Winds of War/War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk: A Review

This is a two-in-one review, since, really, Winds of War and War and Remembrance is really one overall story-arc.

The story begins in 1939. Winds of War, though only the first half of the saga of the Henry/Jastrow family, is a beautiful history, and excellent introduction into World War II. The Characters are sometimes frustrating. Many times, those that we should be sympathetic towards are one that we end up hating. Perhaps this was Wouk’s intent. Beginning with the Invasion of Poland, the story unfolds to give show America’s indifference in the early days only to their wheeling and dealing behind the scenes to assist with the Allies.

The battles the book covers are, of course, the invasion of Poland, the Battle of Britain, the breaking of the German-Soviet Pact, and the attack on Pearl Harbor. It also discusses Lend-Lease.

The sequel, War and Remembrance, opens with an Author’s Note that says that both books are intended to be read together, but that they can be read independently. Despite Wouk’s assurance to the contrary, there are so many things alluded to in the story from its predecessor that difficult to imagine reading this without having read the other.

As with Winds, the characters we are meant to feel sorry for are often ones we feel great anger towards. Many of their predicaments are of their own making. A real life example is the boy who is told to come straight home from school, but, instead, makes a detour. On his way, he is kidnapped, then murdered. It’s tragic, but it was a tragedy of his own making.

The battles this book covers are many. Here are but a few: Stalingrad, Midway, Tassafaronga, and Leyte Gulf. Most importantly, this book details the beginnings of the final solution in Oswiecim (Auschwitz) and the history of Theresienstadt. Whenever the characters refer to Auschwitz (the German name), it is always by the proper Polish name of Oswiecim (for a good history on the camp, I recommend this book).

There are times in these romances, for that is really what they are, that Wouk brings the readers into the minds of the characters through journal entries and letters. This helps to enforce the brutality of the story. Even more so when we keep in mind that there are people alive who still remember the conditions of which Wouk wrote about, both those who suffered under them, and those who committed the atrocities. These are important pieces of literature, and they must be read as a whole to be fully appreciated.

Winds: 5/5
Remembrance: 4/5
Total: 9/10


About MacJew

I am Husband to a beautiful woman, Father to two dogs and two cats. I am dovoutly Jewish. I love to read and write. I am trying to expand my horizons on film beyond the typical Hollywood garbage, so I have been watching foreign films lately. My plans for this blog are to talk about various things that are of interest to me, including Judaism, history, movies, books, et cetera. Anything that comes to mind, really.
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5 Responses to Winds of War/War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk: A Review

  1. drush76 says:

    [“As with Winds, the characters we are meant to feel sorry for are often ones we feel great anger towards. Many of their predicaments are of their own making. “]

    Are you referring to Natalie Jestrow Henry and Aaron Jastrow?

    • MacJew says:

      I am indeed. Aaron’s stubborn nature refused to allow any possibility that Germany would commit mass murder, even when presented with evidence. Natalie’s refusal to leave her uncle, even when she becomes pregnant, is beyond stupid.

      • Pierre says:

        I think that you’re missing the point of unconditional love for a family member , an elder who believe in the good of man , don’t forget that he did not know what we are all aware of at the moment . It is still like this in many country that are at war at the moment !!

  2. MacJew says:

    I did not miss the point. I had no problem accepting that particular detail. However, her unconditional love for her child should have trumped that. In fact, when she became pregnant, it was her duty as a mother to put all else aside. That child should have been first on her mind. Instead, it was her uncle.

    Even after promising her husband that she would come home within a certain time frame, she still makes excuses to stay. I can understand her unwillingness to leave with Byron once she was in France (she is, after all, thinking of Louis’s safety here), but the rest of the time she is just an idiot whose circumstances are of her own making. As I said, it’s a tragedy, but one she put herself into.

    • Stacy G. says:

      Exactly. I found it extremely difficult to sympathize or even like Natalie because of how many times she wasted opportunities to escape Italy. You could just barely understand her stubbornly going to visit obscure relatives in Poland before war broke out, but once she witnessed Warsaw being bombed, why would any sane person stay? She dithers, she strings along both Leslie Slote and Byron as long as she can (and isn’t near grateful enough for Slote refusing to identify her as a Jew when interrogated and instead she almost dooms their ENTIRE group by claiming she’s an Italian named “Mona Lisa”.) What a snarky moron.
      I’m a Jewish girl who was ashamed that somebody like Natalie Jastrow was praised over and over for being smart, clever, and capable when ALL of her actions belied that statement. Leslie Slote was actually a good man who unfairly thought of himself as a coward but nonetheless rose to the occasion when bravery was needed. I was very sorry to learn he didn’t survive the war but Little Miss I’m Not Leaving My Uncle Even Though It’s Asinine To Stay Here somehow manages to survive doing everything she can to walk into danger over and over again. It’s fine to have ‘flawed’ characters, but to pretend that Natalie was brilliant and wonderful was ridiculous. She was a hypocritical lover (oh, I’ll sleep with you Slote, but if you don’t marry me I won’t spread my legs for you anymore. Oh maybe I will marry you but Byron asked me too. I guess I might as well marry Byron since I slept with recently. He’s a brave man because bombs don’t scare him, and Slote is a coward because he was nervous even though he managed to perform his duties magnificently and saved my fat Jewish butt.) Marriage didn’t really improve her characterization anyway, she was a lousy mother who repeatedly put more value on her uncle’s dumb book projects than the life and well-being of her tiny son.

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