A Masterpiece of Historical Fiction-The Great Novel of America's "Greatest Generation" Herman Wouk's sweeping epic of World War II, which begins with The Winds of War and continues in War and Remembrance, stands as the crowning achievement of one of America's most celebrated storytellers. Like no other books about the war, Wouk's spellbinding narrative captures the tide of global events-and all the drama, romance, heroism, and tragedy of World War II-as it immerses us in the lives of a single American family drawn into the very center of the war's maelstrom.
The thing that really caught me by surprise was how the characters reacted to Pearl Harbor. Maybe it's because they're a military family, but it was all taken in stride ... just another attack. There wasn't even any mention of all the lives lost, and there was barely a mention of Roosevelt's infamous speech.
I'm wondering if there's a sequel, because the book ends with several story lines very much up in the air.
These human conflicts are somehow always uppermost in a story that never succumbs to the weightier issues of war and destruction. I enjoyed the way in which the author deftly creates an intimate viewpoint of the three pivotal characters of the war: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Hitler himself by having Pug Henry at different stages of the novel actually meet and interact with these men. Another interesting angle is Pug's analysis of General Armin van Roon's (fictional) account of the war and the motives and machinations behind Hitler's various invasions and instances of both brilliance and bungling ineptitude. The author also provides a perceptive analysis of the psyche of the nations dragged into the war, and this is a great help in understanding how and why so many people entered into and supported their leaders in what could only be the greatest folly of the century. The book cannot, of course, adequately describe the unspeakable horror of the bombings, the dreadful atrocities perpetrated in the death camps, and many more occasions of wholesale slaughter, but the author does an excellent job of describing these events without sinking into a mire of sentimentality or a ghoulish litany. The book ends as Pearl Harbour is bombed, thus bringing the USA into a war that FD had successfully avoided in an effort to appease the war-shy American public. The bombing of Pearl Harbour, a momentous blunder on the part of Japan propelled the American giant into the war with a unanimous vote (bar one). This is a truly satisfying experience for the readers who want to sink their literary teeth into something solid!
This book covers the period of time leading up to the U.S. entry into WWII, from just before Germany's invasion of Poland up through the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the declaration of war on the U.S. by Germany and Italy. It follows U.S. Navy captain Victor Henry and his family as the war scatters them across the globe.
I find this book amazing because it functions on two levels. The story of the Henrys and the people they come across--common soldiers as well as men of destiny like Hitler, Stalin, and Roosevelt--puts a face on the war. It becomes a human story rather than dry history. Further, the broader scope of the war is laid out through the fictional work of German general Armin von Roon, passages of which are translated by Captain Henry to place the story's events into their historical context.
I wish I would have read this book in high school, when we were learning about WWII in history class. It really does clarify things, I think, and it would also be helpful for a student to get at least some insight into the mindset of the people and leaders on the other side. Beyond that, while I've long been personally fascinated by WWII, I think placing it in the context of a story like this--which is compulsively readable--would make the topic more interesting to students who don't share that fascination.
All in all, this book is a fantastic read, and I give it my highest recommendation. It's long, but if you have some time to devote to an incredible reading experience, you won't be sorry.
Aaron Jastrow is a fool, Byron Henry a petulant layabout for most of the book, Leslie Slote is a coward.
It's a long story, a bit melodramatic at times, will infuriate you, and bring tears to your eyes. Which was what Wouk set out to accomplish.