Hughes studied for the Master’s in Creative Writing at Oxford University, has published poetry, and this story is all the things the publisher claims in the blurb. Plus it is beautifully written, presented in good clear font and reading the words is easy. It isn’t even terribly long at 171 pages.
But I am a trifle perplexed. Now I’m finished, I don’t quite know what I’ve read. It is two entwined stories, but I don’t mind that, even though they are fifty years apart in time and the stories are told in scraps and patches, as are so many of the products of creative writing schools.
But I do mind not being immediately able to tell which protagonist I am following. I also mind that the central question, which persuaded me to pick up the book, was never answered. What did happen to the missing airman? Was he ever there? Did he live on? Was he the odd figure on the skyline at the end of the book? What did the police reports convey?
Perhaps it is all just too clever for me. I kept thinking I would get the hang of what it was all about if I read on, but apart from seeing that the protagonist’s quest for his father finally opened the doors he had kept so firmly closed all his life, I did not. Maybe one day I shall read it again and then all will become clear.