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Monday, April 20, 2015

Review: The Winter of The World

The Fall of Giants was so compelling that I immediately checked out The Winter of The World from the library to follow along the novel. When you read history in novel form, especially the history of this episode from the previous century, it's easy to think about how compelling the narrative of the story is. It's almost as though real life thought that "World War" was so good that it deserved "World War 2: The Sequel".

The big difference for me personally is that while I wasn't as aware of what happened during World War I, World War II was something I was much more knowledgeable about. As with the prior novel, the prose is compellingly readable and transparent, while the characters get sent all over the world in increasingly unbelievable ways so the author can get them into the midst of the action. One character in particular went from working in Roosevelt's state department to witnessing Pearl Harbor and then parachuting down into France as part of D-Day all in the span of a few years.

Another interesting consequence of the approach the author took is that while the first novel started everyone more or less in poverty, by the start of the second world war, most of the characters are wealthy people. It's easy to understand why: in order to be able to ship the characters all over the world in order to cover all the events during this period properly, they need to do so. But as a result, you can see the gears grinding behind the plot and events.

By far the biggest problem in the novel is that it doesn't do a good job explaining why such people stayed put and put up with the obvious disasters that were moving towards them. For instance, by the end of the war, the fairly wealthy characters in Berlin had been through hell, and could see the iron curtain moving in, yet they stayed put instead of moving to West Germany. Now, we know this is needed so the author can get some viewpoint characters in the sequel, but a more compelling explanation of the characters' motivations would have made the novel stronger.

Nevertheless, the novel is compelling reading and a lot of fun, while reminding me how important this history was. For instance, this novel did a better job in explaining why Churchill lost the election after winning the war than any source that I can remember. Recommended.

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