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01 February 2015

Herman Wouk: Winds of War

Compelling tale about the early years of WWII
Once again I have revisited this book and despite having read it before I was immediately totally absorbed by this history of the lead up to WWII from an American perspective through the eyes of an American family. This book and the sequel WAR AND REMEMBRANCE are IMHO about the best fictional histories of WWII - they are both epics in their own right. Both books took years to write and involved amazing research to ensure their authenticity.

Herman Wouk is a born storyteller who tells the leadup to America's entry into the war through the lives of a single fictional American family who are drawn into the very centre of almost every aspect of the war and the buildup to war, both in Europe and in the Pacific. Captain Victor Henry is an intelligent but not exceedingly charismatic, naval officer whose career as Naval Attache in Berlin brings him into close contact with President Roosevelt as well as many of the main players and leaders in the conflict including Hitler, Goering, Churchill and Stalin. He experiences the terrors of war in a British bomber over Germany, and at the front line with the Russians as the Germans approach Moscow. His personal objective is to get command of a battleship, but he only gets there at the time of Pearl Harbour when most battleships have been sunk.

Henry's family is also inextricably entwined with the maelstrom that is building up around them. Byron (who becomes a submariner) falls for and marries Natalie, an American Jewish girl who is trying to get her Jewish uncle out of Italy. Both of them get trapped in the German invasion of Poland and just escape with their lives. Warren is an aviator flying torpedo bombers from an aircraft carrier in the Pacific.

This is not a short book but it was so compelling that the 900 pages disappeared in record time. I cannot recommend it (and its successor) too highly as one of the most remarkable and authentic fictional books about WWII.

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