When the Wind Blows

by Raymond Briggs

Paperback, 1988



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Penguin Books (1988), Paperback, 48 pages

User reviews

LibraryThing member iftyzaidi
Written in 1982 as the Cold War was once again reaching fever pitch, this is an affecting story of an elderly couple living out in the countryside when nuclear war breaks out. The couple reassures itself that they will be able to survive just as they did during the blitz in World War 2 and that the 'authorities' will look after them. All they have to do is follow the instructions on governmental pamphlets about how to prepare for and survive a nuclear war. The naivete and faith in their government and their 'scientific' advice is both touching and heart-breaking. As Joe Bloggs, keeps remarking when trying to follow the sometimes nonsensical instructions, "Ours is not to reason why..." but he doesn't recall what line came next in the poem. The story follows the two as they struggle to retain a semblance of normality in their lives after the bomb, even as they slowly succumb to the effects of fallout.

This is a dark tale, where the humour and warmth of the central characters is eclipsed by the events in the world around them. One can't help but respond with anger at the powers-that-be that so readily exploited such innocence and good will to bring the world so close to nuclear holocaust during the Cold War. An outstanding short graphic novel.
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LibraryThing member kristenn
Inspired by a few recent raves in talk threads here, I ordered this from the library. Had never heard of it.

The Day After gave me nightmares in junior high and the Berlin Wall came down during college, so this story was a chilly blast from the past. It's an equally vivid portrait of the British character of a certain era.

Although surprisingly short (40 pages), the story is quite dense with many small panels and takes longer to read than expected, although still just one sitting.

Suspense is built by the reader knowing far more about what will happen than the characters do. They're not a particularly bright couple, and the husband is a little too prone to malapropisms, like a less cranky Crankshaft. That gimmick gets old. The interjected 'Meanwhile...' splash pages are also more distracting than distressing. But especially in the second half of the book, there is some genuine tension, with so many grim possibilities looming.

After reading, I handed this off to someone younger, who neither remembers the Cold War nor has read/watched anything about it (or much of anything post-apocalyptic) and also has little knowledge of British culture, slang, etc. He set it aside halfway through as just too unfamiliar to follow. But I think it's still accessible to many.

Separate from the plot, it was interesting to observe that although the husband's retirement-based leisure is cheerily remarked upon more than once, the wife is always performing some sort of household chore. Not sure whether that was an additional dig by the author though.
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LibraryThing member chrisblocker
When the Wind Blows was much different than I expected it would be. It's much lighter in content and has an almost juvenile appearance, neither things I expected for a graphic novel about survivors of an atomic bomb. Of course, what I hadn't realized before starting this short tale is that Raymond Briggs was an author of children's books (The Snowman anyone?) and that this book was published in 1982, way before the advent of the modern graphic novel.

The focus of this story is entirely on an elderly couple in the days leading up to, and after, a nuclear attack. Sounds heartbreaking, doesn't it? But both husband and wife are a bit daft, so their attempts to outlast the bomb and its effects are absurd. Despite the ridiculousness of their attempts, there is a sweet innocence about this couple that provides the necessary blow to the reader. As husband and wife grow splotchy and begin to fall apart, the haunting reality that this is not funny sets in.

This is a simple story that has some chilling effects. It's not an exceptional story for its plot, language, or even illustrations, but it does strip away any bravado one might have for nuclear warfare.
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LibraryThing member nbmars
When the Wind Blows is a 1982 graphic novel depicting a nuclear attack on Britain by the USSR from the point of view of a benighted retired couple, Jim and Hilda Bloggs. Although some reviewers have complained that it is dated because the Cold War is over, I think one can easily imagine the same scenario with a different set of combatants. That must be the case, because I found it very frightening to read!

The pictures (up to 30 panels a page) are mesmerizing and the text is at turns humorous, poignant, and horrifying. I don’t think it spoils it to tell you that in the end, the couple dies of radiation poisoning. The story and the graphics are memorable whether you know what ultimately is to happen or not. This cautionary tale is similar to, but actually scarier than the dystopic books by Susan Beth Pfeffer. I highly recommend it for all those out there who are in dread of an apocalypse; Briggs has captured one brilliantly.
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LibraryThing member librarybrandy
The creator of The Snowman brings us this short graphic novel account of a retired British couple preparing for the apocalypse. Jim has picked up a brochure from the public library on how best to build and stock a shelter, and immediately sets about doing so. His wife is either long-suffering or equally dim; I'm pretty sure it's the latter. Anyway, Jim paints over the windows and builds a makeshift shelter using the doors, as per the library brochure, and together he and his wife stock food in their little shelter, too (after a brief panic that the brochure says to stock peanut butter and they don't have any, because neither of them likes it). Suddenly there's a war on, and Jim's preparations pay off.

Somehow this straddles a line between goofy and sad--you roll your eyes at Jim and Hilda, at their sweet dottiness, but your heart breaks for them when things go down the way they do.

Not something I'd hand to the average teen, but older, more sophisticated readers will appreciate this story, particularly if they grew up with The Snowman. Readalikes: Z for Zachariah (O'Brien) or Barefoot Gen for the aftermath of nuclear war, Gentleman Jim (Briggs) for an earlier story with these characters.
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LibraryThing member John5918
A classic anti-war tale in comic form. It ridicules (and rightly so) the instructions given by the UK government on what to do in case of a nuclear attack. The ending is very poignant, as the dying characters wait obediently for "the authorities" to come and rescue them.
LibraryThing member sometimeunderwater
Harrowing and beautiful. Won't lie, shed a wee tear.
LibraryThing member eclecticdodo
I picked this up on our weekly trip to the library, it immediately caught my attention on a display at the entrance, although another patron did try to warn me off that it is too depressing. I can't believe I've never heard of it before. In graphic novel form, with artwork very similar to that of his most famous children's book The Snowman, we follow a couple as they make preparations and live through the early days of nuclear war. It takes the mickey out of contradictory and completely pointless advice that was given around the time of publication (1982). It is rather bleak, but I like bleak. I don't suppose nuclear war is much less likely these days than it was 30 years ago, more so perhaps. Happy thoughts....… (more)
LibraryThing member theboylatham
Seven out of ten.
When The Wind Blows is a singularly unrelenting satire on the true worth of civil defence in any genuine nuclear holocaust. The two protagonists, naive and trusting 'ordinary' people, follow the instructions to the letter, as though it were the Battle of Britain once again, and die slowly in horror and bewilderment.… (more)
LibraryThing member mrgan
One of the best comics I've read. Perfect in every way.
LibraryThing member BellaJean
Always like Raymond Briggs works but this one gave me nightmares for year's
LibraryThing member dutchmarbel
Beautifully drawn, great story of how a simple middle aged British couple tries to survive a nucleair attack. Very touching.

Original publication date



0140094199 / 9780140094190

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