Ken Follett here follows up his number-one New York Times best-seller Fall of Giants with a brilliant, pause-resistant epic about the heroism and honor of World War II and the dawn of the atomic age.
Fall of Giants, the first novel in his extraordinary new historical epic, The Century Trilogy, was an international sensation, acclaimed as "sweeping and fascinating, a book that will consume you for days or weeks" (USA Today) and "grippingly told and readable to the end" (The New York Times Book Review). "If the next two volumes are as lively and entertaining as Fall of Giants," said The Washington Post, "they should be well worth waiting for."
Winter of the World picks up right where the first book left off, as its five interrelated families - American, German, Russian, English, Welsh - enter a time of enormous social, political, and economic turmoil, beginning with the rise of the Third Reich, through the Spanish Civil War and the great dramas of World War II, up to the explosions of the American and Soviet atomic bombs.
Carla von Ulrich, born of German and English parents, finds her life engulfed by the Nazi tide until she commits a deed of great courage and heartbreak.... American brothers Woody and Chuck Dewar, each with a secret, take separate paths to momentous events, one in Washington, the other in the bloody jungles of the Pacific.... English student Lloyd Williams discovers in the crucible of the Spanish Civil War that he must fight Communism just as hard as Fascism.... Daisy Peshkov, a driven American social climber, cares only for popularity and the fast set, until the war transforms her life, not just once but twice, while her cousin Volodya carves out a position in Soviet intelligence that will affect not only this war - but the war to come.
These characters and many others find their lives inextricably entangled as their experiences illuminate the cataclysms that marked the century. From the drawing rooms of the rich to the blood and smoke of battle, their lives intertwine, propelling the reader into dramas of ever-increasing complexity.
As always with Ken Follett, the historical background is brilliantly researched and rendered, the action fast-moving, the characters rich in nuance and emotion. With passion and the hand of a master, he brings us into a world we thought we knew, but now will never seem the same again.
©2012 Ken Follett (P)2012 Penguin Audiobooks
I am an avid eclectic reader.
"The Fall of Giants" was a great book. I have been reading every book I can find about WW1 and this was one of the great ones. "Winter of the World" takes us into WWII and up to the cold war. I was a bit disappointed that Follett did not put as much emphasis on the social changes as he did in the "Fall of Giants" but he did put emphasis on what people or individuals had to do to survive in impossible situations. As in the first book this book follows the five interrelated families, American, German, Russian, English and Welsh. The book starts with the Spanish Civil War and the rise of Hitler. The key historical figures are not forgotten but also play a roll in the book such as, Churchill, Stalin, Hitler and FDR and Truman. He does cover some of the less well known aspects of the Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, the war in the Pacific but the major part of the war was based on the war of the eastern front. He does show how much more Russia did in the war when most English language book focus on the roll of England and America on the western front. John Lee did a great job narrating the book. Follett has left me wanting volume #3. Both of Follett's books are worth reading every few years or so, there is much to learn in the re-reading of a series like this one.
Addicted to Audible!
The second in this series does not disappoint. John Lee is a superb narrator - his talent to move between characters and voices/accents is amazing! As usual Ken Follett does his research and writes so well. The book serves up a great history lesson with just enough soap opera to keep my interest. Looking forward to Book 3.
I have listened to ALL of Ken Follett's books. Pillars and WWE as well as his other, older novels and I just could NOT get into this one. Seemed to go on and on and on and on with nothing that grabbed me.
Of course John Lee did a super job, as always. The story just didn't have any punch. It was like he had a committment to meet and just wrote SOMETHING.
No, no and NO-sorry. Total snoozefest
This is the 2nd part of Ken Follet's Century Trilogy and I recommend reading The Fall of Giants before Winter of the World. Follet is a masterful historic fiction writer. He fully researches the time period for the story's background and creatively weaves his characters in and out of real events. If you like history, then you'll love his epic sagas. Although, you cannot have a weak stomach. It was a horrendous time in history, but people still had to go on living their lives. His characters can be viciously cruel as they are passionately intriguing. He spares nothing when telling a story. As much as he'll have you turning pages quicker than speed reader Evelyn Wood, he'll also have you wanting to slam a fist through a wall into one if the character's head. His books have a tendency to elicit a wide range of emotion, but they are addicting! Narrator John Lee is well cast and a fantastic reader. Can't wait for the last part!
