A Powerful & Engrossing Novel

  • Book: The Wind is not a River
  • Location: Alaska, The Aleutian Islands
  • Author: Brian Payton

Review Author: Anne Cater



On June 3, 1942 the Japanese Imperial Navy bombed Dutch Harbor in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. Four days later, an invasion force of nearly 2500 Japanese combat troops seized and held the islands of Attu and Kiska.
The war in the Aleutians was relatively small in the context of the global conflict, and yet some five hundred thousand people took part. Dozens of ships, hundreds of planes, and an estimated ten thousand lives were lost. Journalists were ordered out of the region, military censorship was tight, and most of the campaign was fought beyond view of the civilian press.

In The Wind Is Not a River, Brian Payton has made this forgotten part of the history of the Second World War central to his story. He has created two characters; John Easley and his wife Helen, and woven their fictional love story into these actual events. Whilst doing this, he has created a novel that is not only beautifully written, but is so atmospheric and with such a real sense of place that the bleak Alaskan islands feel as though they are just a touch away from the reader.

There is a sparseness to Payton’s writing that only adds to the depth of the words, he has created a story that engages from the first paragraph, transporting the reader through a journey that is often bleak, cruel and unfair. The characters are realistic, with flaws, sometimes erratic and often harsh, but they always have hope and steely determination.

As John battles to survive in the Alaskan wilderness, after being shot down whilst travelling undercover, his wife Helen is back in Seattle imagining what horrors may have befallen him. Helen is not prepared to accept that John is dead, she is determined to find out the truth. John meanwhile, is determined that he will not die, he will survive so that he can go home and tell the truth about the hidden war in Alaska. He is determined that he will avenge his brother’s death and he will see his beautiful wife again.

This is not just a story of survival, this is first and foremost a story of love, and of heartbreak. It is the love between John and Helen that spurs them on.

A powerful and engrossing novel that is elegantly written.

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Enter the 2021TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition!

A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

Judges include Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley

First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

Winning entry published on TripFiction site and publicised on Social Media

Entries close 6th November 2021