Winter World: book review

For a good read about the Second World War, you cannot beat Ken Follett. this is the second in his century trilogy. Someone please tell me when the third book is out.

Title: Winter World
Author: Ken Follett
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: not sure
Spoiler Alert: Not really 


The second book in Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy is as much a page-turner as the first. Winter World continues the story where Fall of Giants left off, following four families as they live through one disaster (the First World War) to the next (the Second World War).

Follett personalizes the wars by bringing them up close and personal with those who had to live them. The British and Welsh family, the Germans, the Russians and the Americans – all intertwined in relationships, political intrigues and events that seem to spiral out of control.

I think one of the reasons we like to (need to) read historical fiction is to try and understand our past – how our ancestors lived, what formed their characters and what led to the way we are today. And though Follett’s stories are classed as fiction, one can easily read between the lines, knowing truth is stranger –and maybe even harsher – than fiction; hence what happens to Follett’s characters can easily be imagined as happening to people who lived through the wars.

Another reason to study history is to understand the political system that shaped us. And when you look back at the brutal Fascist and Soviet regimes, you wonder how anyone survived. It has certainly given me a brief look into the “genetics” if you will of people I know who came out of Russia or Nazi Germany or the rigid British stiff upper lips. Even the Amercians – although Follett tends to paint them in a tenderer light than the others.

In Follett’s Century Trilogy (the third book is to come), the British are archaic, the Germans brutal and the Russians, barbaric. The Americans come across as the nice-guys out to save the world; which they do, practically single-handedly without anybody else’s help. But isn’t that the way the U.S. media has recorded the past century?

In some ways, Follett really gets it right, describing situations and events that likely happened to thousands of people. He has a way of writing from within each character’s mind. It’s unique, as you get to see the thought processes behind their actions. And though not always pretty, one can almost be sympathetic.

What is clear is that human kind didn’t learn much from the First World War and didn’t improve on it much after the Second.

The third book in the trilogy isn’t out yet (at this writing). At least, I haven’t seen it. But I expect it will take us through the second half of the century and I’d half-bet Follett will begin it in the 60s, taking us through Women’s Liberation (it was a pretty major theme in both books) into the Vietnam War (Follett seems to like writing war scenes) and then maybe all the way up to Desert Storm. However, it will be interesting to see how he’d incorporate an Arab/Muslim family into the mix. But now I’m just speculating.

Anyway, the second book (according to my Kobo reader) took another 30 hours out of my life – added to the 29 hours for the first book. At $20 a pop, it was close to 60 hours of heart-stopping entertainment. Looking forward to Book 3.