Book Review: Of Windmills and War by Diane Moody (Four Stars)

Book Review: Of Windmills and War by Diane Moody

Four Stars

“Moms are supposed to worry.”

A freshman historical novel. Moody focuses on the exploits of American Army Air Force B-17 bomber crews in World War II. Done partly to commend the experiences of her father and his wartime comrades. And does it well. But she doesn’t just dump the reader into the story at Pearl Harbor. She fashions a touching tale of how a boy in Chicago and a girl in Utrecht (Netherlands) become pen pals. How his brother is at Pearl Harbor. And how the Dutch Resistance battled the Nazi invaders.

“War was necessary … but that sure didn’t make it palatable.”

Historical fiction is a demanding genre, especially when set in an era as recent as World War II. Moody’s aviation and resistance threads ring true and much of her cultural context is sound, but miscues jerk the reader out of the spell of the story. (See quibbles)

“And tomorrow we’ll do it again.”

One area that sets Moody’s story apart is the realistic inner voice of her principal characters. She also introduces a family with generational mental health issues, which heightens the emotional connection.

“If we don’t, who will?”

The Holocaust. The Dutch resistance came into being in part to save their Jewish neighbors from German exportation and genocide, though they could not have known specifics of Auschwitz and the gas chambers detailed here.

“I don’t believe in coincidences.”

Issues of faith. Moody deals with religion in a period appropriate manner. Characters thank God, curse God, don’t see that God can have anything to do with their circumstances. Some folks turn to religion under stress; others turn away. All well presented.

“Whatever it takes.”

Quibbles. There are many but not as damaging to the story as it may seem. Foremost, everyone knows too much, too soon, too clearly. In wartime—especially in the 1940s—the disposition and intent of the enemy is often not known by opposing armies, let alone civilians. For example, the Dutch Resistance knows all about the Battle of the Bulge, including how it turns out, while it’s in progress. An SS officer too closely resembles fictional SS Col Hans Landa. Troops moved across America in 1938 by rail, not air. A 1939 phone call from Guam, though possible, would have been prohibitively expensive for a sailor, not to mention multiples: “each time he called.” German is too similar for someone to get away with calling them “swine” in Dutch. If I’m feverish, a hand on my forehead feels cool, not warm. “… himself a human canon falling …” Two errors in one phrase.

“Love will find a way.”

Overall, a welcome tale. No, I’d never heard about the Operations Manna and Chowhound. Excellent.

“The pigs will fly.”