A Review of “Winter Of The World” – By Ken Follett

Winter Of World  Winter Of The World by Ken Follett, is the epic second novel in the Century Trilogy and revisits the lives of the characters created in Fall Of Giants.   The original cast of characters returns along with their now growing children as they face the most terrifying years we’ve seen as a planet.  The Second World War.  This historical fiction follows the lives of American, British, Russian, and German families as they struggle and battle to survive the horror that becomes the Nazi Party in Germany.  Brilliantly set against the backdrop of World War Two, the conflict is depicted through the personal stories of the characters as they develop, grow and triumph…or are lost.

Brilliantly told, these families who’s lives seem to intertwine time and again, paint an epic picture of the age and fit seamlessly into the historical events of the era. Follett leaves one wanting to immediately pick up the final book in the trilogy Edge Of Eternity. 

The Review!

This is my second Ken Follett novel, having read Fall of Giants almost two years ago.  It was easy to fall back into the story of these characters as they struggle through the historical events of World War Two.  Follett’s style with this novel is to have each character appear briefly on the stage that is the page before you to share a part of their struggle. Their own personal point in the history that was unfolding over the planet, and brings home to the reader an intimate story of one persons place in the grand scheme.  As each character rises to the foreground and then fades back as the next character comes to light, Follett builds an epic tapestry of life with each individual becoming rich and full in its moment.

The story itself has moved ahead in years from the first novel and the original characters slide slightly into the background as their children take the reins of the storytelling and the transition is both seamless and well written.  It maintains enough of the original novel while bringing a new set of stories to life.

Some of the novel is a difficult read as Follett is a master of making his words create a mental picture in the reader’s mind.  One such picture deals with the horrific murder of a German citizen arrested because he wouldn’t sell his restaurant.  The writing is bold, graphic and leaves nothing to imagination, leaving the reader to fully experience the raw horror that was the Nazi party Germany in the 1930s.

Other reviews have hinted criticism of the length of the piece.  Nine hundred and sixty pages, which are jam packed with story.  To this one can only respond that it is World War Two! To tell it in any less detail or space would have drawn away from the conflict and Follett’s style of looking at the conflict from all sides.  The only true disappointment comes from a lack of view from the Canadian perspective, and maybe more importantly the Japanese (two of their cities were bombed with massive casualties) who’s voices seem silent in this piece.

Jumping Off Points!

Too many to list them all…however, here are four that caught my interest.

Homosexual concentration camp    Persecution of Homosexuals in Nazi Germany

Cable street Cable Street Battle

Reichstag fire Reichstag Fire

Auschwitz Auschwitz Concentration Death Camp

The Rating!

This one gets a rare five out of five.  The writing is detailed and accurate, the characters are deep and memorable and the combination of history and fictional story fitting together brilliantly leave me anxious to read the third and final in the series.

Well done Mr. Follett, well done!

The Author!

Follett, Ken  Ken Follett arrived in 1978 with his first novel Eye Of The Needle, and has written over 20 novels, he has won several awards including The Edgar for his first novel Eye of The Needle which also became a movie.  Born in 1949 in Cardiff Wales we was the son of a tax inspector and attended University College London. He has an extensive website which outlines his life and novels.  Please check it out for further information.

ken-follett.com

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Prudence – by David Treuer

Prudence

Prudence by David Treuer Published by Riverhead Books (part of the Penguin Group)

Release date February 2015

The Novel. 

August 1942, Frankie Washburn is returning to his parents summer home (“the resort” as his mother Emma sees it) in Minnesota, to spend two weeks with his family and say his farewells to his boyhood.  Frankie is heading off to join the Airforce as war unfolds in Europe, to become a man.  A Man, the one thing no one has ever seen him as, especially his father Johnathan. Upon his arrival however tragedy strikes in the worst possible way, and the lives of Frankie, his parents, the old caretaker Felix, and Billy are changed forever.   Billy, who has been Frankie’s friend and more.

No life in this novel however is more changed than that of the title character Prudence. A young native woman, who has her own story to share in this mesmerizing tale of how even the smallest of decisions impacts so many lives.

The search for a runaway German soldier ends in a violent act that reverberates through all their lives for years to come.

The Review!

Treuer captivates his readers in this intricate tale, which begins in the early years of World War Two. Titled Prudence, which means among other things good judgement, it draws the reader in when lack of good judgement sets off a series of events which impacts all of the main characters in ways that will change all of their lives forever.

Treuer’s style of writing in this piece brings the inciting incident to the page early, and then allows the characters in turn to share their thoughts and memories, and how one moment in time changes you forever.  Through this the story unfolds brilliantly and with a depth that leaves a reader emotionally involved on so many levels.  Also stunning in this piece is the ability of the author to change his writing by character, so that as the words are read the voice of each individual is so clearly heard in the readers mind.

Treuer, an Ojibwe Indian from Northern Minnesota who’s father was a holocaust survivor from Austria, clearly draws on his life and background for elements in this particular tale.  His descriptions of Northern Minnesota make you feel as though you are truly present, and the tale of Gephardt feels almost a tribute to the struggle the Jewish people faced during the war. Writers who write from where they know, have that innate ability to draw you into their fictional world with a realism that comes with first hand experiences of similar memories and feelings.  Its a captivating read for this reason and many others.

