Monday, 12 November 2012

Winter of the World by Ken Follett | The Great Story(teller)

I have been a proper slow-poke this last month. Reading Ken Follett's amazing new novel Winter of the World took me a long time, but truth be told, I'm glad it did. It deserved not to be raced through, but savoured rather.

I read Fall of Giants last year, and had high expectations to the second installment in the Century trilogy, but Follett didn't let me down. Follett is one of the greatest storytellers alive, and once more he perfectly weaves together factual history with fictional characters who come to life in a stunning way. Follett has managed to put together a daunting amount of material in a highly accessible way.

I was happy to see that we hadn't seen the last of my beloved characters from Fall of Giants. But 20 years have passed and the main characters are the children of the main characters of Fall of Giants. The characters are spread over England, France, Germany, Russia and USA, so we are presented with a very full picture of the war from all sides. Since all of the characters are very reflected, regardless of political view, we get insight into a variety of situations, ranging from the Nazi supporter to the Russian spy, from the British soldier to the American politician. All are fully fleshed characters who are forced to change in the course of the war.

In Ken Follett's stories, there is always a very strong dichotomy between good and evil. There are always evil characters involved who are making life difficult for our heroes. But you can trust that good always defeats evil in the end in his writing. Now that I have read a few of Follett's books, I question if Follett perhaps makes those distinctions a little too easy at times. As "classic" stories go, we do expect and want good to win in the end, and of course in the big picture of the war it did, but I still feel that Follett can be a little harder on his "babies" and not always conveniently killing off the bad-guys towards the end. Real life isn't like that (yes, I know, this isn't real life, and people do want a happy ending).

Winter of the World is a history lesson with soul. It brings to life the horrible years of war, the terror, the hunger, the desperation, the blood, but it does it with heart. Once again I genuinely came to care for the characters who was at the heart of it all. And once I finished the book I just wished my grandparents were still alive so that I could pick up the phone and get an answer to all the questions this book triggered in me. I am hungry for more.

I am so excited now about the third installment! Follett keeps blowing me away, and I want him to just keep writing, keep the good stuff coming..! Winter of the World fully satisfied my cravings for a good story and left me with a lot to chew on. Come Christmas, I will pick my parents' brains for what blanks they can fill in, but unfortunately my grandparents' stories were never written down. 


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