted the post war period as being.
Pegasus Falling is a truly epic novel that has a little bit of everything. It is a beautiful love story, which will have you laughing and crying in equal measure and thoroughly deserves to grace the best sellers lists soon. It will also make you yearn for more. Thankfully, there are two more installments of the trilogy to come, and I for one cannot wait to get stuck in to the next one.
To purchase a copy of the novel, click here: Pegasus Falling.