Author: Helena P. Schrader
Although many of the characters portrayed in Helena Schrader’s Chasing the Wind are fictional, the facts of her story are based on actual events that occurred during the Battle of Britain in 1940 between Britain’s Royal Air Force and German’s Luftwaffe. As a result, Schrader has made an important contribution to our understanding of the mind-sets and skills of the British and German pilots during these harrowing battles.
As Schrader mentions in her Foreword and Acknowledgements, her deep interest in the subject matter prodded her into reading everything she could get her hands on concerning the Battle of Britain and this is quite in evidence as she describes the various encounters from the surrender of France until September 1940. I was quite surprised to learn when reading an historical note provided by Schrader that to this day most Germans have never heard of the Battle of Britain, and, if they have, they attribute no major significance to it.
The narrative flows chronologically sticking for the most part to the actual historical events with the exception that squadron 606 and 579 mentioned in the novel never existed as well as the characters depicted in these two squadrons. However, in using fictional characters, Schrader has succeeded to plumb some details of the Battle of Britain while applying emotional color and context to the lives of the British and German pilots at the time. Moreover, as she switches back and forth between the British and German camps, Schrader effectively humanizes events and characters and provides us with insights into the psyches of the various pilots on both sides as they suffered combat fatigue.
We read about the daring and perhaps brash British pilot Robert “Robin” Pristman and his counterpart the Luftwaffe’s Baron (Christian) v. Feldburg both portraying similar personality flaws and who are sometimes at odds with their superiors. Both sides had their inexperienced, dense and less heroic pilots that were often the butt of ridicule and were not quite sure why they were involved in this war in the first place. As for the British and German women participants, here again Schrader skillfully depicts their emotional developments and hard-won courage, as well as their romantic liaisons and disappointments.
The descriptions of the various aerial conflicts over the skies of England in the summer and autumn of 1940 are well painted and quite chilling- readers can’t help feeling that they are actually flying a British Spitfire or a German Messerschmitt as the Luftwaffe used pretty much all the forces at its disposal to destroy the British air force.
However, Chasing the Wind is not without flaws. The sheer number of scenes and characters are so overwhelming that I found it difficult at times to keep tab of what is going on. In two words, this novel is over-written. Although most of the novel’s characters are interesting, the large cast means they are often sketchy and undeveloped. This problem could have been solved if the novel was reduced by at least two hundred pages and more of an overall focus and development of the principal characters.
In the end I do have to admit that although the read was quite challenging and it may not be for every reader, you will come away with a great deal of knowledge about this important event in British as well as world history that was the first major battle fought entirely by air forces. Had Britain lost who knows what would have been the outcome of World War II and the world as we know it today?
The above review was contributed by: NORM GOLDMAN: Retired Title Attorney: Editor & Publisher of Bookpleasures. Here are Norm Goldman's Reviews
To read Norm's Interview With Dr.Helena Schrader CLICK HERE