Am a great fan of Ken Follett. Read ALL of his works. Am disappointed after having listened to Herman Wouk's Winds of War and War and Remembrance. Would have been a so so listen regardless.
The problem with history books and history lessons is that they are almost always focussing on dates, statistics and major events rather than giving us an impression what this era was like for ordinary people living through it. Of course, in a lot of cases there is only very little source material, but in "Winter of the World" Follett takes advantage of the fact that the events he is describing have happened in recent history and that some of the people who lived through that time are still alive or have described their experience.
Of course, it is more than a little contrived that the handfull of families to whom he has introduced us in "Fall of Giants" are also miraculously present at all the pivotal events of this era - from the fire at the Reichstag to the first Soviet nuclear bomb - but to me this did not diminish the joy of reading (or listening).
"Winter of the World" creates a vivid picture of the years between 1933 and 1949, showing how ordinary people in almost all countries have suffered and struggled to survive. It's neither a depressing, nor uplifting book in that it shows there are heroes and villains in all countries.
I really enjoyed listening to the book, particularly since I live in Berlin at the moment and walked through the city while listening to events that had taken place more than 60 years ago, but which I could still very well imagine unfolding around me.
John Lee also does a superb job as a narrator and manages to give the countless different characters their own personalities and inflections.
Dept Q, Harry Hole... where are you?
As with the first installment, the mingling of history with his fiction is masterful. I loved viewing the war years from the lens of each family and their respective countries.
I find his historical work accurate while intimate, particularly with his rendition of Nazi Germany. I wish he would have delved more into the politics involved in the US' reluctantly to enter the war, but that by no means is meant as a criticism.
Follett's works always feature sexually aggressive women. I am no prude, but I do believe he is revealing his own fantasy or perhaps his belief, particularly in periodic novels.
I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
Herman Wouk already did this book and did it better. "War and Remembrance" has all the aspects of history written from a personal perspective. It does a great job of tying people together into a fascinating whole. This book feels like a cheap imitation of that. All the interrelatedness of the characters is overkill and can be a pain to track without a character summary. From the Pearl Harbor scene on, I kept wondering why he even bothered to write it. Do yourself a favor. If you like historical fiction and you want the real deal, download "The Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance" and just skip this one.
The history refresher was good, but the story told was a bit dull. Fall of Giants and Pillars of the Earth are better books than this.
I am looking forward to the next one.
Granted the period the story takes place is one of the darkest in world history, and it is hard to spin a "positive" story with that offset. It is still a good listen.
I'm starting to wonder, after hundreds of Audible books and four years as a subscriber, if I am burning out on listening to books. The last several I've listened to have been underwhelming. Winter of the World is, unfortunately, no exception, and even goes beyond underwhelming to just plain annoying.
I doubt anyone would imagine Ken Follett's work as literature. It can be entertaining, and I liked Pillars of the Earth and World Without End well enough.The characters were interesting and the way their lives overlapped and entwined kept me involved. But the wheels started to come off with Fall of Giants, where a suspicious character makes repeated appearances without his role ever coming to resolution. What was he doing there?
Winter of the World is, alas, not even entertaining. Much has been written with World War II as a backdrop, and perhaps there's not much new to say about it. If that's the case, then don't write a book. This one is just a rehash of things that have already been explored, and with far greater skill, by other authors - such as, but not limited to, Herman Wouk.
Plenty of things in Winter of the World ring hollow and fall flat. An acute example involves Robert, a man who lost his restaurant to the brown shirts in Germany, and who witnessed the brutal murder of a loved one at their hands (graphically described early in the book). Three years later, safe in England, he's talking to another witness to this awful event, and he comments that his old restaurant in Berlin is still open. The two pause as if in reflection, and Robert then comments, "They don't use white tablecloths anymore." Really? Is this the level of bitterness and regret engendered by witnessed - and narrowly escaped - brutality?
John Lee is a narrator I usually enjoy, but perhaps he realized he was not narrating a Great American Novel. He falls in and out of stereotypical accents, and worse, he whines to indicate a young woman's delivery of dialogue. It was bad enough that half the time, I couldn't figure out if I was listening to a sex-starved 10 year old or a lusty young woman scouting for a rich husband. The aforementioned Robert is said to speak flawless unaccented English, but then Lee slips into his dialogue with a German edge on the accent.
All in all, it's just tiresome. And at nearly 32 hours, that's a long time to feel tired.
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