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Showing 1-10 of 6,249 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 7,029 reviews
on June 7, 2016
This is a good book for its own sake, but the main thing is that it's an enjoyable way to learn about history in excellent detail through fiction. If you are writing a doctoral thesis on world war 2 politics and history, it's probably not detailed and accurate enough, but if you're just a normal person who hasn't read anything like this since high school or a first year college survey of American history class. Almost no other writer takes you through a story with as much historical detail as Follett, so that you feel like you have been taught a proper lesson along with it. Personally I really enjoy this type of thing and it's my idea of a good time, so this is exactly the type of book I take to the beach. I am a very weird person though, and not a lot of fun at parties. If you are a normal person who has normal person interests, this isn't necessarily the lightest and easiest read. It's long, it's full of facts and details, but those are also its main selling points. If you want something to read in a day with the TV on in the background, or is a quick fix, this is a bad choice. It does have deep interesting characters who develop not only through the first book that preceded this one, but through this book and the third book in the series, action and tragedy, and a wealth of historical information that has a great deal of value beyond the enjoyment of the fictional aspects of the story. I highly recommend this whole series to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.
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on October 19, 2016
I couldn't put the book down. Several fictional plots are drawn amidst a well defined historical background - fictional characters sometimes meeting, or even working with well-known historical figures, thus highlighting some lesser-known characteristics of and facts about them. As this is the second book of Ken Follett's trilogy, many of the characters were either introduced in his first book, Fall of the Giants, or are the offspring of those characters.The story takes place before, during and after World War II and the main characters play out in Germany, Britain, the USA and the Soviet Union. Circumstances, historic, or otherwise, force these characters to gravitate towards each other and the reader senses that they are connected somehow and will inevitably meet.
The novel covers a wide range of world events; the rise of Nazism, the ascent of Franco in Spain, the Battle of Moscow, the Blitz, the Normandy landings, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the development of the atom bomb, the fall of Berlin and many more. This was a fun way of brushing up on my history.
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on September 17, 2012
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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on September 9, 2014
This is the continuation of "Fall of Giants". Many books have been written about the infamous third Reich and World War Two. Besides, my parents went through the whole thing. But "Winter of the World" is worth to be read even if at first sight it might be "more of the same about the same".
Fact is, what happened between 1914 and 1945 should never be forgotten so it never can happen again. And Kent Follet's first two books of his trilogy are a reminder that gets more significant than ever in our present days. Besides this, it's history written how it should be: not dates, facts and scholastic explanations but real people in a real world and in a way that captivates the reader. Very recommended.
I look forward to get the third book of the trilogy (to be published in a few days).
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on June 8, 2016
I am a fan of Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth and rank that as one of the best historical novels I have ever read. But I was disappointed with this book and find it hard to believe that the same author wrote it. I struggled to finish the book and by the end was skimming entire sections just to get through it all. The historical portions were interesting but many times I felt the story was contrived, the characters shallow. I wanted to like the characters and to care about them but they were all very cliché and stereotypical – the “good” people were all from the lower echelons of society (maids, nurses, coal miners); the “bad” people were all from the upper classes (the earls, the ultra rich). A lot of the story lines in the book did not convey a very realistic portrait of what life was really like during WWII. Everyone seemed to be having premarital sex and easy access to birth control. In the 1930s and 40s? Really? And gays in the military seemed to get along just fine with very few people batting an eyelash. In the 1930s and 40s? Hard to believe. Some of the plot lines were just too difficult to shallow – Daisy finally gets to marry the love of her life, despite the fact that her evil husband (the rich Viscount, Boy) refuses to give her a divorce, because Boy conveniently gets shot down and killed while on a mission in France. And the person who finds him dying is none other than Daisy’s love who also happens to be Boy’s bastard half-brother. Okay… This is just one example of the ridiculousness of the plot lines. Just too many coincidences to be believable. By the end, I just wanted to get the torture over with. My advise – don’t waste your time and money on this book.
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on July 10, 2015
I was disappointed. I LOVED the first two books in this series and fell in love with the main characters but in this novel, they're all long dead. Some of the MC's in this book are distant relatives of the old MC's, but for the most part, I wanted to read more about them (the originals). Plus, this book was more political than the first two. I don't know. I'm glad I read it just so I could finish the series and it's a good read for the beach but for those looking for a page turner, this is not the book for you. Or, if you're looking to find out what happens to the MC's from the first two books, this is not the book for you. Sorry, Ken, but you really disappointed me on this one...
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on October 21, 2015
Good Story. But it hurts your conscience sometimes. The author is has a liberal bias that can be overwhelming at times. Adultery, Homosexuality, and God bashing fill the pages. If you are a christian, I cannot in good conscious recommend this book. There are definitely good stories, but the author is clearly twisted in his thinking. Interesting to see a liberal at work though. They tend to call what is evil, good and what is good, evil.

