Cover Image: Breaking Point

Breaking Point

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Member Reviews

Breaking Point: Read this book if you even slightly like historical. It tells stories of women making great success, tales of true dazzling proportions. 5-Star read; recommended.
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From the moment he’s introduced, I like Johnnie. He’s kind, considerate, knows how to interact with people – unlike some of the upper class prats in his life – and can easily apply maths to every aspect of flying including how much actual time he has to shoot at German planes and how long it will take to line up to do it again. He cares – though he’d probably try to deny it – that the newbie pilots have as much chance of surviving as they can get and finds himself bonding with the new Wing Commander who is an absolute gem of a character. Seriously Pound is a delight every time he appears on the page and I could see the twinkle in his eye. Johnnie also cares for Eleanor and knows that when she’s thinking hard, she bites her lip – but only on the right. 

Eleanor Rand is fabulous and if this book is ever turned into a movie, British actresses would battle to play her. Unlike books in which a heroine is described physically down to her knickers, we learn little about what Eleanor looks like but an immense amount about how smart she is and – glory be – she’s allowed to be intelligent. Still better Eleanor has layers and depths. She does make some personal mistakes and it takes her a long time to finally admit what she feels for Johnnie (even though she knows that when he stares up at the ceiling, he’s concentrating) but darn it I loved seeing her unfold as a character and how she loves to lose herself in maths theories. 

The Battle of Britain comes alive and I found myself riveted to the air battles 339 Squadron engages in. The descriptions of the various planes, the way they flew, and the tactics each side used were perfectly clear. As Eleanor was telling another character why Hitler needed Kesselring to destroy the RAF before an invasion could begin, then later explained why the RAF only needed to not lose the battle in order to defeat the Luftwaffe, it all made sense. I also appreciated that the RAF pilots were allowed to feel responsibility for the death of their German opponents personally and that Shaux was there to help one newbie with the impact of his actions. 

A few things kept this from being an A read for me. Firstly I hated seeing Eleanor taken in by one particular upperclass rotter. Secondly, it’s about war and in war people die and I hated to lose a few of the characters that we did. Plus the scene in the Defiant at the end did strain my credulity just a bit. But what I do like more than makes up for these little niggles. I had a great time reading “Breaking Point” and look forward to the sequel.
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Johnnie Shaux likens himself to a snowflake: transitory, created and extinguished in the blink of an eye, leaving no trace of its existence. Orphaned as a baby, he grew up in an orphanage with no one to love him. He flies daily missions against the Luftwaffe expecting it might be his last. He has nothing to lose, nothing to look forward to. His death won’t matter.
Eleanor Rand’s mother expected her to find a suitable husband at Oxford and ridiculed her mathematical talent as useless and unladylike. Eleanor falls for aristocrat Rawley Fletcher’s advances, and he treats her disrespectfully, only interested in her for sex.
As the Battle of Britain rages in the summer of 1940, she applies mathematics to calculate competitive advantages for the RAF. Air Vice-Marshall Keith Park takes her seriously, as does Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding.
Being a mathematician would be helpful in understanding all the equations, but the lack of genius doesn’t detract from following the story. Rooting for Johnnie Shaux (pronounced Shaw) is easy. Despite his self-imposed isolation, he’s a natural leader, relaxing the new guys with jokes about eagle-eye Digby’s fantastic eyesight and molding underage Potter into a flight leader. He and Eleanor were friends at Oxford and their friendship finds a new footing during the dangerous days of the battle.
This story draws you in and won’t let go.
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Breaking Point by John Rhodes is sure to please fans of WWII aerial fights, war strategy, and applied mathematics. Meticulously researched, the book provides the reader with a thrilling look at the six days leading up to the Battle of Britain. The action is seen through the eyes of RAF fighter pilot Johnnie Shaux and WAAF mathematician Eleanor Rand, who sets out to “build a [mathematical] model of the air battle to try to determine non-losing strategies.” Breaking Point is impressive in its detailed descriptions of air battles and the bombing of London.
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