Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
Winds of War is the first in a two book historical fiction series about WWII. The time span of this first installment begins six months before the German invasion of Poland and ends with the attack on Pearl Harbor and the official entry of the US into the war. I found the story’s prelude to the war to be one of the most fascinating aspects of the book and it all mostly revolves around the life and naval career of one Victor “Pug” Henry, his immediate and extended family.
Prior to the war, this fictional character Pug, a naval attache to Berlin, draws the attention of FDR after writing an insightful prediction of the German-Russian nonaggression pact. Thus begins the relationship between Pug and FDR that will keep the former on land instead of at sea as the personal, though mostly unofficial, “intelligence” officer to the President. Pug’s goings and comings including his meetings with the likes of Hitler, Mussolini, Churchill and Stalin serve as the backbone of this novel.
I generally avoid books of this ilk aware that so many dwell on the Nazi atrocities that are more than this reader can handle. While mention is made of these, it is not what the book explores in detail and again, the novel is about the antecedent and beginning aspects of the war when not a great deal was known about what was going on in camps behind barbed wire.
I sometimes had issues with the book’s editing. The book is 46 hours (~900 pages) in length. I do not hesitate to take on a tome of this length as long as I don’t encounter too much fluff. And, while I felt there was not an inordinate amount of triviality, there were episodes of detail about the personal lives of friends and relatives of Pug that I could have done without. That said, this was still a “driveway” book; a book I would sit in my driveway upon returning home after my drive from work and continue listening to because it was just that captivating. Not to be misunderstood, I believe that the relating of the lives of Pug’s family and friends were essential to the book. It made the historical events personal, not just cold hard facts. I did feel, however, that the emotions of his immediate family were sometimes rather cavalier with respect to war in general. But they were what they were.
IMHO, the book is a masterpiece. The three E’s are all there contained within its covers. The book is educational, enlightening and entertaining. The text is peppered with excerpts from a fictional dissertation by a German General Armin von Roon. I found his [Nazi] German perspective on Hitler and the war to be particularly fascinating.
Finally, the book is made even better by the superlative narration and performance of Kevin Pariseau. I do not believe a book has ever been better performed. I would recommend this book to everyone.
I read Winds of War 40 years ago when it came out & have reread it at least once since. It has always remained one of my all time favorites. The audio version is just wonderful with great narration that brings the characters to life. As with the book, I lived the story for the last several days as I listened every minute available.
The depth of the story, large cast of characters that Herman Wouk handles like a master so you never think, "now who is this?" & the way he paints visual images of people, places & events fully immerses the reader from page 1.
There is never a boring minute. Even with the length of this book, I was ready for more as it finished, not glad it was done.
I would recommend this audiobook to everyone & only hope War & Remembrance will come next & soon.
I have a real appreciation of the works of Herman Wouk. He was one of the first "grownup" authors I read, devouring "The Caine Mutiny" as a 14-year-old, and then a couple of years later reading this work. I was in college when "War and Remembrance" finally came out, and I remember going to the mall to buy a much-needed pair of pants and instead buying the book! Over the years I developed a taste for English literature, particularly 19th-Century stuff -- Austen, Dickens, Trollope, George Eliot -- the usual suspects. And Herman Wouk was always mentioned as an almost quintessential second-rate writer. Perhaps because of my youthful awakening under his spell, I have never thought of him like that. When people say he writes soap operas and wooden dialog, I don't see it. I think his characters are well-drawn, his plots full of interest, and his style very straightforward and middle-American (in a good way!) Maybe it's because one of his themes is the value of the seemingly boring, day-to-day doers who get most of the jobs in the world done. Pug Henry in "The Winds of War" is that sort of person. His other books don't make heroes out of these plodders -- lots of them in the role of the behind-the-scenes fathers, providing the wherewithal for the more interesting lives of the younger generations.
"The Winds of War" seems to me to be written as part English novel of manners and part a great, long complicated work of Dickens. There are lots of characters who are drawn realistically, but they are put in situations requiring strange coincidences and improbable virtues. Victor Henry is the chief example of this. He is a convincingly-portrayed career naval officer thrust into a minor diplomatic post against his will. But then he displays a level of acumen and presence of mind to rival the the greatest of statesmen. He always seems to come up with the perfect thing to say, earning him the surprised respect of the big shots of the era (Big big-shots, like Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin.) He is perhaps just a bit too perceptive and unfailingly correct to be quite believable, but he overall feels like a real person we are following around the globe. His rocky relationships with his children seem real enough, and his personal traits are well-drawn and always interesting.
The real model for this work and the sequel is the great "War and Peace" -- the mixture of personal stories with world events, the encounters with real historical personages, and the mixing of historical narratives with the story line. This works successfully as a plan for the two books, I think, despite the great chutzpah it took to try it. I don't claim that Wouk is the writer Tolstoy is, but WWII is a theme that can at least deserve the same kind of treatment. The brief interlude that the hero and his love interest spend at Tolstoy's estate accompanied by a moment of dejavu make this treatment explicit.
Finally, this very entertaining and even (I would argue) profound story is beautifully narrated by Kevin Pariseau. He does the usual different voices that all the good narrators pull off but he also does accents, and even impersonations when necessary (e.g., Roosevelt and Churchill.) I am very much looking forward to his rendition of "War and Remembrance", assuming that will be following soon.
German by birth - cosmopolitan by conviction. A CFO enjoying dynamic and multicultural Asia. Classic car and history buff and scuba diver.
Contrary to the rule, I firstly want to extend my deepest appreciation to the narrator of this book. Kevin Pariseau performs marvelously and brings the book to life with colors and atmosphere coming close to pictures. He not only attaches well chosen timbre to the characters but even excels in singing - I see images by his reading. It is plainly outstanding. The story is - at least for me - extremely interesting and reveals a great deal of wartime in Europe. The characters are carefully developed and the alternation of political and private events and settings is very entertaining and consistent. I could hardly stop listening and recommend this book whole heartedly.
This is one of those books you will not want to finish, even though it is over 40 hours of listening. A WW II novel, it starts soon after Hitler was elected and carries through the attack on Pearl Harbor, following the lives of the Henry family and those they encounter. The central character, Victor ("Pug") Henry is a Navy man who becomes one of FDR's confidantes, as a plot mechanism to bring FDR into the story in a personal way. Through the experiences of Pug and his family, we learn much about FDR, pre-war Nazi Germany, Stalin, and the crimes against the Jews of Europe. Also explored is the plight of Britain and the reluctance of 80% of Americans to participate in another European war. The characters throughout the book are well developed and quite familiar by the time the book ends. I am very much looking forward to the next installment, War and Remembrance, which I believe will be on audible.com by the end of November 2011.
Tangential, eclectic, avid listener... favorite book is the one currently in ear.
The "Winds of War" is actually the first of a pair of novels which ambitiously cover WWII from beginning to end. The books follow the "Pug" Henry family and close friends as they are conveniently placed into each location where important events occur leading up to and during the start of the war. The fictional family events are woven through the factual historical events with experiences, letters, book excepts, newspapers and conversations used to guide the reader through the war. This book ends with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and all characters are left dangling... scattered around the world. The story is completed in the next book - "War and Remembrance." So you are looking at 102 hours of listening to completely read. I have to admit I was ready for something new when I finished, and some parts were boring... but I did enjoy it and learned tons. I have read a lot of WWII books set in specific areas, but this one helped me understand the entire war... step by step what happened where, when and why. It is presented in a PG to PG 13 format with mild language, mild sexual content, lots of drinking and of course the violence of war. It is slowly paced with a vintage feel although written in 70's (it's not a action packed Ken Follet type novel). Not as beautifully written as Wouk's "The Cain Mutiny" but still very satisfying and lots of reading for a credit.
Please, where's the sequel. I did not want it to end. It is also provides an excellent behind the scenes account of World War II. Awesome listen.
trying to see the world through my ears
As much as I love historical fiction, I didn't think any author short of Tolstoy could make battle strategy interesting to me, but Wouk did. My test of good historical fiction is being "driven" to fact check a detail then being able to jump right back into the world of the story, and not wanting to leave. This book beat a satisfying path to my reference shelf.
I expected only a pot-boiler with a traditional Yankee bias, but the novel exceeded that, both in style and content.
Narrator Parriseau does a good job, but with such a range of voices and characters there are some misses.
I read this book and "War and Rememberance" years ago. I have always hoped it would become available on Audible. I was not disappointed. I am really perplexed that anyone could find a reason to score this book below 5 stars in any area. Pariseau makes the story really pop!!! I can't wait for "War and Rememberance" to be available and I hope Pariseau once again is the narrator. Thank you Audible!
I don't know about you, but why are there so so so many 5 star reviews. I LOVE books, but so few are 5 star.
Someone wrote that the book was dated... I'm not sure how that applies to a book written in 1971 about the beginning of WWII, dialog, attitudes and most especially gender roles were different. I was born in the late sixties and did not find it to be dated.
This was an excellent story full of detail and history, mostly accurate with a little poetic license. It brought home the reality that although the means of war change with technology, the fact of war is never as simple as good versus evil. The winners write the history books. There is much evil in the world, but sometimes we don't take action because of, maybe despite it.
Even for a non politico like me, the book was engrossing. Excellent narration.