Present time is 2007 but the story begins in Halifax in 1943. Twenty-year-old Jack Borden has completed basic training as an RCAF pilot and is awaiting transport to England to fly Lancaster bombers and actively join the war effort. He is smitten by Shelagh Pearson of the RCAF Women's Division but is quickly dispatched overseas, leaving her behind awaiting her orders. Undaunted by his injudicious parting, she lands in Bournemouth, goes AWOL and tracks him down near Shrewsbury. A whirlwind wartime courtship ensues. The gaps between the Second World War and 2007 are filled and augmented via Jack's recollections, discovered letters saved from the war, and flashbacks to earlier events. Shelagh and Jack's daughters, Karen and Cassandra, are the cherished baby boom children of Jack's story. Throughout their lives together, Shelagh defines her own course. Shelagh is covertly involved in cold war undercover activities. That takes the family back to post-war Scotland and opens a controversial role reversal with Jack nurturing toddler Karen. Eventually her interest as a photographer returns them to Canada and Jack establishes himself as a journalist. By 2007, Jack’s health has declined and now, alone without Shelagh, symptoms resembling dementia, perhaps Alzheimer's, develop. Jack’s daughter Karen, a physician, is never convinced of that diagnosis. Jack’s grandson Jeremy has a very special relationship with him. Jeremy’s friendship with Roberto, unfolds rather quickly and both graduate students speculate on a cure. Roberto’s deception puts the relationship at risk and challenges his unscrupulous choice of covert injections of a highly purified substance in an attempt to cure Jack. Jack's dementia appears to ameliorate, and Karen, unaware of unethical experimentation, arranges to take him back to England to revisit World War II sites such as his former airfield at Wickenby. Lincoln Cathedral remains a bold foundational symbol that enfolds the plot.
Jack Borden had come to love the yellow Tiger Moth. Its forgiving nature in the air and low stall speed allowed a neophyte to acquire a sensitivity for flight without the awkwardness of fear or panic. He was initially disappointed when he arrived at Victoriaville, impatient to learn to fly that plane, only to find all the trainer aircraft had been fitted with cockpit canopies. His expectation, based on photographs he’d seen before enlisting, was to take off with an open cockpit, to emulate Billy Bishop and other Great War flying heroes. Those photographs, newsreels he’d seen in movie theatres, and books like George E. Rochester’s The Scarlet Squadron, provided his only knowledge of flight. He was soon thankful, however, when he realized how much protection this Canadian modification provided against the ravages of a Quebec winter.READ MORE
He loved the initial surge of power sitting with the canopy ajar, opening the fuel cock, switching the ignition and holding the throttle steady while the ground crew flipped the propeller until the engine caught with a full throaty roar. At first, he felt anxious that he was blocked from seeing directly ahead when he taxied – characteristic of this tail-dragging biplane. Once up in step, however, ready to take off, he could see everything he needed to. The plane’s susceptibility to cross-drafts was disconcerting. Of course, he’d never flown. Had never even been a passenger. He really didn’t know what to expect but wanted to fly so badly he was determined to get used to anything.COLLAPSE