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REVIEW: _When The Wind Blows_

Jon Spencer (reviewer) — July 1983

By Raymond Briggs. Penguin Books $3.95

James and Hilda Bloggs are two innocents affected by a situation beyond their control, even beyond their understanding. They find themselves in the midst of a nuclear war. They are well-intentioned, ordinary people trying to do what they believe is correct, but, like many of us, their attitudes and beliefs are relics from a pre-nuclear age remnants of wars gone by.

The Bloggs believe that by using modern scientific methods they can weather the storm. They prepare for several days before the bomb, and we find ourselves hoping foe a happy ending. But, because they don’t fully understand the nuclear bomb, they systematically do every single thing they are not supposed to do. Because the Bloggs live in the countryside, they are not killed in the blast. Yet they never really understand nuclear fallout, and the last few pages of the book prove the old cliché the survivors will envy the dead.

The naiveté of the characters is genuine, but it also reflects the naiveté of government leaders who speak of “winnable nuclear wars” and believe that there is security in nuclear parity.

James Bloggs is concerned about the international situation, and he tries to inform himself about nuclear war In doing so, he becomes a firm believer in the official rhetoric proudly reciting the litany of deterrence, even after the bomb has left its trail of destruction. He is proud of the scientists who developed such an effective killing device and is certain, in the beginning that the “good guys” will prevail over the Russkies.

Although When the Wind Blows is in comic-strip format, it is anything but a children’s book. To the contrary — the pictures provide a subtlety of expression that contributes to the impact of the story.

Wind has been described as a black comedy, hut this is not entirely accurate. The book is amusing, but the reader doesn’t laugh at the comic remarks; the humour simply gives the book char-character. Books with this personal a focus can easily slip into melodrama, a trap carefully avoided here.

Herein lies the real success of Wind; its message is powerful, but its delivery is anything but heavy-handed. This is a hook that should be on everybody’s reading list. Buy several copies, and give some to your friends. It takes less than art hour to read, but allow some time after reading to think, to cry, and to call your M.P.