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The Second Winter

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  1,611 ratings  ·  101 reviews
WINNER - National Indie Excellence Award 2017, Literary Fiction.
HONORABLE MENTION - San Francisco Book Festival 2017.
BRONZE WINNER - Foreword INDIES 2016, War & Military.

“A great historical novel, a touching family saga, and a noir wartime thriller all rolled into one terrific narrative.” —Lee Child, New York Times best-selling author

Set in Denmark in the darkest days of W
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published September 27th 2016 by Other Press
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Nov 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book was raw , little too graphic but I was still pulled in by the setting , Denmark under the Germans during WW II , the realities of the Jewish families and their plights, this is what this book is about ; Polina , the main character, a polish Jewish girl who sees her family being dragged out by the nazis and then tries to escape , she doesn't get far , she is forced to be a prostitute, another simultaneously interesting story happens to a different Jewish family that ends up correlating ...more
Miriam Smith (A Mother’s Musings)
Considering the brutality of this emotional and often violent book the descriptive writing was beautiful and shows the author, Craig Larsen, to be a very talented writer. "The Second Winter" is a dark, raw and graphic story set during WW2 focusing between a Danish man, Fredrik (a brute of a drug user), who profits from assisting Jews cross the border to Sweden and Polina, a young Polish girl forced into prostitution. On one particular occasion Fredrik steals a necklace from a fleeing Jew and tri ...more
Paula Bardell-Hedley
The Second Winter is a harrowing tale of survival in desperate circumstances. Set on a bleak farm in Jutland during the Second World War when Denmark was under Nazi occupation, the coarse, brutish, yet enigmatic father of two, Fredrik Gregersen, must supplement his income in order to feed his children and addictions. This he does by smuggling Jewish refugees into neutral Sweden.

In Poland, a beautiful Jewish girl is abducted and taken to Copenhagen where she is forced into prostitution. When
DNF 18%. Five chapters in and we've had child rape, another case of sexualised violence towards the mother of that child, elder abuse, gratuitous exposure of child's nether region for the gratification of one of the main characters - a sadistic, drug-addicted brute with paedophilic tendencies. This is even before we get to the part where the young child victim of incestuous abuse gets forced into prostitution. There were enough darkness and inhumanity during WWII to fill many bookshelves, that i ...more
Mar 03, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways
I received this book through giveaways. I'm not sure if I'd really consider this a war novel, really didn't have much focus on that aspect aside from Polinas plight of being half Jewish and Fredrick involvement in smuggling a couple Jews out of Denmark. This was a dark, tragic novel, the story line was interesting enough to keep me reading but I didn't really feel anything for the characters. I felt bad for Polina and Oskar, would have liked to have known what happened to Polina and Amalia and P ...more
Daisy Mae
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: won-in-giveaway
4.5 grisly war photographs out of 5

Won from GoodReads Giveaways!

War can make criminals of heroes, and heroes of criminals.

This was so intensely raw, and at the same time so incredibly well-woven, that I couldn't stop reading.

Larsen has created a bubble of a world in the farmlands of Denmark in 1941, where an estranged son of a wealthy family drowns himself day by day in his addictions and his inner self-loathing. Meanwhile, his two children try desperately to keep their hard-done-by family
Ken Fredette
Jun 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Keith Currie
Sep 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Loose connections

