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October 6, 2015

Just Read || Fair Stood the Wind for France by HE Bates

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Fair Stood the Wind for France is one of those unexpected gems that everyone simply must read. I am not a fan of war novels in general, but while this one is set in the war, it is a very personal tale about humanity, love, and faith.

Telling the bittersweet story of a young man and woman during World War II, it is filled with evocative, beautiful imagery and amazing insight.

Franklin, a British air force pilot, lands in occupied France after engine malfunction. He and his crew make their way across the French countryside in the hopes of finding someone who will help them eat, hide and escape. They find Francoise and her family, who are more than willing to offer them sanctuary and help them escape the country, feeling it is their small contribution to the war against Germany.

Franklin was badly injured when the aircraft crash-landed and in the rush of the moment and the confusion of the future, he is stunned at the calmness and faith of Francoise, who makes him feel that all his life had been leading to these moments with her.

The pair decide to escape France together, making their way to Spain along sunlit waterways and rugged pathways. Franklin meets up with one of his crew mates, who had left him long ago, in Marseilles and O'Connor gives him and Francoise a gift that changes their lives.

Bates' writing truly is beautiful, evoking the emotions of certain moments and burning some sights in your memory. It is filled with descriptions such as this:

Then there was another level crossing, and he saw a peasant and a boy with a brown horse and cart, waiting for the train to cross through. Sitting in the cart, the boy had his coat collar turned up, and Franklin could see the mane of the horse tossed suddenly upwards in a wild fringe by the wind.

From cover to cover, his enthralling writing is gripping and intuitive, and you won't want to put the book down.

Bates has amazing insight into the emotions of his characters and doesn't shy away from making criticisms about war itself, describing a belief in weapons as 'pathetic' in comparison to the real power of those innocents affected by the war. He tempers the sad reality of such tragedies with generous helpings of the power of love and friendship. Franklin is, and we are, forced to think about everything from faith and fear to patriotism, comradeship, love for our homelands, and sacrifice.

I was left in tears when I finished Fair Stood the Wind for France, aching at the honesty of it and reeling at the terror that wars have still not ended for many.