Carl's Reviews > Winter of the World

Winter of the World by Ken Follett
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's review
Sep 28, 12

bookshelves: historical-fiction
Read from September 22 to 28, 2012

The 20th century is the most dramatic and violent period in the history of the human race. We killed more people in the 20th century than in any previous century, in the trenches of World War I, in the Soviet Union under Stalin, in Germany under the Nazis, Spain under Franco. There was World War II and the bombing of Dresden by the British and Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was a horrible century and yet it is also the century of liberty.

Very few countries were democratic before the First World War. In Britain in 1900, fewer than a quarter of the adult population had the vote. None of the women had the vote in any of these countries, so that’s 50 per cent of the people who weren’t allowed to take part in democracy. And the franchise was gradually extended to working class men, so democracy really only had a toehold in the world in 1900. Now we take it for granted, certainly in all the countries we think are “civilized.” And that’s a big contrast with what we did in terms of killing each other.

This is one of the most sweeping reviews of the evolution of class structure, politics, war, and development of the world during the 20th century that I've found outside of books documenting individual events. Follett's ability to use his characters to give you a first hand experience of the subtle and not so subtle effects of these events highlight the point that no event, decision, or action is ever black and white, and it's effects are never as simple as assumed before they are made.
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