Read Sagittarius Rising by Cecil Lewis Samuel Hynes Online


A memoir by a WWI fighter pilot, with the adventurous spirit of War Horse and the charm of The Little PrinceA singular, lyrical book, Sagittarius Rising is at once an exuberant memoir from the Lost Generation and a riveting tale of the early days of flight during World War I. Cecil Lewis lied his way into the British Army’s Royal Flying Corps at age sixteen and was orderedA memoir by a WWI fighter pilot, with the adventurous spirit of War Horse and the charm of The Little PrinceA singular, lyrical book, Sagittarius Rising is at once an exuberant memoir from the Lost Generation and a riveting tale of the early days of flight during World War I. Cecil Lewis lied his way into the British Army’s Royal Flying Corps at age sixteen and was ordered to a squadron on the Western Front only a year later. At the time, flying was so new that designers hadn’t even decided on basic mechanics such as how many wings a plane should have. Despite this, Lewis mastered virtually every kind of single-engine plane in the RFC, going on to excel in active duty and even to dogfight the Red Baron—and live to tell the tale. Full of infectious charm and written with the prose and pacing of a novel, Sagittarius Rising beautifully recounts Lewis’s harrowing exploits in the sky alongside his wild times of partying and chasing girls while on leave in London. His coming-of-age story is unlike any other WWI memoir you’ve read before.For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators....

Title : Sagittarius Rising
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780143107347
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 240 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Sagittarius Rising Reviews

  • Edward
    2019-01-06 17:50

    Introduction, by Samuel HynesPreface to the Second Edition, by Cecil Lewis--Sagittarius Rising

  • Elizabeth (Alaska)
    2019-01-09 21:54

    This wasn't what I expected, but it was pretty darn good anyway. I had anticipated a World War I account. It was, sort of. In 1915, at the age of 17, Cecil Lewis applied to become a wartime airplane pilot. He had never been in a plane, but, like many young men of the day, was fascinated with the machine. He was deemed fit to train, and then sent to the front with only 13 hours seat time a month shy of his 18th birthday.Flight was in it infancy - the Wright Brothers had flown their 200 yards at Kitty Hawk a mere 12 years earlier. Men were still learning and developing these wonders. Lewis became one of the more proficient pilots and describes the thrill of being alone above the clouds. He explained very well how the military began to learn the best ways of using this new tool - for photography (they had to change plates in the air!), for assisting gunners to home in on the enemy, bombing, home defense, and more.Lewis also threw in a bit of philosophy in his memoirs. One example:Nothing could live under that rain of splintering steel. A whole nation was behind it. The earth had been harnessed, the coal and ore mined, the flaming metal run; the workshops had shaped it with care and precision; our womenkind had made fuses, prepared deadly explosives; our engineers had designed machines to fire the product with a maximum of effect; and finally, here, all these vast credits of labour and capital were being blown to smithereens. It was the most effective way of destroying wealth that man had yet devised; but as a means of extermination (roughly one man for every hundred shells), it was primitive and inefficient.Some of the book is a bit technical - I had to double check with my husband the difference between the ailerons and the elevator, for instance, and googling for images of some of the planes was essential (what does a Morane Parasol look like?). There is also some beautiful prose, though I could have wished for more. My one complaint is that for the most part Lewis seemed too distant from his experiences, except when he was sharing his feelings of being alone in a plane.

  • William Battersby
    2018-12-21 18:53

    A wonderful book.This book captures many things. Ostensibly it is just the autobiography of the author from his schooldays until his mid twenties. But that period of his life coincided with the First World War, in which the author served as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps. It describes his thoughts and feelings, engaged in daily life-or-deeth fights up to four miles in the sky in aircraft which today would be condemned as deathtraps. Yet this is much, much more than a 'war story'. Lewis realised that he lived in, and survived, an extraordinary time and decsribes well his wonder and horror at war in the air only fifteen years after the Wright brothers had made their first flight. His sensitive nature enabled him to capture not just the action but also the emotional impact of it all. Although he lived to be over 100 and had a remarkable life, he knew that from the 11th November, 1918, nothing would ever match the intensity of these times. There is truly something for everyone here. While the pilot will empathise with Lewis's wonderful descriptions of landscapes and cloud-scapes, the military historial will value the originality of his story and the general reader the wondering sense of romance in his carefully crafted, albeit dated, narrative.A book which deserved to live for ever.

