I think I’m going to have to create a special list for Ken Follett books. I’m going to call it “Books I hate and love at the same time.” On the one hand, he writes a darn entertaining novel. In spite of it’s nearly 1,000 pages, the pages turn quickly and I was reluctant to put it down. On the other hand, Follett really burns me with his too modern characters and inaccurate depictions of history. When you start yelling “Are you kidding me?” and complain about the author to your family members (while still being unable to walk away from the book), you know you have a love/hate relationship.
What follows might constitute spoilers for the book, although they are small and don’t give away any big surprises. However, if you want to read the book without knowing anything about it beforehand, by all means, stop here. If you want to hear my complaints about Follett, keep reading.
Winter of the World is Follett’s sequel to Fall of Giants, an epic story that follows English, American and Russian families through the Great War in the first book, and now World War II in the second. Lady Maud has married a German at the end of Fall of Giants, so now we have her family’s storyline taking place in Nazi Germany during World War II.
The heroes of Follett’s book are all Socialists, who appear to hate democratic conservatives, Fascists and Communists equally. The author props up Roosevelt and alludes to his problems as being the fault of conservatives. In one early chapter Woody DeWar defends Roosevelt’s decision not to support the anti-lynching bill by saying he needed Congressional support for the New Deal. All around this scene is dialogue like “damn Conservatives!” and trashing of the Republicans. A person not acquainted with history would assume that it was conservative members of Congress that were preventing Roosevelt from signing the bill, when in fact it was southern Democrats. The bill was introduced by a Republican and had broad conservative support.
Later, when the United States enters into World War II, two of the main American characters decide to join the military because they want to help in the war effort. But, neither of them want to fight. They both want desk jobs. This sounds like a modern left-leaning American to me. I’ve read far to many autobiographies and biographies from World War II veterans, and the one thing they have in common is they all want to fight. In fact, the ones that were assigned desk jobs complained bitterly and tried anything they could to be sent overseas.
And let’s look at Lady Maud and her German family. Her daughter, Carla, helped to spy for the Russians and when the war ended and they found themselves in the Russian sector of Berlin, Carla was raped and their family was left to starve. In non-fiction books I have read, the Russians treated well those that refused to join the Nazi party. They were given jobs and food. I can’t imagine that this family would not have immediately confessed their espionage activities to the Russians in the hopes of better treatment. Better yet, why didn’t they go back to England? Follett uses the excuse that the Earl disowned his sister because she married a German, but he certainly wasn’t her only family member, and Lady Maud is British. For sure, Maud and her family would have left Germany.
I could go on and on, but I won’t. I’m not sure if I’ll read the third part of this trilogy, Edge of Eternity (which is due to hit the bookshelves on September 16th). I’ll have to carefully read a few reviews first to see what direction Follett is taking this novel. It’s likely to deal with more recent history, and that might make me even angrier if he continues to revise history like he has in his previous books.
3 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2012