“Why was it, Lloyd wondered, that the people who wanted to destroy everything good about their country were the quickest to wave the national flag?”
Winter of the World, the second of Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy, picks up just before the start of World War II. Our cast of characters consists mainly of the offspring of the first book’s characters: Carla and Erik von Ulrich, Woody and Chuck Dewar, Lloyd Williams (a personal favorite), Daisy Peshkov (give her a chance, she’ll grow on you), along with her illegitimate half-brother Greg and their cousin Volodya, Boy Fitzherbert, and others. Some of the characters from the first novel appear as well — Eth Leckworth, Earl Fitzherbert, Maude and Walter Von Ullrich, etc. — but they no longer have starring, narrating roles.
Even more than in Fall of Giants, these character’s lives and stories meet up over and over — despite the large size of the American, European and Russian continents on which they reside, they seem to be constantly running into each other. However, if you can get past that, the story is great. Follett drops some characters in various armies, others work intelligence, others in government. He does an excellent job of presenting perspective after perspective of the war: soldiers vs. civilians, poor vs. rich, various political parties, and so on. He doesn’t shy away from violence, and he’s also not afraid to kill people off — no one seems to be safe.
Winter of the World does a great job of following up on those featured in Fall of Giants, and I’m eager to see who’s still around in the third novel (Edge of Eternity, which focuses on the Cold War). It certainly seems like just about everyone was reproducing at the end of this one. I will admit that Follett’s abilities to create realistic dialogue (particularly of the declaring-one’s-love sort) can fall a bit short at times, but overall I found his plotting as compelling as always.