I just really wish the author would have left his politics out of the book. Probably hard to do in this type of book though. Will not be reading the next book in the trilogy.
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on November 23, 2014
I am still reading this book. Of course, I began my life with Ken Follett as did most readers, with "Pillars of the Earth" which was and still is the finest book I have ever devoured. Book 1 in the Trilogy was read a year ago and I wish it had been more recently so as to allow more continuity. I shall read Book 3 immediately after finishing "Winter.."

Book 2 is difficult for me, being hung up in the Nazi Germany chapters. Living through those years was enough; I am not enjoying a replay, but must get through this part in order to finish this fine book.
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on March 19, 2014
I'm a big Follett fan and I really enjoyed "Fall of Giants", the first book in this series, which follows an international cast of characters through the events leading up to WWI and the war itself. "Winter of the World" opens in the early 1930s when competition between Capitalist, Communist, and Fascist forces is reaching its boiling point across the globe. The result is WWII, a vast and complicated conflict that would be difficult to put into one book, no matter who was writing it.

Follett does a perfectly acceptable job with the history except for one mind baffling omission: where on earth is exploration of Facist Germany's Jewish extermination plan? The German Jews in this book are ostracized and bullied. They suffer poverty, hunger, and rape. They seem vaguely aware of the existence of Concentration Camps and occasionally comment about someone or other who was taken away one day and never came back, or came back having suffered physical harm, but no where in this book does Follett explore what was one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century. I understand that the true extent of Hitler's plan was not known by the international community until much later in the war and the Allies were slow to respond when they DID know, but why on earth didn't Follett put one of his German Jewish characters IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP? Did he feel the subject was too hashed out elsewhere? Too big a topic for his narrative? Not important in the grand scheme of the war? I mean, I'm baffled! This omission is doubly odd when considering that Follett DID give us a glimpse of an early labor camp that seems to serve as a torture ground for homosexuals, as well as the T4 program, which systematically euthanized disabled children and adults.

My other main complaint is that, while many of the wonderful characters from "Fall of Giants" are present, their children have become the primary protagonists. By and large, this new generation just isn't quite as interesting as their parents were. Of course, if the first book left you missing Follett's tendency to be harsh on his main characters, this sequel should leave you feeling like things are back to normal. There's a lot more death, disfigurement, and rape in this installment.

This book is CLEARLY written from the perspective of a Capitalist Westerner. Since many of the people who read this book are also Capitalist Westerners, it's very easy for us to understand the negative aspects of Facism and Communism. We've been fed pro-Capitalist, anti-OTHER history lessons since our earliest years. However, I wish Follett's Communist and Fascist characters could have given us a better understanding of why these two different forms of government appealed to people. Not just a few people, a LOT of people! Follett pretty much argues that the inhabitants of Europe and Russia were beaten into submission under their respective governments. Well, okay, that's partially true, but it's a gross simplification to say that Communism and Fascism were imposed by brute force and nothing more. Both ideologies have a strong lure and Follett could have enriched his story by allowing us to see it more.

This last point may be a overly picky since the Century Trilogy is largely Euro-entric (and its author is Welsh), but Follett doesn't seem to have the best grasp of white and black race relations in the US during this time period. In one of the American sub plot lines, white Greg Peshkov has a relationship (and a child) with black Jacky Jakes and no one really bats an eye. Of course, interracial relationships have been happening in the US since the colonial days of yore, but they weren't generally accepted with a "Que sera" attitude. Granted, the Peshkovs are Russian Americans and therefore might not have the same anti-black prejudices as some of their countrymen, but the whole thing just felt strangely simple. Perhaps this relationship is going to provide more interesting fodder in the third book, which looks like it will include the Cold War and the US Civil Rights Movement.
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on October 18, 2012
Winter of the World is a disappointment. Although Follett knows how to piece together a sweeping story, his wordsmithing skills are mediocre. This deprives the reader of the rich mental imagery that a good writer can elicit. He relies heavy on unlikely coincidences on every few pages to have characters running into each other over vast temporal and geographic distances in a way that constantly reminds the reader that he is an observer of a constructed story rather than a participant in the characters' lives.
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