In The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, Herman Wouk weaves together three major story lines: a historical account of the events leading up to World War II, and an account of the war itself; a detailed account of the devastating Nazi campaign to eradicate the Jews in Europe; and the personal story of Victor “Pug” Henry and his family. Wouk adds to the complexity of the novels’ structures by including Pug’s translation and commentaries of World Empire Lost and World Holocaust, books adapted from an account of the war written by the German general Armin von Roon.
Although the war is primarily portrayed through experiences and opinions of Americans, and although Pug’s commentaries often point out von Roon’s errors of judgment, the inclusion of this fictitious account by the fictional von Roon gives the novels a certain balance of viewpoint, which adds to their realism and gives the reader a sense of actually being privy to the German conduct of the war. Wouk also manages to depict the interaction of the historical characters in the novels with the fictional characters in such a way that the fictional characters appear as real as the historical characters. The novels become real accounts of the war only on a deeper, more personal level than is found in a work of history.
Wouk’s portrayal of the battles in the Pacific and the conflict with the Japanese is more technically oriented than the account of the European conflict. His depiction of the submarines, battleships, and aircraft in battle, and the interaction among the various commanders and officers, shows his meticulous research and attention to detail.
It is in his portrayal of the concentration camps and the transport of the Jews that Wouk’s talent is most notable. From Aaron Jastrow’s and Natalie Jastrow Henry’s first attempts and failures to leave Italy, he creates a sense of foreboding and inevitable disaster, yet he always maintains a sense of hope. Slowly, Aaron and Natalie become more and more entangled in the plight of being...
(The entire section is 850 words.)