  • Michael
    2018-12-29 22:38

    A marvellous story. The author was at high school in England at the start of WW1. He had a strong desire to participate in the war and discovered that the Flying Corps would allow him to enrol at the age of 17 (a year younger than the army). He succeeded with his quest and was an outstanding pilot based mainly in France near the the Somme area which was the Western Front where millions of men died in atrocious conditions. He recounts his life from the time of joining the Flying Corps onwards and then through to the post-war period when he ended up in China endeavouring to train Chinese pilots to fly passenger aircraft. His descriptions of flying in that early period of air combat, his observations of trench warfare from above, the loss of fellow pilots to both accidents and mortal combat are all vivid and engrossing. Thoroughly enjoyable, informative and well constructed from start to finish.

  • Mark Speed
    2019-01-03 19:59

    I first came across this book when talking with a couple of WWI veterans (in their nineties, back in 1980). One of them was listening to the serialisation on Radio 4. Both were infantrymen in the First World War and had always thought the airmen had it easy. The one who had listened to the serialisation realised that their lives were in some ways worse.This book is the extraordinary story of a boy (he was 17) who learnt to fly and was in combat over France in 1915 until the end of the war. Under contract from Vickers, he went on to teach the Chinese how to fly.It's particularly poignant for me, as I had long conversations with those two WWI veterans (no combatants from that war are now alive), and one of my great uncles was in the RFC and then in the RAF. I never met him, but my parents have mementos - two old Sopwith Camel propellers made into a clock and a hatstand.

  • Benji Schama
    2019-01-06 16:48

    I always find it hard to objectively rate autobiographical war books; I just can't help feeling that people who took the bridge at Arnhem deserve better than for some guy sitting on his sofa 70 years later to say "it isn't really that readable, doesn't really flow". That said, "Sagittarius Rising" shines during the writer's description of air combat during World War I, both at the front and as well as training and home defense in the UK. Elsewhere the book meanders somewhat, especially after the war when the writer is sent to work as a pilot instructor in China. Despite this, the book is still a solid read, particularly for anyone interested in military history.

  • Daniel
    2019-01-06 20:03

    A beautifully written memoir of an English scout pilot in WWI. It was not exactly what I was expecting. I thought it would be full of dog-fights and daring, excitement lack of a better word, instead you get an account of the first real days of flight. The author is introspective and seems to have a very quiet mind, It all read as a rather distant memory and I never felt like the author was in the here and now, It was almost like a book of reminiscing. A very good well written memoir that if your interested in WWI aircraft and warfare you should definitely take a look.

  • Jim Kucheman
    2018-12-23 22:04

    Good but not greatLike others have noted the first section which deals with the war and combat is interesting and well done. The post war second part is more a poetically descriptive impression of 1920 Peking and has very little to do with flying. It's a bit of a slog but somewhat interesting too.

  • Deryk
    2019-01-01 22:56

    Great book with some great psychological questions but it does get a little boring towards the end

  • Bill Bowne
    2018-12-17 22:02

    Great, up until the last chapter...:-(

  • Jerry Mercer
    2019-01-02 16:52

    Great StoryVery Interesting and revealing story of air combat during WWI. It has the grit and emotion of a first person narrative, underscored by a youthful narrator.

  • Matthew Dambro
    2018-12-17 22:48

    Very lyrical account of flying in the RFC and in China in the early 1920s. It was written in 1936 and is almost a time capsule of English manners and customs.

  • Jack Hwang
    2019-01-16 23:40

    It has more reflection on war and youth, less memory of the years of war. This should be expected since it's a memoir 20 years later without the helps of diaries nor letters.

