Whirlwind by James Clavell

James Clavell’s Whirlwind is a good novel, but there’s just too much of it.

map of area where Whirlwind takes place
You can’t read Whirlwind without a map to help you follow the action. 

Whirlwind is about employees of a British helicopter company operating in Iran in 1979. The Shah has left, and the country has descended into chaos. Pro-Khomeini Iranians are scrambling to grab all they can from the detested atheistic capitalists.

Pilot Scot Gavallan describes the company’s predicament this way:

Our Iran’s gone. Most of the fellows we’ve worked with over the years have fled, are in hiding, dead—or against us if they like it or not.

The S-G employees come up with a plan to get themselves and as many of their aircraft as possible out of Iran before the fleet is nationalized.

Their plan, code-named Whirlwind, will be very dangerous, but staying is also dangerous.

Though Clavell is a fine writer, Whirlwind is simply too much story for one novel. Readers have to keep track of a dozen pilots, their wives or girlfriends, spies for several governments, and a host of minor characters.

Besides that, there are not many novel readers around today who watched the Iranian revolution unfold on NBC Nightly News and acquired the background to appreciate Clavell’s story.

scarf caught on a raised machine gun

Whirlwind by James Clavell
W. Morrow, 1986. 1147 p.
1986 bestseller #3; my grade: B+

© 2019 Linda G. Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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