Thursday 13 February 2014

The Wind Is Not a River by Brian Payton

A fight for survival.
April 1943. In the bloody turmoil of war, John Easley, a journalist mourning his lost brother, is driven to expose a hidden and growing conflict: the Japanese invasion and occupation of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. But when his plane is shot down he must either surrender or struggle to survive in a harsh wilderness.
A search for the truth.
Three thousand miles to the south, Helen Easley cannot accept her husband’s disappearance—an absence that exposes her sheltered, untested life. Desperate to find and be reunited with him, she sets out on a remarkable journey from the safety of her Seattle home to the war in the north.
A love story like no other.

The Wind Is Not a River by Brian Payton is published by Mantle (Pan Macmillan) on 13 February 2014.

On June 3, 1942 the Japanese Imperial Navy bombed Dutch Harbor in Alaska's Aleutian Islands. Four days later, an invasion force of nearly 2500 Japanese combat troops seized and held the islands of Attu and Kiska.
The war in the Aleutians was relatively small in the context of the global conflict, and yet some five hundred thousand people took part.  Dozens of ships, hundreds of planes, and an estimated ten thousand lives were lost.  Journalists were ordered out of the region, military censorship was tight, and most of the campaign was fought beyond view of the civilian press.

In The Wind Is Not a River, Brian Payton has made this forgotten part of the history of the Second World War central to his story.  He has created two characters; John Easley and his wife Helen, and woven their fictional love story into these actual events.   Whilst doing this, he has created a novel that is not only beautifully written, but is so atmospheric and with such a real sense of place that the bleak Alaskan islands feel as though they are just a touch away from the reader.

There is a sparseness to Payton's writing that only adds to the depth of the words, he has created a story that engages from the first paragraph, transporting the reader through a journey that is often bleak, cruel and unfair.   The characters are realistic, with flaws, sometimes erratic and often harsh, but they always have hope and steely determination.

As John battles to survive in the Alaskan wilderness, after being shot down whilst travelling undercover, his wife Helen is back in Seattle imagining what horrors may have befallen him.   Helen is not prepared to accept that John is dead, she is determined to find out the truth.  John meanwhile, is determined that he will not die, he will survive so that he can go home and tell the truth about the hidden war in Alaska.  He is determined that he will avenge his brother's death and he will see his beautiful wife again.

This is not just a story of survival, this is first and foremost a story of love, and of heartbreak.  It is the love between John and Helen that spurs them on.

A powerful and engrossing novel that is elegantly written.

My thanks to Sophie from Pan Macmillan who sent my copy for review.

Brian Payton has written for theNew York TimesLos Angeles TimesChicago Tribune, andBoston Globe. He lives with his wife in Vancouver, Canada.

More information can be found at his website  
Follow him on Twitter @bapayton

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