The sky over London was glorious, ochre and madder, as though a dozen tropic sums were simultaneously setting round the horizon; everywhere the searchlights clustered and hovered, then swept apart; here and there pitchy clouds drifted and billowed; now and then a huge flash momentarily froze the serene fireside glow. Everywhere the shells sparkled like Christmas baubles.
"Pure Turner," said Guy Crouchback, enthusiastically; he came fresh to these delights.
"John Martin, surely?" said Ian Kilbannock.
"No," said Guy firmly. He would not accept correction on matters of art from this former sporting-journalist. "Not Martin. The sky-line is too low. The scale is less than Babylonian."
They stood at the top of St James's Street. Half-way down Turtle's Club was burning briskly. From Piccadilly to the Palace the whole jumble of incongruous facades was caricatured by the blaze.
Where are we?
London during the Blitz, 1940.
After his awkward handling of basic training, an excursion in West Africa and his role in an accidental killing which ended Men at Arms, Guy resigns himself to a wartime career of administrative jobs and string-pulling for commissions. When he is eventually plunged into the real theatre of war during the surrender in Crete, he is forced to confront cowardice, betrayal and incompetence at the highest level.
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