  • T.O. Munro
    2019-01-06 16:06

    I had read quite a lot of books about air warfare in the first world war and seen references to Cecil Lewis quoted on various occasions. I had also been brought up on the Biggles' stories of Captain WE Johns. However, it was only recently that I settled down to read Cecil Lewis's original autobiographical account of his hectic youth. He is a gifted story teller and a poet and this necessarily hurried review cannot do justice to the scope of the man's experience or the quality of his writing.Obviously he survived the war and lived a long and varied career having been born just before the turn of one century and dying only a couple of years short of the turn of the next century. It is as if he lived so long and so productively to fill all the hopes and aspirations and promise of the many friends he lost, with whom they joked of death and yet when it came calling - by the kind of luck that must favour someone - it always passed Lewis by.For all that long life, this is an account of a few short years from his first impulse to join up to his last flight of a Vickers Vimy in 1921 in China. The edition I have is a later one and the man himself wrote a second forward nearly 50 years after the books first publication and almost 70 years after the events it described. It is to the man's credit that in his mid eighties he had the clearsight still to see that his near contemporaneous words should stand unadulterated or edited for future generations. Lewis is a gifted writer and I have dog eared so many pages where a thought or expression caught my eye - the perils of being a physical rather than an electronic copy. Lewis's reproach for the determination to pugnaciously do something about something extrapolated from the war itself into the post war years, rang a note of truth for me in our current troubled times. " obsession to take the next objective whether you wanted it or not, whether you were any better when you got there or not, whether you had any idea of where to go next or not. It gave men the illusion that they were getting somewhere, doing something, when, in reality, they were floundering deeper and deeper into chaos." His comment on the expensive and ultimately futile artillery bombardment before the Somme Offensive. "It was the most effective way of destroying wealth that man had yet devised; but as a means of extermination (roughly one man for every hundred shells) it was primitive and inefficient."His descriptions are vivid such as when flying over the ruined landscape of no-man's land."Every five yards held a crater. The earth had no longer its smooth familiar face. It was diseased, pocked, rancid, stinking of death in the morning sun."Although wikipedia lists Lewis as an official Ace with 8 confirmed victories, Lewis is as discreet about his combat successes as he is about his romantic liaisons in the necessarily less straitlaced conventions of wartime. There is no bloodcurdling description of the impact of bullet on plane or pilot. Nor is any woman in his life named or shamed. The mistress of a french officer with whom he had a brief dalliance, long enough that he missed the transport back to the aerodrome, remains anonymous, their intimacy alluded to with a gentility appropriate to the interwar years in which he wrote. Other women caught his attention, some who drove him to the only real loss of control in his flying career when he blundered about over night-time London in search of the Gotha bomber that might be about to unload its bombs on someone never named but about whom he cared dearly - a woman who filled his off duty weekends in the immediate aftermath of the war and about whose identity he leaves no clue beyond that she was an intimate of Ivor Novello. The final part of the book describes his two fruitless years in china trying to train pilots and set up the logistics of their first mail. The language barriers were considerable both in instructing others and in setting up house. Lewis gives a captivating portrayal of a different culture on the csp of disappearance, and it is not without humour. The tonal nature of Chinese language is at the heart of many misunderstandings when the same sound with a different tone has a completely different meaning, and a servant asked to fetch a chair instead brings a bar of soap.I also found a strong sympathy for Lewis's view that "life and death were figments of the mind. As long as I remembered Christ, Bach or Borgia they lived. Their influence for good or evil, was not dead till the last man had forgotten them."In that spirit, please read this book if the time is of any interest to you, that Cecil Lewis should - in being remembered - live on like the great spirit he was.

  • S.P. Moss
    2018-12-21 22:05

    What a glorious book! It captures, in wonderful words, the thrill and exuberance, beauty and transcendence (above this 'feverish age') associated with flight. It recounts the author's experiences and feelings as a 17/18-year-old pilot in the 1st World War (when pilots lasted on average 3 weeks), written some 20 years after the events described.There are poetic descriptions to make you sigh( 'slowly the aerodrome rose up through the gauzy swathes of mist spun by the invisible hands of twilight'), political ideas to make you cheer out loud, philosophical musings to make you wonder deep into the night and a super insight into the everyday life of British society one hundred years ago. I thought it particularly sweet that the author lapses into third person when describing his amorous encounters!And just when you think it's all tailing off, you're swept up onto a slow boat to China and travel writing that could have come from Patrick Leigh Fermor - another extraordinary writer and adventurer of the same generation.'Live gloriously, generously, dangerously. Safety last.' What an attitude to life!