The story unfolds superbly, whether its leaving the reader feeling despair for the characters, or chuckling at some of the very smartly written humor (which was unexpected and thoroughly enjoyed) which made this piece a complete five out of five reading experience.

Can only say…Brilliant!

The Author!

David Treuer, is an Ojibwe Indian from northern Minnesota, his father was an Austrian Jewish holocaust survivor and mother was a tribal court judge. He attended Princeton, and in 1992 published his first novel Little. He also teaches Literature at USC.

David’s works include:

The Translation of Dr. Apelles (named Best Book Of The Year by Washington Post 2006) 

Little

The Hiawatha

To learn more about David visit his website. http://www.davidtreuer.com/

David-Treuer

Jumping Off Points!

Anthony Beevor’s books The Second World War and D-Day: Battle For Normandy. 

or perhaps David’s novel The Translation of Dr. Apelles.

Enjoy your reading as yours books take you to the edge!

After The War Is Over: A Novel – By Jennifer Robson

After the war

Loved this  one, and not sure how to describe it. Its a historical fiction, which I love, and also a romance in some measure which are usually not my cup of tea. However in this mix it works brilliantly. Robson, has done her homework, both of the time period and the people. Charlotte Brown, the main character is extremely well written and draws you into her story quickly. A young woman who is struggling to find her place in this changing post WWI world, torn between her belief in a life of service and the life she doesn’t feel she deserves.

Robson seems a stickler for detail, and it shows. Even small points like dates being accurate to the day of the week (Yes I checked Dec 27 1919 did indeed fall on a Saturday), and the inclusion of real life Historical figures such as Eleanor Rathbone give a solid base of realism to this wonderful journey back in forth through Charlotte’s story.

Thoroughly enjoyed the story, and found the author’s writing style, gave me enough detail to enjoy each chapter but left plenty of space for me to visualize these wonderfully written figures and locations.

If Hollywood still made stories such as these into movies, this one would be a beautiful choice.

Definitely recommend this one. Its good through to the end.

PS. This is a sequel to her earlier book “Somewhere in France” however reads perfectly well as a stand-alone…Yup I was down to 20 pages left when I discovered its part of a series, so no need to read the other…But I will!

The Author!

Jennifer Robson is the author of two novels – Somewhere In France, and After The War Is Over.  She studied at Oxford and holds a doctorate in British economic and social history, both of which shine in this novel.  She is the daughter of historian Stuart Robson, who also read and provided feedback on this novel.  Robson resides in Toronto Canada.

Jennifer Robson

Jumping Off Points!

* Eleanor Rathbone who figures in this novel is an actual historical figure, who’s presence in this novel adds to its believability and accuracy as a piece of historical fiction.  Johanna Alberti has written a non fiction piece called Women of Ideas – Eleanor Rathbone, if you are interested in reading more.

Eleanor Rathbone

The Shipping News – by Annie Proulx (author of Brokeback Mountain)

Shipping NewsThe Shipping News, written by Annie Proulx, tells a story of the rebirth of Quoyle, a man suffering after the tragic loss of his wife Petal. Quoyle takes his family; two small daughters and aging Aunt, back to Newfoundland and the family home. The Green house on Quoyle’s point, dragged their by the Quoyle family across the ice, in what sounds like a previous attempt by the family to start over. A move that left the house not quite true.

In many ways the house represents the family’s fresh start, not quite right, and always at risk of toppling over into the sea. Quoyle, struggles with many things on this journey, being father to two little girls, and his developing relationship with Wavey Prowse.

The knots in the story tell their own tale and overall the author winds the reader on a magical discovery of Newfoundland and what it offers.

For me a few of the plot elements felt unresolved, and at least once I felt the story got a bit far fetched, but on many levels it resonated with me, and like all good novels, I was unable to put it down and took away a lesson or two.

Recommend picking it up

The Author!

Annie Proulx Annie Proulx, born August 22, 1935 Norwich CT. Has a Master Arts Degree from Sir George Williams University.  She is credited with nine novels and short story collections including The Shipping News, That Old Ace In The Hole and Close Range – which formed the basis of the film adaptation of Brokeback Mountain. In 2012 she received the United States Artist Fellow Award. In 1994 she received the Pulitzer for The Shipping News.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Northanger_Abbey_by_dop12  Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey is the tale of Catherine Morland, a clergyman’s daughter.  Catherine is invited to Bath by friends the Allen’s and there embarks on a journey of learning the social ropes and graces.  It is in Bath that she first meets Henry Tilney whom she secretly adores but as in all novels of this era, happenings, misinformation and misunderstandings keep the couple from becoming involved.  Eventually, Catherine is invited to the title location and learns more of the Tilney family, the General, and his mysterious deceased wife.

This one was a mixed read for me, while I love the genre and the time period, I do get frustrated by Catherine and what I call being an intentional air head.  There are times throughout the novel that you want to yell at her to open her eyes and ears.  I found myself asking, can she truly be that backwards and socially unaware.

The majority of the other characters are the stereotypes of their worst traits and gives one a very skewed, or perhaps very accurate account of society in Bath at the time.  It was a bit disappointing that some aspects of the story related to Northanger Abbey itself were not more developed.

Overall the novel is worth the read, and easily can be picked off in one to two days.  For me it ate up the better part of a cross country bus trip.

Jane Austen (1775-1817) was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction, was educated by her father and brothers and from her own reading.  Her works have garnered her a permanent spot in the history books and a favorite with critics.

Jane Austen