Winter of the World: Book Two of the Century Trilogy

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Penguin, Sep 18, 2012 - Fiction - 928 pages
35 Reviews
Picking up where Fall of Giants, the first novel in the extraordinary Century Trilogy, left off, Winter of the World follows its five interrelated families—American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh—through a time of enormous social, political, and economic turmoil, beginning with the rise of the Third Reich, through the great dramas of World War II, and into the beginning of the long Cold War.

Carla von Ulrich, born of German and English parents, finds her life engulfed by the Nazi tide until daring to commit 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 social climber, cares only for popularity and the fast set until war transforms her life, while her cousin Volodya carves out a position in Soviet intelligence that will affect not only this war but also the war to come.

From the Paperback edition.

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Winter of the World

User Review  - David Keymer - Book Verdict

The second volume in Follett's trilogy of the 20th century traces the intertwined histories of the same five families—Welsh, English, German, Russian and American—that were featured in Fall of ... Read full review

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I really wanted to enjoy this book. I was hoping to eagerly await the reading of the third and final one of the series, but instead, I was hugely disappointed. The plot never thickened. The story slipped into fantasy when each family seemed to experience the same circumstances and follow the same life path, over and over. While well written historically, with minute details of events of consequence, the overly descriptive sexual scenes added absolutely nothing to the narrative except unnecessary length. With such a rich history to explore, the author should not have resorted to the use of such devices to maintain interest. Rather than achieve that goal, it distracted the reader from the importance of the historic thread of events. It was just too easy to predict the lifestyle and events which would befall each of the book’s participants depriving the reader of any mystery, whatsoever.
Following on the heels of “Fall Of Giants”, this second installment of The Century Trilogy, picks up where the first left off. Hitler is rising to power and life in Europe is marching lockstep toward Fascism with communism and Stalin’s totalitarian government close behind. It covers war torn Europe until shortly after Russia’s acquisition of the atom bomb and the beginning of the Cold War. Aside from containing the faults of the first, being a little too long and having too many characters to follow along comfortably, this was also too contrived and contained little of the positive qualities of the first which was an interesting and engaging story. Although the history was interesting and was well researched and developed, even when, at times, there was a passing of many years which seemed to slide by unnoticed, the story itself was completely unsurprising and the characters were too artificial, placed in circumstances that defied reality.
Perhaps, to move the story along and connect the same five families from the first book: the Williams, the Fitzherberts, the Dewars, and the two Peshkov families, the author simply used too many convenient coincidences and so was unable to maintain a sense of reality for this reader. Each of the families experienced an unwanted pregnancy, either from rape or lust or simply poor judgment, followed by the birth of an illegitimate child who was either brought up in secret or well loved. Brutality, injustice, and loss afflicted them all. At the same time, concurrently, the older generation each had an offspring that ascended into the hierarchy of the government and became influential. Each served their country either as a volunteer or in the armed forces. Although many of the political systems were at odds with each other, i.e, Socialism, Capitalism, Communism and Fascism, the particular goals of the characters, no matter which country they represented, were the same; love of their country and nationalism were at the forefront. Each believed they were helping to create a better world, although some were terribly misguided in their efforts and purpose.
The development of the characters could have been more detailed and diverse, so that each family’s life that was explored was unique, rather than almost a carbon copy of another’s. They came from different countries; all of the young men were in the service of their country, regardless of their political preference; they were capable of being compromised, they were sometimes naïve, and yes, they all seemed to feel it was okay to make a woman pregnant and ignore her plight as if they were not involved; yet each family’s story could have easily been substituted for the other’s, without skipping a beat, just by changing the names and locations, so similar were the paths each traveled. How could each of the families, the English, Welsh, German, American and Russian, all suffer the same exigencies of life, without the story descending into something rather arduous to read because of its redundancy?
The history being covered was so rich with information that I was struck by the inclusion of trivial subject matter and superfluous family themes

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About the author (2012)

Ken Follett burst into the book world with Eye of the Needle, an award-winning thriller and international bestseller. After several more successful thrillers, he surprised everyone with The Pillars of the Earth and its long-awaited sequel, World Without End, a national and international bestseller. Follett’s new, magnificent historical epic, the Century Trilogy, includes the bestselling Fall of GiantsWinter of the World, and Edge of Eternity. He lives in England with his wife, Barbara.

From the Paperback edition.

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