Winter of the World is the second part of Ken Follett's Century trilogy, the first part being Fall of Giants which spanned the years 1911-1924. In Fall of Giants, Follett detailed historical events such as women's suffrage, the first world war, the Russian revolution and the growing tension between the working class and the aristocracy. This second book spans the years 1933-1949, so there are a new set of historical events in the background, such as World War II, the Spanish Civil War and Russia under Stalin's regime. This is a world where human beings continue to live despite the threat of violence, so there's love as well as war going on at the same time.
One of the main characters is Daisy Peshkov, the daughter of a rich man whose story was told in the previous book. She travels to England where she has two suitors—half-brothers who are unaware of the other's existence. One of them is "Boy" Fitzherbert who is also the Viscount Aberowen and the other is Lloyd Williams, the son of Earl Fitzherbert and a maid in the household, who eventually went on to become a Member of Parliament. Daisy eventually chooses Boy over Lloyd and is the sexual aggressor in the relationship, once again showing how much things have changed since the beginning of the trilogy because in the first book, such a thing was not possible.
Follett does a good job mixing love with aggression which, according to Freud, are the two main characteristics of the human race, existing side by side even though they are opposed to each other. The horrors of Nazi Germany, the startlingly brutal attack on Pearl Harbor and other historical events are given their due. At the same time, there are more personal attacks such as when thugs use dogs to attack a gay man and the disabled start disappearing into a hospital never to return.
This is an ambitious book but, like other books that tell the life of a particular character during a historical period, such as Gone With the Wind, it really gets into the minds of the characters and shows you what it was like to live through such times.
Ken Follett is a Welsh writer whose childhood was divided between Cardiff and London. As a child, he wasn't allowed to watch TV, so he gravitated towards books. He went to University College London and worked as a journalist in Cardiff and London. However, he didn't find the work challenging enough and eventually turned to publishing and writing. Although his initial motives were purely pecuniary, his books are amazingly well-researched and many have made it on to the New York Times bestseller list while some have been made into movies. He has strong political views and his wife, Barbara Broer was, at one point, a Labour Official.
Ken Follett follows up his #1 New York Times bestseller Fall of Giants with a brilliant, page-turning epic about the heroism and honor of World War II, and the dawn of the atomic age.
Winter of the World picks up right where Fall of Giants left off, as its five interrelated families—American, German, Russian, English, Welsh—enter a time of enormous social, political, and economic turmoil, beginning with the rise of the Third Reich, through the Spanish Civil War and the great dramas of World War II, up to the explosions of the American and Soviet atomic bombs.
Carla von Ulrich, born of German and English parents, finds her life engulfed by the Nazi tide until she commits a deed of great courage and heartbreak … American brothers Woody and Chuck Dewar, each with a secret, take separate paths to momentous events, one in Washington, the other in the bloody jungles of the Pacific … English student Lloyd Williams discovers in the crucible of the Spanish Civil War that he must fight Communism just as hard as Fascism … Daisy Peshkov, a driven American social climber, cares only for popularity and the fast set, until the war transforms her life, not just once but twice, while her cousin Volodya carves out a position in Soviet intelligence that will affect not only this war—but the war to come.
These characters and many others find their lives inextricably entangled as their experiences illuminate the cataclysms that marked the century. From the drawing rooms of the rich to the blood and smoke of battle, their lives intertwine, propelling the reader into dramas of ever-increasing complexity.
As always with Ken Follett, the historical background is brilliantly researched and rendered, the action fast-moving, the characters rich in nuance and emotion. With passion and the hand of a master, he brings us into a world we thought we knew, but now will never seem the same again.
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