Books: Back on the Front Line

In Charlotte Gray, Sebastian Faulks returns to war-torn France, only this time it's World War II

In six pages of spare description at the outset of the somewhat old-fashioned romantic adventure Charlotte Gray (Random House; 399 pages; $24.95), novelist Sebastian Faulks makes a promise that somewhat old-fashioned readers expect and understand. The brief opening scene takes a Spitfire pilot over Nazi-occupied France on a lone mission and brings him back to his British home field, his fragile plane's tail controls damaged by antiaircraft fire. He makes a ragged landing and climbs out of the cockpit, shaking. A mechanic asks, "How was it, Greg?" He answers, "It was cold."

The promise made and understood here is, of course,...

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