German Democratic Republic, early 1980s, a visiting musician from the west visits relatives and comes away with a priceless piece of jewellery and photographs taken by her father during the war, including one of a beautiful young woman, partially undressed. Poland, early in the Second World War, a teenage girl, partly Jewish, is taken prisoner by German soldiers. Denmark, a German ‘protectorate’, a brutal father in a tumbledown cottage, earns some money by helping Jews escape to
Mary Greiner
Dec 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book reveals the dark side of helping Jews escape the Nazis. Since historical fiction focused on WW II is an interest of mine, I found this gritty novel to be a wonderful addition to the genre. I recommend it to those who like their fiction to be realistic.
Joseph Carano
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I won this one in a Goodreads giveaway. Make no mistake, this is a very dark book with some very dark unlikable characters. It is also a page turning novel with intricate characters and an original plot.Set in Denmark in the middle of the war, the author,Craig Larsen explores the squalor of a man trying to feed his family, and the horrors of the holocaust which changes many lives. Just a great book on so many levels.
Cindy Woods
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This book was difficult to like given the subject matter. It is not a book with an easy story nor pretty ending. It's an ugly, hard expose on the intersecting lives of several people in Germany, Denmark and United States during and after WWII. The heroes aren't heroic. It's unsettling to be faced with the facts of life in occupied Denmark where human life was cheap and where resistance workers secreted Jewish people out of the country for remunerations, not conscience. I realize great risk wa
Don Gorman
Apr 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
( 3 1/2). This is a very difficult book to categorize. Part historical fiction, mostly noir, part thriller, it crosses many lines and is really well written. We have several really strong and engaging characters, all scrambling for their lives in occupied World War II Denmark. The flash forwards to the present are a nice touch and make for a really interesting ending. Polina, Oskar and especially Fredrik will resonate with you and keep you turning pages. A very different and entertaining read.
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Really LOVED this book. The depth of the characters, the intertwined stories and the picture of farm life during the Nazi occupation of Poland were a surprise to me. Most WWII books I read seem larger in scope, but this one was a very small story, but one that totally engaged me. Plus I absolutely ADORED the writing.
Lucy Meeker
Totally recommend this book and gave it five stars because it really does keep the reader wanting more. Very fluid writing and believable characters. A book for those who like to read about WWII, those who like historical fiction, or those who just want to read a great book.
I love reading books about WW2....this was a great read...everything came to life...I would definitely recommend this book.
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was very well written! Denmark in the second world tee of WW2. It involves a Polish girl who was forged into prostitution; a Danish family and German soldiers. Very engrossing.
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Second Winter by Craig Larsen Many thanks to the author, who provided a complimentary copy of the book via the publisher. I wrote half of my senior thesis on women’s relational bonds during the Holocaust, and this time period has always interested me. “The Second Winter” provides a different perspective, one with which I was mostly unfamiliar. Rather than focusing on concentration camp experiences or the lives of soldiers, Craig Larsen draws forth various ordinary characters whose lives slow ...more
Neal Boswell
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Dark at times, but well written
Katie B
It's 1941 and Denmark is an occupied territory under Germany. Fredrik Gregersen, a caretaker of a small farm in Jutland, struggles to take care of his son and daughter. He makes money by smuggling Jewish fugitives into Sweden. Fredrik steals a suitcase full of jewelry from a wealthy Jewish family which sets forth a chain of events that will change his life, his children's lives, and the life of a young prostitute and Polish refugee named Polina.

I have read many World War 2 historical fiction bo
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
The Second Winter is a dark, grim and bleak tale of a Denmark farmer and his family coping with the German occupation during World War II. There is a second story of a West Berlin woman reclaiming her Nazi father's possessions from his sister in East Germany in the late 1960s. The novel also explains the interrelationships.

I am rating this novel as less than fair. I inferred the characters were to be drawn as mysterious and enigmatic, but they appeared inconsistent and erratic. The plot was ver
Staci Suhy
Dec 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book for free as part of a first reads promotion
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was the first novel that I have read that referenced the Nazi occupation of Denmark. It was dark and the characters were gritty. Polina, a half Jewess, looses her family to the Nazis and is forced into prostitution for the Nazis. Fredrik and his two young adult children, Oskar and Amalia, are struggling farmers. Fredrik helps to smuggle and transport Jews to Sweden for money or stolen goods that he takes from the people he is transporting; he is an unsavory character. Each have disparaging ...more
Julie Failla Earhart
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have read a lot of World War II novels, but Craig Larsen’s is one of the most realistically brutal that I have encountered. It’s a great read with a lot going on. Larsen has adapted wonderfully Guy de Maupassant's 1884 short story, “The Necklace.”

