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Those Who Fall

Narrated by: Robertson Dean
Length: 10 hrs and 53 mins
5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

As a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber pilot, John Muirhead led missions into northern Italy, Germany, and Bulgaria during World War II. Ultimately, he was shot down and taken prisoner.

John Muirhead's re-creation of those years is a breathtaking mingling of ravaging horrors and silent, surreal images; of raw, tumultuous memory and elegantly paced narrative; of lightening humor and measured reflection.

Seldom has a listener been made to feel terror so viscerally. Rarely has a listener ascended the skies so thrillingly. And never has one felt so close to the numbing fear, the boredom, the eerie beauty, and the dislocated sensibilities of war in the air as in Those Who Fall.

©2017 Blackstone Audio, Inc. (P)2017 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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Profile Image for Gillian
  • Gillian
  • 29-01-2018

Only R. Dean Mars Sheer Perfection

Those Who Fall is an elegantly written memoir of fear, determination, friendship, courage, and the will to live. At its best, it's pure poetry.
Alas, I have to admit it: I'm not a big fan of Robertson Dean, and it's tragic that he's the narrator of so many fine books, all of which he fails to elevate or to deliver on in the manner which they deserve. Here, while he does a good job of dialogue (even tho' he's no master of accents), the narrative itself is delivered without much cadence, nearing a monotone most of the time.
Which is tragic because John Muirhead writes of the beauty of a child's voice, the desperation of a widow's loneliness, the unwillingness to get attached to the fate of the man beside you because that would make their ultimate and oh so likely death unbearable. He writes of the fear to run that next mission, the one that could be your last. He recounts riveting action of bombing runs on oil facilities, of airbursts of fire and shrapnel. He tells of trying to take care of the utterly shell shocked, of trying to find food and life within the confines of POW camps.
He writes of the misery of torture.
Those Who Fall has it all, and while Dean is less than sublime, he still can't turn this into a just-okay book.
It's brilliant! Not since Guy Sajer's The Forgotten Soldier have I truly felt war, boredom, horror, hope, so much.
By the way. It does seem to end too soon, but that's only because you'll want to know more of Muirhead's story. You will indeed care that much...

6 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Wayne 1
  • 12-12-2017

Incomplete ending

The story ended with the Russians at some distance from the camp - no idea what happened next. I'm sure their arrival and the prisoners trip after could have been interesting. No luck.
Seemed odd to stop there.

6 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • 14-04-2019

One of the Great Pilot Memoirs

I have read many pilot memoirs from World War II. This is one of the best. Muirhead was a B-17 pilot (having previously flown B-24s) based in Foggia. He was clearly an excellent pilot.

Most of the book is about Muirhead's life as a pilot, recounting not only the missions (sometimes milk runs and sometimes full of terror) along with the tedium of life on a somewhat isolated military base. His detailed character profiles of his compatriots are outstanding. His willingness to recall and reveal his raw emotions--including his efforts to isolate himself at some points--make the book. The book almost lets one vicariously experience what it was like to be there.

The rest of the book is about the experience of Muirhead and his crew after they are shot down. Muirhead and most of the men bailed out, but were quickly captured in Bulgaria. Muirhead recounts their experiences in captivity in great detail.

This book is written with more than a touch of poetry. It is what one might call lyrical at many points. Some may find this a bit off-putting, but I think it does a good job of conveying the raw emotion of being at war--when losing friends is a regular occurrence and when one never knows what moment may be his last.

Robertson Dean's narration is excellent. Dean may not be the right narrator for every book (and he seems to get more opportunities than most), but he is a good fit for this one.

There is one thing that bothers me a little about the book: It just ends. It ends on a fine note, but there is no epilogue about what happened to Muirhead or the others.

I have been able to find a little about Muirhead on the Internet, but there does not seem to be a lot out there. He wrote this book around 1987, over 40 years after the war and when he was approaching 70. He had what appears to have been a successful career as an engineer. He married Jean, who is referred to in the book, and they had at least one child. But there seems to be very little out there about this very interesting man. I wish I could find more.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 18-12-2018

Not what I expected

If I had known what this book was I doubt I would have chosen it. A LOT of cursing and foul language. The book was more the inner thoughts of the pilot, philosophical in many ways. As that kind of book it is well done. But I was expecting more about the actual missions and history, not so much of the pilots thoughts. It was interesting in parts and dragged in others.

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  • Alan Higgins
  • 25-09-2018

Great story, but too flowery prose

This was great story of one man’s experience flying B17’s with the 15th Air Force. It gave a good view of daily life, the mundane existence between missions and the terror experienced during those missions. It also describes life in a Bulgarian POW camp. The story was engaging and I looked forward to listening to it.

The only negative comment, I’d offer is that at times the author would lapse into very flowery descriptions and imagery—like he was trying to emulate the classic authors he quotes throw out the work. It just seems odd given the subject matter.

The performance was good and unobtrusive. Overall, I would recommend the “listen” to anyone trying to understand what life was like for WWII heavy bombers crew. My father served as the top turret gunnery on a B24 flying out of England, was shot down and was interned in a German POW camp until the end of the war. Listening to this book, helped me recall stories he told me as a kid.

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  • Jeff C
  • 11-09-2018

One of the best accounts of a WW2 bomber crewmen

Loved this ebook! The narrator was awesome and the story portrayed of a B17 pilot in Italy was excellent. Not just a pilot but a great author! Fantastic and highly recommend this one!

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • TigerMoon
  • 30-07-2018

Very real. An amazing first person account .

What is it like to fight, fly, fall and then be captured? All here, this book was amazing!

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  • Ralph H. Armstrong
  • 03-07-2018

the best war story I ever heard!

It was a war story like all the others, full of drama, pathos, Terror,l and courage . but it was told with a Polish which made it marvelously poetic. furthermore, it was read in an incomparable manner . I recommend this most highly.

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  • pharveye
  • 26-03-2018

Amazing book

This is an amazing story of life as a bomber pilot in world war 2! I am disappointed that this book is over, I want more! One of if not the best audiobook I've purchased!!!

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Kai-Feng
  • 05-01-2018

Best-Written WWII Air War Memoir

What did you love best about Those Who Fall?

Excellent writing and descriptive ability. Memorable characters. Phenomenal accounts of bombing raids over Germany in WWII, the best I have read. Insight into life behind the scenes on the ground at air bases. Interactions with local Italian population. Have remembered this powerful and moving narrative since the first time I read it 25+ years ago, astonished and delighted to see that anyone made the effort to present an audiobook version.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Narrator and perhaps his commanding officer.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

The performance was pedestrian, but the content is very strong.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The first account of a bombing raid over Germany was much more than war porn. The superb descriptions are evocative and tense.

Any additional comments?

Thrilled to see this available! No-brainer!

0 of 1 people found this review helpful