I was drawn to this book by the intriguing and dramatic blurb, and the unusual and thought-provoking cover. I have been interested in African history ever since I decided to look at colonialism and independence in Nigeria as part of my undergraduate dissertation, but I am aware that despite my specific knowledge of Nigeria being quite detailed, my overall understanding is still quite poor. Therefore, I had high hopes that this book would be both compelling and educational.
Then a Wind Blew is set in the final months of the war in Rhodesia, before it became Zimbabwe, and the story unfolds through the voices of three women.
Susan Haig, a white settler, has lost one son in the war and seen her other son declared ‘unfit for duty’.
Nyanye Maseka has fled with her sister to a guerrilla camp in Mozambique, her home village destroyed, her mother missing.
Beth Lytton is a nun in a church mission in an African Reserve, watching her adopted country tear itself apart.
The three women have nothing in common. Yet the events of war conspire to draw them into each other’s lives in a way that none of them could have imagined. This absorbing and sensitive novel develops and intertwines their stories, showing us the ugliness of war for women caught up in it and reminding us that, in the end, we all depend on each other.
I think it is definitely accurate to describe this book as both compelling and educational.
The author has done an excellent job of giving this book an authentic and atmospheric feel in the way it describes the tensions and war in Rhodesia.
However, the unique structure and the character driven focus also ensure that this book is compelling. It is impossible not to feel sympathy for these people, who are shown to have the same priorities and desires as we would have today, but have had their country and life torn apart.
The writing is well-judged and powerful. There is some wonderful imagery, especially related to ‘wind’ and weather more generally, but there are also times when the stark simplicity of the words used remind us of the stark and haunting realities of war.
Overall, this has been a thought-provoking and memorable book which has both shocked and educated me in relation to the history of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe.