I love historical fiction but this one just didn't work for me. Perhaps because I recently finished the first two volumes of Ken Follet's new trilogy (Fall of Titans, Winter of the World), which are in a completely different class. I'm sure that Wouk's book made fascinating reading in the period shortly after World War II, but now it's just a little flat and probably dated. The characterization is on the level of Bonanza or The Waltons, and I just couldn't find it in myself to be interested in these shallow and really rather uninteresting people, particularly since the focus is so much more on their story than on the actual history of the War.
I don't know when I've enjoyed a book more. This is a really interesting book with multiple plot lines. I've listened to a LOT of WWII history. This brought the first part of the war to life. I hope Audible has War and Remembrance soon.
I liked this book so much that I ordered the mini-series so I can watch it.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
At over 100 hours, this audiobook and its sequel are a commitment, a 20th century War and Peace. Over 2000 pages, Herman Wouk spins both a family saga and a sort of “bearing witness” document, a detailed history of World War Two that leaves no one excused for humanity’s greatest calamity (so far) and the many acts of blindness on both sides that allowed it to unfold as it did
The fictional narrative centers around an American naval family headed by one Victor “Pug” Henry, a stolid, unpretentious career officer of classic mold. Yearning for a battleship command, Victor is instead sent to be the US’s naval attache in 1939 Berlin, at a time well before most Americans had any desire to get embroiled in another European mess. Because of his thorough reports, Victor finds himself coming to the attention of FDR, who makes him a high-powered informal go-between. Meanwhile, Victor’s two sons have their own stories -- one training as a Navy pilot, while the other “finds himself” in Italy, where he gets involved with a Jewish author and his lovely, headstrong niece. These two, trapped in Europe, become significant viewpoint characters in their own right. Others enter the narrative, too, including Victor’s wife, who is beginning to chafe at the sacrifices of being a Navy wife, and his daughter, who takes a job at a NYC radio station. While most of the action happens behind the lines, we do get a few tastes of the shooting war.
Wouk’s style is a bit nostalgic, but the characters are well-written and credible. For all the contrivances in the plot -- such as Victor managing to meet Hitler, FDR, Churchill, *and* Stalin -- Wouk makes us believe that such path-crossings were plausible. Maybe one family wasn’t in so many places, but history did have plenty of small actors who played such roles. In any case, the small details of the characters’ thoughts and actions give events a full, living color. Sometimes Wouk pulls the camera back and explains in a clear, compelling way what was happening on the broader stage, which was a counterpoint that appealed to me, since the protagonists seldom have all the facts themselves. It’s to his credit that almost nothing feels irrelevant -- personalities and family lives seem to dovetail neatly into greater events and vice-versa.
No, Herman Wouk isn’t Tolstoy, but he’s certainly a writer with a strong grasp of the forces of history, gentle insight into human behavior, the ability to connect small-scale events with large ones, and a storyteller’s gift for putting it all in familiar terms, through the eyes of some memorable characters.
What pleased me most about this book, though, and a big reason for my enthusiastic recommendation, is its absence of simplistic rah-rah patriotism. Instead, Wouk soberly examines the causes of the war and the dangers of nationalism and ideology. He also notes the hypocrisies of British and American imperialism, and the self-absorbed apathy of both countries in the face of fascism’s self-image of surety. One of the most fascinating features of the novel is the inclusion of the memoirs of a German general, translated decades after the war by Pug himself. There’s a creepy familiarity to his critiques of the “decadent” West, and one begins to remember that evil is often rationalized away, sometime quite convincingly, by those who worship strength and power. This mattered at the time the author was writing, around the height of the Vietnam War, and it matters now.
Ultimately, this novel and its sequel are a rich mix of intimate and broad-scale human themes, 20th century history, and wistful nostalgia for a time when the American middle class family embodied all that was hopeful. Audiobook narrator Kevin Pariseau rises to the occasion, with some impressive imitations of certain famous figures, a range of accents, and a narration voice that has both friendliness and gravity. Put the sequel on standby, because you’ll want to know what happens next.
I seem to fit in the same demographic as many other reviewers of this book. I first read it about 40 years ago when it was released and then saw the made-for-TV movie. In the intervening years I had forgotten how well Herman Wouk wrote (as of today he is still alive but no longer writing) and how well drawn and compelling the main characters of the book are.
The story, of course, is that of a naval family drawn into the start of World War II up to the point of America's entry into the war. As a vehicle for telling the story of the period up to the Pearl Harbor attack the main character, "Pug" Henry, ends up being assigned to posts that have him, or members of his family, at important places during important times. Thus we get to see vignettes of Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Joesph Stalin and Adolph Hitler as well as those around all of them.
The characters are compelling, the events were real, the story well-drawn and important and the family large enough to have members scattered around the globe and seeing events from many different perspectives. This is a first class book, extremely well read and highly recommended.
I love epic histories that follow families over a period of time, and this one was exceptionable.
Definitely Victor Henry. But the narrator did an excellent job with all the characters, especially since there were so many different accents involved.
I was on pins and needles to see who would make it through Pearl Harbor.
This book covers the events leading up to the United States involvement in WWII. It is not dry history. Although some historical narrative is necessary to provide the backdrop to what the characters are going through, the author handles it with a unique method that makes it much more interesting.
I read this when it came out. For years, I gave this book with War and Remembrance as gifts and never came across anyone who didn't share my love of this story.
The history is fascinating, though it definitely has a point of view and you may disagree with some interpretation of events.
The narrator does a great job. When I first started, I felt he didn't get Pug right, but as I went along, I warmed to his interpretation.
I can't recommend this enough, it is worthy of six stars in every category.
I am going to jump the gun here, because I have not yet listened to this, but I recommended it to Audible some time back, and I am thrilled that it is now available. I am writing this review early, because I want to encourage Audible listeners to purchase it immediately. This book and its sequel, "War and Remembrance," are stunning works of historical fiction. I very much hope Audible is preparing the sequel. Thank you, Audible, for listening to your customers!
I usually get books that are relatively new, but I've been on an historical fiction bent lately and recently completed some WW2-era best sellers, so I figured I'd try this one. I'm so glad I did. I went straight from this one to the sequel, War and Remembrance. About 100 hours, but I savored every minute of it. Wouk creates wonderfully full characters and weaves them through the run-up to WW2. Masterfully done. And Kevin Pariseau was the perfect choice for narrator. Each character was consistently voiced and unique. Made listening a pleasure. I was very happy to see that he was also the narrator for War and Remembrance.
Top Five of all time
I am really enjoying Ken Follett's Century trilogy, but this surpassed.
I have not, but would rank him equal with Jon Lee
This is simply a must read. I switch between the kindle and audible copy (with some challenges) to enhance the experiences.
This is very well done and is a classic and is narrated by Kevin Pariseau. This is a good one for only 1 credit!