Sunday, January 19, 2014

The War Part 2

A lot has happened between the end of  Fall of Giants, and the start of the sequel, Winter of the World, by Ken Follett.  The whole next generation has grown up, and as expected, they are old enough to fight in the second World War.  We catch up with some of our favorites from the first book, and we lose some others.  

Much of Winter focuses on Maud Fitzherbert, who became Maud Von Ulrich in Fall.  She and her husband, Walter, are living in Berlin with their teenage children, Carla and Erik.  Erik is enthralled by the Nazis, and quickly joins their ranks.  Carla starts off as a young girl, but is a nurse as the war gets underway, and later enters politics.

We also reunite with Maud's brother, Fitz, who lives with his wife, Bea, and their son, Boy, in England.  This family becomes entangled with Lev Peshkov's American family when Lev's daughter, Daisy, visits London.  Fitz had a child with Ethel Williams in Fall, and in Winter, that child, Lloyd, is an important player.  The Williams and Fitzherbert families remain entwined in Winter, with Boy and Lloyd living very different lives, but finding it hard to get away from each other none the less. 

Lev Peshkov also has two illegitimate sons, Gregory, who lives in America, and Vladimir, who lives in Russia.  These boys are both strong characters in the novel, with Gregory drifting between politics and physics, and Vladimir becoming a skilled spy, who can't help questioning his loyalty to his country.

Finally, the Dewar family in America is even more important in Winter than they were in Fall, with Gus Dewar serving as a senator, his son, Woody, working in Washington and his other son, Chuck, serving in the Navy and stationed in Hawaii.

Of course, there are also lots of new characters who make appearances.  Some of my favorite characters from Fall did not have very important roles in Winter.  One such character is Grigori Peshkov, who is only relevant in Winter as the step-father of Vladimir.  Another is Billy Williams,  who is just a sideline character in Winter.  I missed Billy more than Grigori, probably because Vladimir was a such great character that he made up for his father's loss.

The fun of this story is to guess how the characters will find themselves connected, and I'm not going to spoil that for you.  The nut shell synopses of this 940 page book is this:

The story starts with the Nazis rising to power in Germany.  The Nazis close Maud's newspaper, and her husband's cousin, Robert, is persecuted for being gay.  Ethel is a member of Parliament in England, and is doing everything that she can to fight fascism, while not getting caught up in a war with Germany.  The Americans, the Peshkovs and the Dewars, are less concerned about the unfolding problems in Europe, but have their hands full with politics and social engagements.  In Russia, Vladimir is involved with the Red Army, and trying to protect Russia from Germany.  Soon, Daisy is in London, flirting with Boy and Lloyd.  The Germans are beginning to suspect that the Nazis are rounding people up and killing them, but are not sure what they can do to stop them.  Eventually, all of the children are involved in the war effort, with Erik fighting for Germany, Lloyd fighting in Spain, Boy flying for the British, Vladimir in the Red Army, Woody and Chuck in the US military, and Greg is using his skills for America, even if he doesn't wear a uniform. 

By the end of the story, Carla has two children, Greg has one, Woody has two, Daisy has two, Lloyd has two, and Vladimir has one.  Lloyd, Carla, and Maud are all in Berlin on the Russian side, but no one has mentioned a wall.  And so the stage is set for Follett's next book, Edge of Eternity, which is due out on September 16, 2014.

One thing that I'd like to note is that Winter is a World War II story, and not a Holocaust story. Obviously, Follett did his research, and I think that his goal was to present the story of the concentration camps from the perspective of the people who lived outside of them during the period.  In Winter, the Germans know that Jews are sometimes rounded up, that gays are targeted, and that the disabled and the elderly seem to disappear.  But some of the Jews come back, and in the story as in real life, the Jewish hospital remains open in Berlin, with Jewish doctors and nurses treating Jewish patients, right up until the Russians invade the city.   After the war ends, the Americans mention camps being found, and the Germans claim that the Russians are re-opening the camps.  The words "concentration camp" are never used, that I can recall.  Additionally, there is no mention of the siege of Leningrad, even though there are Russian characters.  If you are interested in Holocaust stories, you should read Night by Elie Wiesel, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, or Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay.  For a great story about the Siege of Leningrad, try Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah.

This book is the first that I have finished for the I Love Library Books Challenge, and for the 2014 Audiobook Challenge.  Winter of the World was read by John Lee, who did a great job handling all of the accents, just as he did in Fall.

Next up on CD:  City of Thieves by David Benioff.  I must not have had enough of WWII.  This is another Siege of Leningrad story.

Still Reading:  The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman

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