Book Review: Winter of the World

Friday, September 21, 2012

"Winter of the World," by Ken Follett. Dutton, 940 pp. $36

The second book in his "Century" trilogy, succeeding "Fall of Giants," may be slightly briefer but is no less dense.

While "Fall of Giants" spans from 1911 to 1924, "Winter of the World," covers 1933 to 1949. What Follett mastered in his earlier "Pillars of the Earth" series, he continues strong into this trilogy. His historical novels are just that, rife with historical reference yet packed with character and plot. As we turn page after page (his books consistently require quite a lot of this action), we lose track of where the one ends and the other begins.

We open in 1933, in Germany. The Nazi party is gaining a foothold in German politics, and the Reichstag is slowly losing their influence and their power.

While Hitler is, at this point, focused on gaining the trust and loyalty of his native people, Daisy Peshkov, daughter of "Fall of Giants" character, Lev Peshkov, is focused on climbing the social ladder of the Buffalo society. Peshkov has become very wealthy and influential in the film industry.

But even though Daisy's family stands on the fringes of high society, they're not welcomed in. Aside from Peshkov's questionable business tactics, their money is new. Regardless, Daisy is determined to marry well. She steals the heart of "Boy" Fitzherbert, the oldest son of Earl Fitzherbert, who is formally known as the Viscount Aberowen. At their wedding she signs her name proudly on the marriage certificate, "Daisy Fitzherbert, Vicountess Aberowen."

Meanwhile, in England, fascism is building, and Lloyd Williams and his fellow school comrades are determined to fight it as long as they can.

"Winter of the World" follows the same families of "Fall of Giants," but focuses more on the children of the previous book's characters. Follett also ensures, through the adventures and misadventures of this book's characters, that another generation will be available for a third installment.

In "Winter of the World" violence and sexuality are present, though not dwelt upon. They happen, we understand, we move on. Follett's greater concern, I can imagine, is piecing the storylines and characters together so that they intertwine without blending together.

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