Tuesday, February 2, 2016

REVIEW of WAR AND REMEMBRANCE by HERMAN WOUK

WAR AND REMEMBRANCE
Herman Wouk
October 1978
Little, Brown & Company



SUMMARY
The multimillion-copy bestsellers that capture all the drama, romance, heroism, and tragedy of the Second World War -- and that constitute Wouk's crowning achievement -- are available for the first time in trade paperback.

REVIEW by Sara E. Dykes
Sara E. Dykes enjoys reading, writing, classic film, and any combination thereof. She is a Georgia licensed attorney with an LL.M. concentration in gender and health law. Sara currently resides in Dallas, Texas, where she works in the discovery side of the legal field.


These two classic works [War and Remembrance and The Winds of War] capture the tide of world events even as they unfold the compelling tale of a single American family drawn into the very center of the war's maelstrom.


Despite devouring The Winds of War, it took me a long time to finish War and Remembrance. I wanted to read it. I longed to read it. I stared at it every single day on my shelf, wishing I had the energy to continue. I tried to gorge myself on it in May of 2015, hoping to finish it in time to celebrate Mr. Wouk's 100th birthday. I failed. I made the mistake of reading some birthday tribute articles, one of which spoiled an upcoming plot line. I then found I could not pick up the novel knowing the fate of one of the characters, though I had guessed it myself from the first book. After this setback and a trying year of personal health issues, I was determined to honor Mr. Wouk by finishing War and Remembrance before year's end 2015. And so I did – New Year's Eve night.

War and Remembrance is the continuing story of the Henry family and their in-laws, the Jastrows, as they navigate the wartime waters of the Pacific, as well as the tides of Nazi-occupied Europe. The plot lines of The Winds of War are continued and thickened. While Mr. Wouk has often said that War and Remembrance is itself the true story and The Winds of War merely a prequel, it would be hard to deny that knowing the characters as well as if they were family assists this journey into the heart of the world's darkest hours. Despite that, the author's talent creates a story that one can absolutely follow without its pre-War companion.

When the tale begins, we find our beloved characters where we left them. All three Henry men are stationed in the Pacific. Pug commands one of the best ships of the Pacific fleet, at one point joining Admiral Halsey in his plight. Warren Henry enthusiastically hunts the enemy by air, joining thousands of flyboys who flew harrowing missions during the War. Always Warren's contrast, Byron, the once reluctant submariner, begins to enjoy the thrill of the underwater hunt as the war with Japan brings the seas to a boil. Despite that, he admittedly would rather be in Europe, hunting his missing wife, child, and well-respected uncle-in-law.

Yes, the Jastrows are still somewhere in Europe. We follow their flight for survival through underground networks utilizing filthy and dangerous transportation, close calls with officials, an all too brief reunion, and, unfortunately, into Nazi-established ghettos and concentration camps. As with any World War II novel, the horrifying and inexcusable treatment of the Jewish people is brought home, sometimes in excruciating detail. The worst part might be that (and she admits this herself) Natalie could have prevented all of this by staying in the U.S., but her love and devotion to her Uncle Aaron are too strong. Guilt and second-guessing plague all of the characters' minds, as I am sure it would in any survival situation. “What if?” But “What if?” will not save you in the Jewish ghettos, so Natalie and Aaron find ways to withstand the Nazi torment and take it one day at a time.

Overall, the novel is a tale of love and survival on many fronts. There are harrowing scrapes, profound heartbreaks, and – as with actual war – not everyone makes it out alive. In this particular novel, there are many casualties of war, including both relationships and beloved characters. Even those who survive will never be the same again; they, too, are victims of war.

When I finished this novel, I was heartbroken. I wept not only for the characters and the tragedy of war but, as always, because I had just finished a great work of art. Mr. Wouk's stunning words and artistry of story never cease to amaze me. I am truly grateful for his talent and that he chooses to share it with us. I meant to complete this review in time to serve as a 100th birthday tribute, a gift if you will. Obviously that did not happen. I will say this: Thank you, Mr. Wouk, for your gift of writing to us. 


Sara E. Dykes enjoys reading, writing, classic film, and any combination thereof. She is a Georgia licensed attorney with an LL.M. concentration in gender and health law. Sara currently resides in Dallas, Texas, where she works in the discovery side of the legal field.

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