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22 November 2014

Pegasus to Paradise
Michael Tappenden
Hippocrene Books, Inc, New York
Publication Date
May 2014
family history, WW2

1944. In the early hours of the sixth of June, Ted Tappenden and an elite glider-borne force of the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry, successfully attack and capture the vital Horsa and Pegasus bridges in the first allied assault of D-Day. Ted returns from the war apparently unscathed and a hero. However, a strange England awaits him. It has been through too much, and so has he. As he tries to ease his way back into mundane suburban life with the sweetheart of his pre-war youth, he is silently haunted by the terrors of battle. Domestic life too is not without its threats… 

Florrie is relieved to have her Ted back where he belongs, but like many of her neighbours, she sees a distance in her husband where once there was joy and passion. Neither husband nor wife can explain their suffering to anyone, least of all each other, and they soon find themselves inhabiting different worlds under the same roof. 

Based on the true lives of Ted “Ham and Jam” Tappenden and his wife Florrie and spanning three generations of the Tappenden family, Pegasus to Paradise is an ode to both the extraordinary efforts of ordinary men and women during the Second World War and a moving portrait of trauma, survival and the power of love in post-war Britain. 

My review:  

I was particularly excited to read a book which is set mainly in my local area. There aren't that many around. Even though I was not born in Kent, I do feel very much settled here and couldn't image living anywhere else. 

This is the story of Ted and Florrie. They are young couple when World War II breaks out. 2 sons are born during the war years, and Ted is of of the lucky ones who does return. But he is not the same Ted. Still, lives goes on and the couple will have to cope. 

In the early chapters, the book tells us about Ted's war adventures. I am usually not one for war and battle descriptions but here, it is firstly necessary for the story, and I also found myself quickly getting into it and rooting for the boys. It does not get too technical and easy to read and understand what actually went on.  Ted returns, but after the initial euphoria he finds he now faces a different world, very different from the battlefield where he exactly knew what to do: 'Just kill the enemy and stay alive'. 

What I really enjoyed about this book is relationship of Ted and his wife Florrie. Both are very different persons, and Florrie is certainly a real character. In later chapters, Florrie and her passions in life take the centre stage. But Ted is always there. Typical of a man of his generation, he just gets on with it, even when it does get difficult and both are facing physical and psychological problems as they get older. It was a very moving read, and certainly made me think about how a couple copes when they get older, maybe if one if the partners is not any more as able as the other. 

I also enjoyed that Ted's mates from his war years a re-visited in later chapters during a veteran's meeting. 

This book was written by Ted's son as a memory to his dad. He certainly has the balance right between providing a very interesting story, personal details and wonderful memory for future generation. I think it was a very good decision from the author that he mainly sticks with Ted and Florrie's story only in this book (not too many details are given about other family members and friends  though we do follow a few neighbours and close friends through the book). Apart from an interesting and moving read, I would also recommend this book for someone who would like to write down their family history as an alternative to the usual 'autobiography and family story'. 

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