Okay, here it is! We’ve been waiting for the second tome in The Century Trilogy by Ken Follett. WINTER OF THE WORLD takes place during WWII. The first in this series was FALL OF GIANTS. What a magnificent opener taking place during WWI. After falling in love with the story and the myriad characters in the first book, I felt pretty sure I would be a fan of this new book.
To tell the truth, I was a bit worried I would not remember all the characters, or, maybe would get them confused. After all, there are five families from all walks of life and different parts of the world. They are all caught up in the same worlds of war. But, Follett has done a bang-up job easing us into the story. In no time flat I found myself getting cozy with my old friends.
WWI was a time I knew very little about before reading FALL OF GIANTS. WWII is one of my very favorite time periods. And I have read veraciously about it. I have heard that Follett had a full time historian working with him and it really shows here. He has managed to add events and substance that I did not know. What a treat. I love learning about life in Berlin. Lately there have been several novels written about life in Berlin during the war. It’s not just about the atrocities against the Jews, it’s about the atrocities, period. Maud was born in Britain, married a German man, and now considers herself German. So, when the war commenced, she chose to stay with her family in Berlin. These people went through Hell. Once again we find that even the Christian German people barely survived.
The five families featured in this series are from England, Wales, Russia, Germany, and United States.
When asked if any of the characters are based on real people, Follett tells us that the character of Ethel Leckwith is loosely based on Ellen Wilkinson, a labor MP in 1924 and minister of education in Clement Attlee’s government after the war. Ethel is one of the key players in this epic novel. Talk about a strong woman. Oh my.
I particularly found Follett’s interjection of a Russian family exciting. I knew very little about the Russian history surrounding WWII. This bumps the already thrilling story up a notch.
Follett says he thinks people are very vague about how Hitler actually managed to take control of Germany the way he did. That’s why he opened WINTER OF THE WORLD with a short period of a few days when Hitler came to absolute power. People have asked over and over how something like this could happen. Well, Follett gives a brilliant glimpse into the how and why. It’s a stunning observation.
So many important events are showcased in WINTER OF THE WORLD. I will name just a few. Just to wet your whistle.:
- The burning of the Reichstag in Berlin in 1933.
- Battle of Cable Street in 1936.
- Battle of Belchite in 1937.
- High drama in Parliament as British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain responds to Germany’s attack on Poland in 1939.
- The Battle of France: May 1940.
- Aktion T4 (August 1941)
- The Atlantic Conference in 1941.
- Pearl Harbor ( Dec. 7, 1941)
- The Manhattan Engineer District in Sept.1942.
- D-Day (June 6, 1944)
The list of events above are by no means all of the ones covered in this magnificent novel. But it gives you an idea what you are dealing with. But, I will say, with all honesty, that this is one of the most readable books I’ve come across in years. It’s even easier to read than its predecessor.
I hope I’ve given you just enough of a taste of this amazing new novel by Ken Follett. Be prepared to be totally enthralled and entertained and amazed, right from the get-go. Happy reading!
I can’t thank the very generous publishing people at Dutton & Penguin, enough. They very thoughtfully sent me pages and pages of insightful information about Ken Follett and key information about what went into the writing of WINTER OF THE WORLD. Much of what you have read here is taken from the paperwork they sent me. Thanks so much, guys.