Jay Connor's Reviews > Winter of the World

Winter of the World by Ken Follett
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Nov 02, 12

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Read in October, 2012

My rating would have been 2 and one-half stars if Goodreads had given me the option. Plus I think the divergence of this review from the "average" of the reviews for the book is as much due to the cognitive dissonance of not "really enjoying" a book that you've slogged thru 960 pages to complete, than a passionate embrace of "Winter."

As much as I liked the first volume of Follett's 20th Century Trilogy -- Fall of Giants -- I was disappointed by this second installment. The back cover blurb: "These characters and many others find themselves inextricably entangled as their experiences illuminate the cataclysms that marked the century." If that sounds like the TV show, Law & Order's breathless "ripped from the headlines," you'll understand the decaying of literacy to pulp we have in this awkward middle child.

The first test of great historical fiction is: did it get the history right? Ken Follett, no surprise, has got the history down pat. I've read quite extensively about the period leading up to and including the Second World War and I think Follett got the pulse of the times and the events aligned to their proper significance, including the important occurrences on the margin e.g., the Spanish Civil War and the Manhattan Project.

The second test, which truly separates the excellent historical fiction from the good is the use of characters and their reactions to and against the riptide of events. With all due respect to the above quoted blurb, it is this area where we are let down. This cast and their human weaknesses and strengths fail to fully inform and make rational the seemingly contradictory and incoherent implosions and dynamisms of the time. Follett continues with the next generation(s) of the interrelated families he introduced us to in "Fall..." -- American, German, Russian, English and Welsh. But here, the sweep of characters instead of being broad feels more incestious. They fail to reveal their world in a fashion better than nonfiction. For example, just considering the rise of the Nazi's, last year's "In the Garden of Beasts" by Erik Larson is much more revelatory. Which is harsh indictment of a piece of historical fiction.

This is the second of what Follett is calling his Century Trilogy. Both Follett and installment one are enough to keep me encouraged for the concluding volume, but I am a little leery especially given the working title: "Edge of Eternity." But I guess that is better than "Springtime for the Plutocrats."

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Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by Chris (new)

Chris I disagree. Disappointement. Raved about all his other books but this one is not well written. There's so much good history in it! No doubt. So many mind-blowing experiences that you find yourself in the middle of too!
But the writing is very dry as if his editors advised him to make a best-seller by writing in the way that a child could predict (which was not an issue in his other books so much at all) and the co-incidental nature of how every single character in the book ends up geting involved with another one on the other side of the world ....... it gets silly. I know synchronicity, but it's taken to the level of making you completely know you're reading stuff which couldn't happen, whereas historical fiction is a genre wherein one thinks 'even if this didnt happen, things just like this definitely did'.


message 2: by Nan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nan Williams This book is quite a disappointment. I've been a Follett fan since the first book and have read everything he's written. I have the feeling that he wrote about 200 pages (the skeleton) and then some junior editor or ghost writer merely filled in 700 pages with graphic sex (of every nature) and details that were not relevant. I'm sorely tempted to quit after 700+ pages as the story continues to deteriorate, but I won't. However, I'm certainly not enjoying it.


Julie Totally agree with you. I wanted to give it a 2-1/2 star rating.


Charles I fully agree Jay.


Laurie I agree with you. I really enjoyed the first book, but found the second generation characters and their stories not as interesting as the first book


Flávio Cicarelli sanches I couldn't agree more. First one was great! Second one....


message 7: by Renee (new)

Renee Your review was spot on, but it was the last line of your review that had me clicking the "like" button.


Otávio Ziglia Sincerely, I think he fails in talking about the margin because he should have talked more about Bulgaria, Romania, Finland, instead of just focusing on what everyone does - USSR, USA, UK and France. Also, I think that some characterization of right-wingers, nazis, communists, democracy, tyranny, etc, are really simplified, what you would expect from a person that you talk in the streets, not with someone who writes historical fiction...
Things are really simple, bad and good, there is nothing contradictory, nothing is hard, complicated, there is a simple line that separates things. And in the middle of misery, violence, nuclear weaponry, eternal conflicts, everything seems even more unclear... I think he should have considered this.


Elfie I like Follett but I hate his unnecessary sex Scenes.


message 10: by Kerr (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kerr Smith Enjoyed "Fall of the Giants" which flowed better and principal figures more compelling. The characters come across as action figures in a "Star Wars" installment. Herman Wouk's "Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance" far superior to this work.


Deleen Interesting. I felt the completely opposite. I like books with depth and I felt that Fall of Giants was written with broad strokes, however, I probably would have been completely lost if Follett hadn't simplified Book One of this trilogy.


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