Title: The Last Sunrise
Author: Robert Ryan
Publication Year: 2006
Genre: Historical Fiction/WW2
1948: INDO-CHINA: Lee Crane is an American pilot flying transport planes across South-East Asia for the highest bidder. He'll fly anywhere, carry anything, if the money is right. But his experiences during World War Two still haunt him, and when he meets a woman from the past, memories of a time when his innocence was shattered threaten to ground him.
1941: BURMA: Crane is a young and carefree pilot flying fighter planes for the notorious Flying Tigers against the Japanese. He's one of the best pilots in the air. But when he falls for the charms of a beautiful Anglo-Indian girl, she has a devastating effect on him. As the war ignites across the region, Crane is separated from her, and, caught up in a world of death and corruption, he desperately needs to return to find his lover, no matter what the cost.
My two cents: I was surprised by this novel. It is no doubt that the writer had put a lot of efforts and extensive research in writing it. The Last Sunrise follows the story of Lee Crane, a young pilot in American Volunteer Group (AVG). Posted in Burma for training, he met Kitten Mahindra, an Anglo-Indian woman who took him as her lover. But tragedy struck and they were separated. The book then follows Lee for the next few years as he tried to survive the life as a pilot and to find Kitten.
The book opens in 1948 Singapore where our hero was preparing himself to leave South East Asia. A blast from the past stopped him and he was caught in a scheme he wanted no part in. I won't tell much, but let's just say...it's an Italian job during WW2, with planes and Himalayan ranges. The author managed to write a beautiful novel with vivid description of China-Burma-India as seen from the air and during the WW2. The story is told interchangeably between the present (1948 in this book) and the past (1941-1944). The present is told in first person's POV (Lee Crane) while the past is told in third person's POV.
For me, this novel works at every level. I can feel the longing and the pain in Lee when he lost Kitten, whom he thought he loved. And the air combat scenes were beautifully written. I could feel the tension and the suspense reading 'em. Also, I have to say that I'm very pleased that the author included a few Malay words in the novel. I might be bias since I'm a Malay but it's apparent from the setting that our hero would pick up a few local words. It felt so surreal, reading about Singapore in 1948 and a few references made to Malaya since I never really wanted to imagine how they must had been like back then.
All in all, the book pleases me. It was a smooth read. Throughout the novel, I couldn't help but wonder what does the title refer to. I found out the answer at the end of the novel. It left me wanting more of Lee Crane and his adventures, as well as what could have been. I could certainly feel the desperation the war brought. I formed a quick opinion on Elsa, as a woman who was clouded by her greed. But, there are always two sides to a story. At the end of the novel, I didn't really know what to think of her, just like Lee couldn't form a concrete opinion on her. I was, however, hoping the author included more of Lee and Kitten's times together. Anyway, it's still a beautiful read. And now I can't wait to get my hands on 'Dying Day', which picked up a certain story from where it left in this novel.
Note: I read the acknowledgment section and was surprised to find out that the backgrounds of most characters are influenced by real persons who fought the war.
My verdict: 4/5