Customer Review

190 of 213 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loved it, but ..., September 17, 2012
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This review is from: Winter of the World (The Century Trilogy) (Kindle Edition)
Winter of the World is volume 2 of a saga covering all of the 20th century, focusing on four interrelated families: American, British, German and Russian. Follett has done a commendable job of juggling these characters using their personal stories to lead the reader (in this volume) through the major historical events of an era running from 1933 to 1949 (the rise of Nazism to the beginning of the Cold War).
His huge cast of characters is made up of plastic, credible humans, many of whom are capable of growing into the situations thrust upon them, and by situations that are sometimes almost too horrible for words - but are nonetheless borne out by history. Yes, these things actually happened!
Follett leads us through the burning of the Reichstag, the Spanish civil war, Hitler's annexation of Czechoslovakia and Poland, the Soviet-German non-aggression pact, Stalin's mistrust of his own espionage agents and the resulting disasters, the Battle of Britain, etc. and manages to make it all close and personal! Missing however (the reason I withheld the 5th star) are the heroic rescue effort at Dunkirk, the saturation bombings (fire bombings) of places like Guernica, Dresden and Hamburg and especially, the siege of Leningrad! I'm not sure how an 872 day siege with its tremendous loss of life and unimaginable heroism escaped the author's notice. Granted, none of his characters were there and putting them there might have been difficult. But, to leave it unmentioned?
Clearly, covering the history of that period is an enormous project, but the enormity is no excuse for skipping events that are key to the memories the various nations involved ... the carnage that was D-Day was also brushed over lightly.
Critique notwithstanding, the book was fast-paced, exciting, and really hard to put down! I'm looking forward to the 3rd volume, but first I intend to re-read this one.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 18, 2012 9:02:06 AM PDT
Ed Morgan says:
Thanks for the review -- it's clear you're a history buff. But would you say that the sweeping historical material, flawed as it is, eclipses the character development?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 14, 2012 10:01:01 AM PDT
Tessa's Mom says:
I agree. While I enjoyed the book tremendously I was really surprised that there was more about the Spanish Civil War than there was about D-Day. And, as you said, no Dunkirk, siege of Leningrad or, even more surprisingly, nearly nothing about the holocaust, other than it being mentioned in passing. I thought for sure one of the German characters would end up in a camp so we would have gotten that perspective as well. That said, it is still definitely worth reading.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 5, 2012 10:13:08 AM PST
I'm not really a history buff ... but I do prefer well-rounded proportions. In response to your question: no, the historical holes do not eclipse or impede character development, but in a novel of this scope, by an author of this standing, that is not an excuse.

Posted on Aug 22, 2013 8:53:43 AM PDT
Agree with you. D-Day was not commented at all. And it should not have changed the thrith about Russian achievements with their atomic bomb. The plot indicates a spy who was sentenced to death (Willi Frunze), who never existed, and in fact there's no proof that whatever information eventually passed to the russians helped them in any way. Ralph Rodrigues

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 17, 2013 6:52:48 AM PST
Shash says:
Love Ken Follett, but frankly the book has far too many characters...hard to keep them straight. When you have a chart of characters in the beginning of the book then you know there are too many.

Posted on Feb 18, 2014 11:33:56 PM PST
I loved the book, and, frankly, one of the things I enjoyed most about it was the fact that it brought out historical events that, at least to this American reader, are less well-known. I learned so much from this book that I didn't know. The Battle of Cable Street, the campaigns of the Spanish Civil War, all of the post-war power struggles in Berlin, the accomplishments of the Labor Party after the general election of 1945, and the Nazi euthanasia program were areas about which I had much less knowledge, and it was wonderful to learn something new. Plus, even with this vast set of characters, it would have been hard to put someone at every major event of the war.

I was also a little surprised at the very scant mention of the concentration camps. However, the way he depicted the struggles of a normal non-Nazi German family, who had a generation earlier been members of the nobility, and who had worked tirelessly for the German republic after WWI, only to end up persecuted by a petty Nazi officer, more than made up for that. I felt that the Von Ulrichs' struggles were the focal point of the novel. Many times I wondered whether poor Maud would have moved to Germany with Walter if she'd known what was in store for her. ...and I had to put the book down for a day after Walter was killed. But I digress. Anyway, that's my take on why he left out some of the bigger events. Cheers!
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