I spent Christmas in the Philippines with my family and reading an amazing novel which transported me back to the Third Reich.
Winter of the World is the second book of the Century Trilogy written by Ken Follett and published in 2012. It is set in World War 2, starting in Germany in 1933 where the Nazis are gaining popularity and ending after the explosion of the American and Soviet atomic bombs. The narrative is absorbing, taking the reader across different scenarios from the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Berlin.
As I flipped through the first few pages of the book, I was curious on how the author would portray the darkness of the reign of Adolf Hitler. He begins this by allowing the readers to witness the Nazis ransack a local newspaper office who criticized the chancellor and letting one of the main characters, Lloyd Williams, witness the death of a homosexual prisoner who was imprisoned and killed in public because he was gay. Such a powerful start to the novel left me with a sense of dread as I flipped the pages. Wondering what lies ahead.
I particularly liked the relatable and interesting characters that you will encounter in the story. Winter of the World has a rich cast that you will either grow to love or despise, sometimes even pity, as you progress with the plot. For instance, key characters like Carla Von Ulrich, Lloyd Williams and Daisy Peshkov undergo intriguing yet plausible journeys as they navigate through politics, messy relationships and life or death situations as they try to make sense of a world that had tumbled into chaos.
Even minor characters have an interesting back story of their own. As Franco ascends into power in Spain, the readers encounter a brave young woman who smuggles soldiers across the border in order to escape.
Despite being set in World War 2, the book does not dwell into the grisly details of battle. Though some sections of the book are set in the battlefield, it focuses more on the devastating effects of the war by portraying how civilians survived across Berlin, London and other cities as they live in a period that is gripped by fear and uncertainty.
Ken Follett also incorporates culturally relevant attitudes in the late 20th century by touching into attitudes towards homosexuality, inter-racial relationships and equal rights for women. I liked how he highlighted the different views and actions that people will have towards these topics and he showed this disparity by making the good characters of the book more tolerant and accepting towards these topics through their words and actions whereas the villains were the complete opposite.
The book is thick, it has 928 pages but the length is reasonable since it covers events from 1933 to 1945. Despite being lengthy, I particularly loved how Ken Follett sustains the interest of the reader. He melds the plot beautifully by using interesting fictional characters and true historical figures in his novel. Events are narrated in such a way that it captures the reader’s interest and there is also a good balance between dialogue and description.
Though I enjoyed reading this book, it is dark and there are scenarios which others may find morbid. However, if you are a history fan, I would recommend that you read this. The plot beautifully covers major events during the period of World War 2 such as the rise of Nazism, the ascent of Franco in Spain, British Fascism, The Battle of Moscow, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Berlin.
“And here’s my advice to you. If you get the chance of the mad kind of love, grab it with both hands, and to hell with the consequences.”
“We move by inches, not miles,” said Gus Dewar with a smile. “That’s politics.”
“A woman would always prefer to be remembered than forgotten.”
“Why was it, Lloyd wondered, that the people who wanted to destroy everything good about their country were the quickest to wave the national flag?”
“Why do you have to be the same as the others? …Most of them are stupid.”