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War and Remembrance Paperback – February 5, 2002
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About the Author
Herman Wouk's acclaimed novels include the Pulitzer-Prize winning The Caine Mutiny; Marjorie Morningstar; Don't Stop the Carnival; Youngblood Hawke; Inside, Outside; The Hope; and The Glory.
Top customer reviews
In “War and Remembrance,” Wouk concentrates on the years of World War II, when Commander Victor “Pug” Henry is serving in various capacities, first as the commander of a cruiser in the Pacific theater, and then as an aide to President Franklin Roosevelt who carries out several special assignments. Another major theme of “War and Remembrance” is Byron Henry’s search for his Jewish wife and baby son, now trapped with her uncle inside Nazi-conquered Europe. Through their experiences, Wouk accurately captures the horrors that those subjugated by the Nazis faced, especially inside the Nazi extermination camps.
As “War and Remembrance” unfolds, America has just entered the war and the Henry family is in turmoil. Pug Henry arrives at Pearl Harbor the day after the Japanese attack and discovers that the battleship he is supposed to command has been sunk. Rhoda Henry is having an affair and wants a divorce, and Pug is developing romantic feelings for an Englishwoman half his age. The Henrys’ oldest son Warren is a naval aviator aboard an aircraft carrier. Byron, now married to Natalie Jastrow, is serving as a naval officer aboard a submarine. He is frantically worried about his wife, son, and her uncle, virtual prisoners of the Nazis, their lives increasingly imperiled because they are Jews.
I don’t want to give away any more of the story, but I can assure you that “War and Remembrance” is a magnificent novel in every respect. In fact, I think it is even better in many ways than its predecessor is. The characters all face greater degrees of danger and despair as the war drags on. Many scenes in the book – especially those in the Nazi death camps – are brutally realistic and heartbreaking to read. Despite its great length (the paperback version runs to over 1000 pages,) the book is never dull or boring. In addition, despite the complexity of the many subplots, everything comes together to form a suspenseful, shattering climax that will leave readers, at the end of the book, clamoring for more…
“War and Remembrance” is without question one of Herman Wouk’s two great masterpieces of fiction (the other being “The Winds of War). I actually prefer it to “The Winds of War” because of its historical accuracy and emotional intensity. it I’ve now read it several times, and each time I do, I get more out of it, and I never fail to become completely engrossed in the lives of each character. This book is one primary reason why Wouk remains one of my favorite American novelists. Most highly recommended.
As with “The Winds of War”, I caution readers that this is an extremely long, slow building story. If you are looking for excitement on every page, thrilling battle scenes, and passionate love scenes, you really need to find a different book; however, this is a great book if you are enjoy a family saga and learning about historic events from World War 2. This is a fictional narrative, but I was surprised how many new things I learned that were historically accurate. I kept a tablet on hand, and I would look up things that I had never heard of before and I found each time, Wouk recorded accurate historical events. Some examples include the weakness and fall of “Fortress Saigon”, the Wannsee Protocol outlining the extermination of Jews, the conference in Tehran, Iran between Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin that solidified the second front in Europe, the “paradise ghetto” (i.e., concentration camp) of Theresienstadt for prominent Jews, and the devastating 872 day siege of Leningrad.
There were times where it felt a little incredible that one family could be involved in so many key events from World War 2, but that is forgivable given this is historical fiction rather than a story told form the perspectives of a real family. Once you get past that notion, I found it an entertaining way to follow the war from Russian, English, German, and American perspectives. Wouk clearly makes it known that he made up General Armin Von Roon and his “World Holocaust” military treatise, but I thought that was a masterful way to view things from the German perspective and leap ahead through certain elements of the war.
World War 2 was a dark time in the history of the world, and this novel took on a darker tone as Wouk painfully detailed the deplorable conditions, the harsh mistreatment, and the unbelievable practice of killing millions of Jews at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Wouk walked a fine line in this novel of telling about this horrible place without going into extremely gruesome details and especially avoiding the sexual assaults that took place. I am thankful he did not “record one one-thousandth of the daily agony, brutality, and degradation” that took place. Despite his restraint, I still found some of these sections sad and mind-numbing to get through as I would shake my head at how inhumane people could be to each other.
I found elements of the story deeply touching and insightful for us to remember and reflect upon. One example was the description of the naval battle at Leyte Gulf where Wouk described the bravery of our Navy, “Our schoolchildren should know about that incident, and our enemies should ponder it.” Another was the brutal honesty about nations that make war when Wouk wrote, “War has always been a violent blindman’s buff, played with men’s lives and nations’ resources.” Speaking on the honor of our fighting men, “Lucky indeed for America that in this [Pacific] theater and at that juncture she depended not on boys drafted or cajoled into fighting but on ‘tough guys’ who had volunteered to fight and who asked for nothing better than to come to grips with the sneaking enemy who had aroused all their primitive instincts.”
Overall, I think this book is an outstanding example of historical fiction that brings to life to the events of World War 2. I think Wouk aptly selected the title because it focuses on our need to remember the causes that led to this war, remember the soldiers, remember the atrocities, remember the sacrifices, and remember the innocent. As Wouk wrote, “Earth, cover not their blood”.