by Raymond Briggs
Not a direct sequel, but stars the same characters as Gentleman Jim
It’s the early to mid-1980s, and retiree Jim Bloggs has just heard that a nuclear strike is imminent. He begins to prepare his little country home for the attack, following handy government flyers to build an Inner Core Refuge (bomb shelter) and paint the windows of his cottage white (to block the heat of the explosion). From our modern hindsight, his preparations seem quite silly – but these procedures were taken from the advice of real leaflets printed up in England. As he hustles and bustles, his wife Hilda watches and complains that he’s scuffing the doors, getting paint on her curtains, and generally ruining her lovely home. She expects that if a war is coming, it’ll be just like WWII, and all these extra precautions are just ridiculous. How will this slightly dim but delightful couple fare when the bomb drops?
It’s a little strange to read this book today, now that the Cold War is over. The threat of nuclear war is still around, of course, but it isn’t nearly as prominent as it would have been when this story was written in the 1980s. The Bloggs’ fear of the Russians places the book firmly into the past and dates the material, but it does nothing to reduce the poignancy of the tale. Jim’s utter faith in his government is touching. Every problem, from the lack of a morning newspaper to the loss of power, water and gas, is interpreted as a deliberate choice on the government’s part to protect the people. This self-deception is aided by Jim and Hilda’s complete ignorance of radiation and its effects on those exposed to it.
Jim and Hilda are just two completely ordinary people, trying to get by. Their relationship – loving but also full of endless nagging and bickering, as people married for many years are wont to do – fills the book with gentle humor. That said, this is not a funny graphic novel. Indeed, by the end the story is quite bleak. When the Wind Blows is a biting criticism of the government’s ability to do anything for its people in the event of a nuclear attack, written with a heartfelt story that will haunt you long after you finish reading it.
(Some of the tips and rules from a US governmental pamphlet can be see here, if you’re curious.)
5 out of 5 stars
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