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.
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 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!
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
As an easy way to learn about the major events of WWII, this is a great book. As a novel about a bunch of characters who happen to get drawn into it, it's not too bad. Wouk is a decent writer who knows how to keep things moving. There is just the right amount of friction between the characters to keep it from getting boring, but not enough to generate a truly memorable story. Instead we get the standard spectrum of characters, and the standard soap opera plot.
Having the German General Roon was a brilliant idea. Wouk is able to insert his characters into a lot of unlikely situations to facilitate first person involvement in the events of the war, but clearly not all of them. Having his protagonist translate Roon's book decades after the fact allows him to accomplish multiple objectives. It fills in details his characters were not witness to, it shows at least one point of view from the opposing side, and it places the entire conflict in historical perspective.
I'm not really clear what Wouk's attitude toward women is. His female characters are all depicted as being fairly confident with their own agendas and a sense of independence. Hard to say if he was trying to depict women of 1940 or women of 1970 when the book was written. At the same time, these female characters have a woeful lack of common sense. They are generally out of touch with current events, and seemingly oblivious to the dangerous realities of the situation unfolding in the world around them.
Probably his main female character is Natalie. I suppose Natalie is supposed to embody the spirit of youth or the feminist ideal of 1970. She certainly is not lacking in confidence, no matter how unfounded. Yet Natalie is always being bailed out by the men around her and inviting unnecessary trouble. She is constantly endangering herself and others. Plus, she never seems chagrined by the trouble she causes. You would think she would eventually learn something or feel some responsibility for her actions. Fat chance. And yet, if I ever get around to reading the sequel, I think it will be mostly to find out what happens to this awful person.
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 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.
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!
Let's face it, these authors aren't paying me, so there's no need to lie!!
Being able to blend pure fiction with actual historical events takes something akin to genius. It's done here perfectly. IF you love WWII, and you are in need of a compelling story about that time in history, then this is an absolute gem. It's a commitment, but well worth it. To echoe a few other reviews...I NEVER would've thought an audiobook could hold my interest for over 50 hours, but this one did!