The story opens in East Berlin in August 1969. Angela Schmidt is a violinist, who, along with other members of an un-named orchestra, are returning to West Berlin. Their bus is searched. It’s an intense scene that sets up this powerful novel. Angela’
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review, own
Many thanks to the author, who provided a complimentary copy of the book via the publisher. I wrote half of my senior thesis on women’s relational bonds during the Holocaust, and this time period has always interested me. “The Second Winter” provides a different perspective, one with which I was mostly unfamiliar. Rather than focusing on concentration camp experiences or the lives of soldiers, Craig Larsen draws forth various ordinary characters whose lives slowly coalesce throughout the narrati ...more
Mar 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical, wwii
I received this book from the publisher, in return for an honest review.
Larsen gives us a gritty and often violent portrayal of a family living in the barren landscape of Jutland, Denmark, during the second winter of WWII, when both food and other supplies are scarce. The main characters are a farmhand, Fredrik, his son Oskar, daughter Amalie, and Polina, a Polish Jew forced into prostitution whom Oskar rescued--or stole--from a German officer. No Resistance heroes here--the local Resistance le
Ike Levick
Nov 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-reads
Book 40:
The Second Winter by Craig Larsen
Well, this was quite a dark, and mostly unhappy, book and felt very masculine. You know how sometimes you can tell a book has been written by a man?
I enjoyed coming back to read it every day, though not a huge amount happened in the story, and it didn’t really have an ending.
It’s set in a dual timeline, and the historical time period (early 1940s) was my preferred one. The characters were simple but powerful - I could really sense and smell them, an
Joe Stamber
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Second Winter is World War II historical fiction with a difference. Novels of this era and genre are typically set in Berlin or somewhere else at the thick of things. This story centres around occupied Denmark, mainly Jutland and Copenhagen, and features a teenage Polish girl forced into prostitution, a destitute farming family and a German officer who is more photographer than soldier.

Each character's story is revealed by spending some time with them before moving on to the next one, which
Oct 24, 2018 rated it liked it
I found this dark exploration of the evils of war too disjointed and fragmentary to really draw me in. It was hard to follow what was happening in the early part of the book, and the connection between these episodes set in wartime occupied Denmark and the later ones set in the GDR remained obscure for too long. The narrative shifts in time and place and we jump from character to character too frequently to engage with any of them fully. As an examination of the moral complexities of war and the ...more
Michael Bully
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
t is great to have another war time novel set in occupied Denmark with a few later scenes in the DDR. There is a complex family saga at work but I started to get confused in concerning how the two different countries,time zones and characters all relate to one another. . The strongest aspect was the the novel was unpredictable, also quite captivating. No sign of any heroism or idealism. People seemed to somehow drift into becoming collaborators or resistance fighting. Jewish refugees are the vic ...more
Ginger Pollard
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky enough to win this amazing book on Goodreads. I can see how it won the National Indie Excellence Award 2017 for Literary Fiction. It's a quick read, yet a book that I wanted to savor. As most books based on WWII and the Nazi's, it has some bad and horrible scenes. It is, however, highly worth a read if you are a fan of that time period. I'm not a huge fan of the time because of the awful things which happened then disturbs me. However, my grandparents lived on the backside of that ti ...more
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CRAIG LARSEN was born in 1963. He has lived in various places inside and outside the U.S. He currently resides in Northern California.

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“off other people’s underpants.” Amalia pulled herself from her father’s lap, but he grabbed her back again. She acquiesced and collapsed into him beneath the weight of his arm. “Why don’t you sit down at the table with us?” Oskar suggested. “Amalia plays hearts better than anyone else,” he said to Polina. “She’s” 0 likes
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