  • Joanne
    2018-12-16 20:59

    Sagittarius Rising is a wonderful memoir of a pilot's experiences in WW1. Cecil Lewis writes with candour, humanity and planeloads of enthusiasm. This is a view of 'the war to end all wars' from a different perspective - a long way up. He started off in 1915 with exactly 14 hours flying time, and went on to survive the rest of the war at the front, where the average survival rate for pilots was two weeks. It's a great read - all the more so when you realise at the end, that he was only 17 when he started his war service. His enthusiasm for flying is infectious, but at the same time, he understood his was a more privileged way to court death, compared to the Tommies dying beneath the guns in the muddy trenches below. He believed they were much braver than himself. This book was published on 1936, when the memories were still fresh. He went on to be a co-founder of the BBC, a writer and amongst many other things, won an Oscar for his screenplay of Pygmalion in 1938.It's a thoughtful read, to compare with present times, values and attitudes.

  • M.
    2018-12-25 16:39

    Cecil Lewis first came to my attention when I read Captain Ball by Alex Devaney. His words The most self-confident aces began to wonder when their turn would come… Faced by the empty chairs of men you had laughed and joked with at lunch. And, miraculously, you were still there. Until tomorrow…quoted there, just touched me, and my curiosity about him led me to this book. It has been on my To Read list ever since. Now I finally got to it, it was fantastic.Cecil Lewis lived in dangerous times and penned his memories of them (some 20 years later) in a wonderful way. He didn’t seem to make himself look anything other than what he really was. At least, I didn’t get the feeling he was trying to show himself as a hero. Yes, he spoke of his feats. But he as easily told of his mistakes and errors, even making fun of himself on their account. Quite a character, he seemed to be. And a great read this book was. Wish I’d known the man himself.

  • Tom Burkhalter
    2019-01-16 00:08

    I found this book because of an article Richard Bach wrote titled "The Pleasure of Their Company." The company Bach referred to in his article is composed of authors who wrote aviation books he enjoyed. Cecil Lewis' book is among them. Lewis learned to fly in the early days of World War One, in the days when simply leaving the ground in one of those frightful old kites was an act of courage. He puts his new and hard-won skill in the service of his country, flying with the RFC over what we now think of as "Flanders Fields" or the "Western Front." He describes that service in unsparing style and that wonderful understated English wit.This book is valuable either as entertainment or as history. A good read.Here is a link to an interview with Cecil Lewis done by the BBC in the early 1960s:

  • gary schade
    2018-12-28 23:43

    Written with the Authority of Actual Participation.Cecil can write. Remarkably Cecil has skills that most 'authors' can only dream of having. A very pleasant change. I picked up this book because I had read elsewhere that Cecil Lewis had flown in combat the entire length and breadth of the First World War. Remarkable. When the average life of a pilot was measured in days or weeks this man flew throughout the war. Written in the language, (with the associated spelling), of the day I found it both enjoyable and educational. Well worth your time. Clean your Google's, put on your leather flying helmet, get cozy in your wingback overstuffed chair and prepare to enter, if just for a few hours, a world our father's father's knew dangerously .......

  • Relstuart
    2018-12-20 16:45

    Autobiography of a WWI British pilot. He tends to wax poetical and when he describes flying it makes you long to take flight and soar through the clouds free of everything. Some good history about the war from the flying perspective. He lived thru some thick action and once returned from a long weekend away to find most of his fellow airmen killed. He was one of the lucky few who survived. He joined at 17 and I think served for four years. He spends a little bit of time after the main of the book talking about the time he spent in China after the war trying to help them learn to fly. He describes the way non-Chinese society segregated themselves and often looked down on the Chinese. He found it difficult to teach them, in a large part due to the language barrier.

