The Four Winds
by Kristin Hannah
Kristin Hannah’s new novels are eagerly awaited by her readers. With today’s publication of The Four Winds, I am sure that many will be purchasing her latest title.
Ms. Hannah has written books about WWII (Winter Garden and The Nightingale) and has established a solid reputation as an author of historical fiction. This time she turns her keen eye to the U.S. in the early to mid 20th century, a time of much pain in the country. The characters in this novel are horribly and deeply affected by what came to be known as the Dust Bowl, and by the Great Depression.
The book opens with a beautifully rendered scene of a small and prosperous Texas town. This depiction immediately draws readers into the world of the story. There are social classes within the town but life is good for its citizens. Of course, this changes as the 1920s turn to the 1930s.
The primary character in the novel is named Elsinore (I’m sure not by accident). She is also known as Els or Elsa. Elsa grew up as the ugly duckling in a family of swans. Sickly, lacking in self-esteem and dominated by her family, she finds escape in the world of books…and one night in the arms of Rafe, part of an Italian family that has a farm outside of town. Their meetings lead to their eventual marriage, one which seems to disappoint them both.
Elsa becomes quite close to Rafe’s parents, has two children and lives an orderly life. All of this changes when the droughts come. The depictions of what this calamity did to both the land and its people makes readers aware of the incredible tragedy and hardship that families faced. What happens to these characters and the impact of their decisions forms the basis of the novel.
Hannah’s readers will most likely think of their own difficulties during Covid as they read this title. This makes the timing of the book feel quite prescient.
Overall, I recommend this novel highly. I did at times feel frustrated, early in the book, by Elsa’s passivity and lack of confidence but the reader must remember that these traits go with how she was raised. Bear with her. Hannah’s fans and new readers will be glad that they do.
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this title. All opinions are my own.