Close To The Wind
Non-fiction texts are hugely underrated in schools. We teachers are missing a huge opportunity to share a wealth of knowledge to our students by not regularly choosing non-fiction texts to teach to our students. So, let’s start with a wonderful piece of writing like Close to the Wind. This remarkable fictionalised story has excellent character development, authentic dialogue, and a darn good yarn about Kiwi ingenuity and self-belief. And it’s all based on true events.
David B. Hill (not to be confused with the YA fiction writer David Hill) recounts the events of Leonard Bruce Hill and his part in a little-known flotilla of New Zealand yachtsmen assisting in the wartime effort. It should be noted that reading the Afterword in the first instance would make a significant difference to the appreciation of the text and is recommended for those interested in reading this escape story from World War Two. The statistic that “of the forty-four people on board ML310, only 3 escaped.” really summarises the level of destruction and death than these men - and many other of our servicemen - faced through these atrocities.
New Zealand was an interesting place at the time of the second world war, tensions were high internationally, but also between Māori and Pākehā. Hill manages to include these tensions as part of the overall atmosphere is explored through the book. Concepts such as tikanga are woven into the situations that Len and his fellow sailors find themselves in on more than one occasion as they navigate the strength, capture and eventual escape from the Japanese in Singapore in 1942. As a Māori, Len gives an intimate and less-told account of life in the war - particularly the daring escape story such as features in Close to the Wind. His courage and his tenacity are stand outs within the group - although not wholly unexpected when told by his son.
The sailors have incredible skill as they both attack and rescue allies from land and sea in Singapore. Deft small vessel sailors through and through, they nimbly manipulate through all kinds of drama around them - many did not return. It is a testament to the yachtsmen of New Zealand and another chapter of Kiwi dominance with a can-do attitude in times of need.
Most enjoyable about this book - other than the incredible escape story - is the relationships that emerge between the men. As mentioned earlier, the Afterword gives a little more information here too as Tim and Johnny turns out to be David B. Hill’s godfathers and really adds to the whole experience of the reading.
This book covers a large range of genre including war, action and the capabilities of a group when working together. It was a very enjoyable read and highly recommended.
Title: Close To The Wind
Author: David B. Hill
ISBN: 9781775503491 (also available as an ebook)
Reviewer: Chris Reed, Head of Junior English, Macleans College, Auckland
How are you recommending this book? Highly recommended
Opening Sentence: It is little known that among those New Zealanders who sailed off to war in 1940 was a group of 244 ratings from the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (New Zealand Division), many of them only teenaged.
You can buy this book here