  • Matt
    2019-01-06 22:42

    This book was extraordinarily hard to put down. Lewis' writing style was simple and interesting which left this reader wishing he knew Lewis who was more than a fighter pilot but a co founder of the BBC. He is seemingly open and at times says to the reader that the book was his best recollection. When I opened the book I was expecting a rehash of every combat flight but what was received was an insight to the time from one person's point of view. It was refreshing to read a book that embraces the entire experience not just one aspect. This book should be in the libraries of anyone who wants to understand the experience of WWI.

  • William Bibliomane
    2018-12-28 18:54

    Unlike any other book that I've ever read about the Great War, Cecil Lewis' memories of being a pilot in the RFC between 1916-18 is by turns witty, terrible, and poetic. The perspective of the pilots who took often dangerously experimental aircraft into the skies scarcely a decade after the invention of powered flight is remarkable, as was their bravery and complete and utter disregard for personal safety. Lewis' travels after the war, going to China to instruct a fledgling service of commercial air pilots, is a strange coda to this book, but ultimately it fitted neatly in closing the chapter of Lewis' life in which he was a pilot. Recommended.Full review to follow.

  • Barrett
    2018-12-23 16:38

    Very nice autobiographical book about an early RFC flyer in World War I. Lots of good detail as Lewis progresses through the war, heads back to England, spends time with friends and engages the enemy. Nothing hugely surprising, but nice to read an encounter from someone who was there at the time.After the war, Lewis spent time under contract to Vickers and helped train pilots in China. This is detailed in the back 20% of the book and is as engaging as the fighting in the first part of the book.Good stuff if you enjoy reading about the Great War.

  • Manda
    2018-12-24 16:56

    Not the usual sort of thing I pick up, but I'm glad I did because I really loved the writing, it captured very well the excitement of the young boys going off to war without ever really glorifying that war, indeed, Cecil Lewis seems to regret the necessity of war deeply. His cultural observations in China also made for good reading, without the snobbery (which he found distasteful) of his contemporary tourists.

  • Trav
    2018-12-22 20:58

    A great personal account of the air war during WWI. Having experienced the war in a variety of different role, Lewis provides a different perspective to the academic accounts I've read to date. The main points he hits on are: the different perspective of the battlefield offered by air power, the personal bonds formed between airmen, and the author's belief in the chivalry of early air power. Lewis does go into more personal aspects, but overall a good read.

  • Ian
    2018-12-20 20:40

    All in all a remarkable story. Lewis' accounts of the Royal Flying Corp's "offensive patrols" in hopelessly outdated, under-powered and under-gunned planes around the time of "Bloody April" makes you wonder how any of them survived. It's worth remembering when reading this story that Lewis was 17 when he joined the RFC (he lied about his age to get in). The book was subsequently the inspiration for the movie Aces High (1976).

  • David
    2018-12-29 21:02

    A Classic!In "Sagittarius Rising," Cecil Lewis has created a vivid account of his four years at war as a pilot in WWI!Lewis began his adventure at the age of 17 and continued after war as a pilot in China. Although anti-climactic to the main story, it is here in the final part of his story--where he takes his last flight--that the author waxes most poetically about life, love and adventure. Highly recommended

  • Gavin Dobson
    2018-12-19 19:56

    A classic of the First World War. Lewis was a spotter for the British artillery barrage preceding the Battle of the Somme. Amazing descriptions of his little plane being buffetted in the slipstream of Howitzer shells. A highly accomplished man, after the war he co founded an institution called the British Broadcasting Corporation. "One of the great problems of war is that it's so bloody exciting." There you have it.

  • Sean Chick
    2019-01-08 21:54

    A rambling poetic memoir, more a collection of memories and thoughts. Its greatest point is a lack of arrogance; Lewis knows his memory is faulty. Only trouble is some of the remembrances and anecdotes are downright boring. Probably the best description of flying I have ever read, a breath of fresh air in our age where flight is treated as commonplace, mechanical, and sometimes even dreary.

  • Riff Denbow
    2019-01-01 16:41

    A truly beautifully written book, insightful and mature. By far the best WWI memoir I have yet read; most tend to be rather dry and poorly written (very infrequently can laymen write well), are perversely nihilistic and insufferably anti-war and often cowardly, or absurdly pompous and war-loving. This book is nothing like this, it is balanced and a work of great prose.