Staff Pick – Winter of the World by Ken Follett

Staff Pick - Winter of the World by Ken Follett It’s been a long two years waiting for Ken Follett’s next installment in the Century Trilogy (M) and I’m pleased to report that Winter of the World did not disappoint. Just to recap, the first book in the trilogy Fall of Giants covers the time period 1911 to 1924 and follows five interconnected families in Russia, Germany, England, Wales and the United States as the world teetered on the brink of war. For more details we wrote about it back in 2011 (and I had forgotten that Kirkus had labelled it “cat squashing” – that still makes me laugh!). Well, Winter of the World could squash a few cats as well (at 940 pages) but it is so compelling and the characters so vividly rendered, that you will sail through and just have to wait patiently for the conclusion.
The story continues in 1933 with a new generation.  The events are presented in such a way that the details of Fall of Giants come flooding back to memory despite the two year wait. Lady Maud Fitzherbert made her choice in the last novel and married German Walter Von Ulrich. Their two children, Erik and Carla, grow up in the shadow of the Hitler Youth. Erik succumbs to the lure of  Nazi rhetoric and Carla maintains the ideals of her socialist parents. We see the rise of the Nazi regime through Carla’s eyes and share in her horror as the truth of the Nazi atrocities are revealed.
Staff Pick - Winter of the World by Ken Follett Former maid and present MP Ethel Leckwith and her husband Bernie continue their fight against the British fascists. Boy Fitzherbert, son of her former lover, Earl Fitzherbert, plays a leading role in the fascist movement. Ethel’s son Lloyd is still unaware that the Earl is his father. Lloyd joins his parents’ anti-fascist fight and plays an active role in the coming war and has a passionate romance with Daisy Peshkov.
The Peshkov family split in the last novel and one branch remained in Russia while another established itself in America. Lev Peshkov left his pregnant girlfriend behind to be cared for by his brother and established a couple more families in the United States. Son Greg Peshkov, a brilliant young man, goes on to play and active role in the Manhattan Project. Volodya, the son Lev left behind, engages in espionage and sees Russia through to the beginnings of the Cold War, unaware of his half-siblings living in the West.
Staff Pick - Winter of the World by Ken Follett Finally, in the United States, there is the Dewar family whose patriarch is highly placed in Senate. The Dewar children, Chuck and Woody, follow different paths with one interested in his father’s political life and the other joining the navy. The entire family becomes witness to the devastation of Pearl Harbour and see the US being dragged into the global conflict.
Until I picked up this series I had forgotten how much I enjoy these sweeping lively sagas. The story is set in an era absolutely packed with political and human drama. Europe is being gripped by Fascism, Londoners are living through the Blitz, German become slowly aware of the horrors their own countrymen are committed and the American idyllic life is shattered by Pearl Harbour. Winter of the World is a terrific read, difficult to put down, just packed with human drama and struggles, and plenty of historical context.
Staff Pick - Winter of the World by Ken Follett Century Trilogy brought back to mind a book I read when I was a teenager by Fred Mustard Stewart called Century (M) in which an Italian family is swept up world events from the late 1800’s to the mid-twentieth century. Kirkus didn’t exactly give it a glowing review,”Stewart has his problems here with anachronistic dialogue, rampant cliches, nonstop stereotypes, and gratuitous dollops of mechanical sex. And the whole shapeless enterprise is much too crudely episodic to generate the momentum needed for top saga entertainment. Still, chapter by chapter, it’s unpretentiously readable fare–passable, varied melodrama/romance for undemanding fans of the genre”, but I remember gobbling it up and then reading it once more.
For more modern examples of the genre try Edward Rutherfurd (M) and the less verbose Pat Barker (M)


MEET ‘n GREET with Councillor Stephen Adams - Nov 19th at PRCC

MEET ‘n GREET with Councillor Stephen Adams – Nov 19th at PRCC

The Black Sheep

The Black Sheep