To say that Ken Follett is one of my favorite authors is a serious understatement. I have read eighteen of his novels, including four of his massive historical tomes, and loved them all.
I still consider The Pillars of the Earth, Follett’s epic about twelfth-century England, to be the best book I have ever read. So I didn’t need much incentive to return to his works when I finally had the chance to do so.
This time the treat of choice was Winter of the World, the second book of the Century Trilogy. The series includes Fall of Giants, which I read following its release in 2010, and Edge of Eternity, which I will devour at the earliest opportunity.
Winter follows the lives of five interrelated families — English, Welsh, Russian, German, and American — from the rise of the Third Reich in 1933 through the beginnings of the Cold War in 1949. Though there are far too many characters to name in a single review, there were not too many to leave an impression.
Follett tells the story of the time from several perspectives: young and old, male and female, rich and poor, civilian and military, and good and evil. He gives readers a front-row seat of the Spanish Civil War, Pearl Harbor, Midway, D-Day, the development of atomic weapons, and the political drama in Britain, Germany, and the U.S. Few stones from the era are left unturned.
Though I gravitated toward the riveting descriptions of major historical events, I also loved the many personal narratives. I became quickly invested in Lloyd Williams, the principled and daring English soldier; Daisy Peshkov, the plucky American socialite; and Carla von Ulrich, the young German nurse who gave new meaning to courage and sacrifice.
In Winter of the World, Follett doesn’t make readers choose between big-picture history and small. He gives us both — and a whole lot more. I look forward to completing the trilogy and returning to the author's earlier works. It’s time to catch up. Rating: 5/5.