The Long Flight Home

THE LONG FLIGHT HOME


Set among the London Blitz of World War II, when British Services enlisted the aid of over 200,000 homing pigeons to carry messages across enemy lines, The Long Flight Home is a bittersweet tale of courage, soulmates and sacrifice. It’s the story of an almost-love affair between two people brought together, and then driven apart by war: Susan, a young woman who trains homing pigeons in England and believes that her extraordinary birds can help save Britain; and Ollie, a crop-duster from Maine, who disregards US neutrality and travels to Britain in a quest to join the Royal Air Force.

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Set among the London Blitz of World War II, when British Services enlisted the aid of over 200,000 homing pigeons to carry messages across enemy lines, The Long Flight Home is a bittersweet tale of courage, soulmates and sacrifice. It’s the story of an almost-love affair between two people brought together, and then driven apart by war: Susan, a young woman who trains homing pigeons in England and believes that her extraordinary birds can help save Britain; and Ollie, a crop-duster from Maine, who disregards US neutrality and travels to Britain in a quest to join the Royal Air Force.

It is also a story based on true historical events; inspired by a news report in 2012, when a man renovating an old house in Surrey, England discovered the remains of a homing pigeon along with a tiny capsule containing a vital coded message—one that has yet to be deciphered by code breakers around the world even today. With compassionate insight, beautiful detail and meticulous research, Alan Hlad illuminates mostly-forgotten corners of WWII history, conjuring an inspiring and deeply moving wartime experience in which hope is the thing with feathers.

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  • Kensington Publishing Corp.
  • Hardcover
  • June 2019
  • 304 Pages
  • 9781496721679

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$26.00

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About Alan Hlad

Alan HladAlan Hlad writes historical fiction based in meticulous and fascinating research. His work has appeared in The Bleeding Lion, Larks Fiction Magazine, The National Underwriter and Claims Magazine, and The Long Flight Home is his debut novel. He lives in Ohio with his wife and children.

Author Website

Discussion Questions

1. Before reading The Long Flight Home, what did you know about homing pigeons used in World War II? Can you name additional animals that have served in times of war? What were the views on animal rights during World War II? After reading this book, do you feel the same about pigeons?

2. What are Susan’s fears during the Blitz. Why does she believe her pigeons can help save Britain? What did you learn about the German bombing offensive against Britain in 1940 and 1941?

3. What are Ollie’s motivations to disregard US neutrality and attempt to join the Royal Air Force? If Ollie’s parents had not been killed in a car accident, do you think he would have embarked on a quest to join the fight? How does his encounter with an air vice marshal for the Royal Canadian Air Force, as well as being robbed in a train station, influence his decision to defer college and travel to Britain?

4. Describe Susan. What kind of woman is she? When Susan attends the Source Columba meeting in London, she is the only woman in the group. Describe Susan’s courage, compared to other members of the National Pigeon Service, to confront a senior military officer on the mission’s errors. What is meant by her affirmation, be an egg? Describe her relationship with her grandfather, Bertie. What role does Bertie play in shaping Susan’s values and beliefs?

5. While working to prepare pigeons for the mission, Susan and Ollie fall in love. What brings them together? Why does their relationship develop so quickly? At what point do you think Susan realized she loved Ollie? How is the war, particularly the nightly Luftwaffe bombings, a catalyst for their affection? What are Susan and Ollie’s hopes and dreams?

6. Duchess is Susan’s loyal and devoted pet. What characteristics make her unique? Although Duchess is not trained to fly back and forth, she delivers messages between Susan and Ollie. Why do you think she’s able to make the flights over the English Channel?

7. Describe Lieutenant Clyde Boar. Why does Boar dislike Ollie? Does he have any redeeming qualities? When Boar intercepts Duchess, carrying Susan’s message to Ollie, he’s in a rage from learning that he’s lost an eye and will never fly again. If Boar would have known the tragic outcome of deceiving Ollie and Susan, do you think he would have acted differently?

8. What are the major themes of The Long Flight Home?

9. Why do many readers enjoy historical fiction, in particular novels set in World War II? To what degree do you think Hlad took creative liberties with this story?

10. How do you envision what happens after the end of the book? What do you think Susan and Ollie’s lives will be like?