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Reviewed by Tom Gauthier for Readers' Favorite
Moral Fibre is Helena P. Schrader's sequel to Lack of Moral Fibre about Flight Engineer Kit Moran, already a survivor of thirty-six missions, the last being a raid on Berlin that killed his best friend and skipper. He then refuses to fly on his thirty-seventh, facing the dire consequences of being posted LMF or Lacking in Moral Fibre. After a review, it was determined that he was not psychologically deficient and was given the chance to return to duty. Now, in Moral Fibre, we find that Flying Officer Kit Moran has earned his pilot's wings and the story deepens as he faces the challenges of advanced schooling and command. The fact that, while still a flight engineer, he had refused to fly does not help. Neither does it help that he is in love with his dead friend's fiancée, Georgina, who is kind and friendly toward him, but not prepared to become romantically involved again.
The story moves from the high drama of aerial combat, complicated assignments to dangerous missions, and evolving professional relationships, to the equally high drama of falling in love, family entanglements, and a mysterious family history. We follow the wartime lives and experiences – and growth – of both Kit and Georgina as they inexorably merge. The action is constant, the tension palpable, and the outcomes never predictable.
As I began to write this review I was awestruck by the credentials and the work of Helena P. Schrader, who as I've written before, is a true master at delving into complex psychological dilemmas and emerging with a tantalizing, completely comprehensible tale of human frailty and strengths that blend into a unique experience for her readers. Moral Fibre is brilliantly crafted in its delicate treatment of an evolving relationship, based first on tragedy for both Kit and Georgina, and then on the complexities of relationships within their individual careers, one military and regimented, the other becoming a teacher, and the clashes with staid tradition and prejudices. How they each evolve is the meat of Schrader's magic. The relationship and romance scenarios are poignant and human, contrasted with the battle scenes and flying sequences which are accurate and detailed.
Wartime fighting, technically and psychologically, has been meticulously researched and presented. The unique British flight regimens of World War Two, its technical elements of aircraft and armament, and its dangers and personal challenges are brilliantly recorded and molded into an edge-of-the-seat tale. As a reviewer, I was more than normally drawn to this work. First, as a writer myself of military scenario historical fiction, but then more closely because I am a Veteran of the US Air Force, a flight crewman from a bygone era of radial engines and open hatches with the scratchy intercoms and the smell of exhaust and sweat. Also a private pilot and active in a worldwide organization that preserves and flies warbirds from the era Helena P. Schrader records. You see why I am totally invested in her elegant work with Moral Fibre and thankful to be able to say here that my recommendations come no higher than the highest I know how to offer.
Allow me to close with Schrader's own words:
"Riding the icy, moonlit sky they took the war to Hitler. Their chances of survival were less than fifty percent. Their average age was 21. This is the story of just one Lancaster skipper, his crew, and the woman he loved. It is intended as a tribute to them all."