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War and Remembrance (The Winds of War, 2) Paperback – February 5, 2002
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"Honeysuckle Season" by Mary Ellen Taylor
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About the Author
- Lexile measure : 950L
- Item Weight : 1.9 pounds
- Paperback : 1056 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0671463144
- ISBN-13 : 978-0671463144
- Dimensions : 8.25 x 1.75 x 5.5 inches
- Publisher : Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (February 5, 2002)
- ASIN : 0316954993
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #40,579 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Good historical fiction can teach a reader as well as entertain him. Much as "War and Peace" have sent readers to encyclopedias and other books to "learn more" about Napoleon, tsarist society, the ill-fated French invasion of Russia, etc, Herman Wouk's two novels can spur the reader who wants to go beyond the personal stories of the Henry family and into the historical period in which they lived. Although the character of Admiral Victor Henry is sort of "Zelig-like" - popping up in different cities and battles as the pre-war and war occur - he is used as the focal point of what Wouk wants the reader to know. And both books have an added dimension besides the plot line. Wouk includes running commentary from a book one of the fictional characters - General Armin von Roon, a Nazi general - is writing about Germany and WW2. Victor Henry is "editing" von Roon's memoirs and often corrects the general. By including the von Roon memoirs, the reader then sees WW2 from two perspectives, Allied and German.
Herman Wouk's writing is a bit flat, but I don't think he's ever been a particularly flowery writer. And maybe "flat" is the only way to write about events that run from Auschwitz to the Battle of Midway to the conference at Yalta. But those are the "events" in the books which are peopled by the characters. All are drawn with nuance and none is a caricature. I thoroughly enjoyed going back and reading these two books. I was constantly going from Kindle on my Ipad to Wikipedia to check this battle or that conference. It really was a learning experience!!
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.
Top reviews from other countries
There is good news: War and Remembrance is definitely a much better book than its predecessor. The narrative moves where the Winds of War plods. The dull soap opera moves into the background, World War 2 moves to the foreground. Some of the characters get coloured in. There are far fewer moments of self-parody in the book’s prose (there were a lot of those in Winds of War). Overall there is an emotional resonance which was almost entirely lacking in the first book.
To appreciate this, however, you need to have plodded through Winds of War first without which War and Remembrance makes much less sense. You also have to go through the first section of the novel which gave every indication that it was going to turn out even duller than the first volume. The Singapore section with its typically English colonial stereotypes was particularly insipid. I nearly gave up at this point.
But the Singapore section is mercifully brief and then comes Midway. Wouk devotes 176 pages to the battle of Midway (including a chilling interlude in Auschwitz). He sees the US victory at Midway as the true turning point of the war. Warren Henry, a mere cipher in the first book, is used as a viewpoint character for the battle narrative. Midway also marks a turning point in the story – after this point some of the other characters start to come to life. Notable is the handling of the Holocaust plot involving Natalie Henry and her uncle Aaron Jastrow whose “Jew’s Journey” sections worked – a reminder that Wouk can write well when he puts his mind to it! Plus the development of the Byron Henry character carries echoes of Willie Keith the lead character in the Caine Mutiny, Wouk’s early novel which deservedly won the Pulitzer Prize.
The difference between War and Remembrance and its predecessor isn’t quite night and day though. Some characters remain resolutely two-dimensional and the soap opera has not totally gone away either. I started to wonder if Rhoda Henry had a point other than to have extra-marital liaisons with members of the Manhattan Project. This part of the novel remained resolutely stuck in the twentieth century. But even here there are enjoyable moments. I found myself laughing out loud at Byron Henry’s confrontation with Hugh Cleveland half-way through the novel and, yes, I was wondering how the Pug Henry/Pamela romance would eventually resolve. Another thing to note, and I really didn’t think this when I started reading the Winds of War, it is too short! Around about page 1,000 the story had only reached late 1943, I found myself wondering how Wouk was going to get to August 1945 in slightly over 300 pages, was there a third novel lurking somewhere? And, yes, there is a sense that the story rushes to its conclusion. The real conclusion of the war narrative comes with the Battle Leyte Gulf (late 1944). The other narrative elements do reach a resolution, but major characters such as Leslie Slote and Berel Jastrow exit off-stage.
But overall the war narrative carries the day. The novel is at its strongest when it's involved in the war in the Pacific or handling the holocaust. The Auschwitz scenes are harrowing, but have the ring of truth about them. And, yes, at the story’s conclusion Wouk confirms that he spoke to survivors to give authenticity. Certainly no one would dare to make this up! I felt towards the end of the novel that whole Holocaust section deserved to be edited into a higher calibre novel away from the surrounding soap opera.
Yes, Wouk is attempting an American War and Peace here. No, he has not succeeded but, hey, that’s a very high bar. It’s not a Gone with the Wind for World War 2 either, but that’s another high bar. But what he has left is fine lengthy saga which works as a piece of creative non-fiction about World War 2. There are some great passages for the patient reader. If you enjoy a good soap and want to find out about the most dramatic events of the last hundred years, go and read it!
I’d say overall that if you’re at all interested in the Second World War and what it might have been like to live through it, the two books are worth reading. I finished thinking that in many ways the past is another country and they did do things differently there, but it’s not that foreign and not so long ago that you don’t wonder in awe about at how it could have happened? To think that I was born a mere thirteen years after the German state was gassing families and burning them in ovens, it’s almost beyond comprehension. Books like this are important in reminding people that it happened, and it happened to people (and was caused by people) fundamentally like we are. We’d be daft to think it couldn’t happen again.
(Wouk is now 102, serene yet sharp as a knife, and with a lovely flowing silver beard that makes him look like a 21st century Abraham. What a golden blessing his books have been. He concedes nothing to the sloppy moral relativism of our time! Roll on, Mr Wouk!)