by Herman Wouk

Hardcover, 1971



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.

Library's rating


(656 ratings; 4.2)

User reviews

LibraryThing member drmaf
Truth to tell, I only read this book initially because I was in my Michener period and just loved anything "epic". Then I read it again because of the TV miniseries. I wouldnt say its a particularly great peice of literature, but its certainly a great read. The characters are engaging and believeable, albeit stereoptyped, and for a very large book it moves quite fast and rarely drags. While its quite difficult to suspend disbelief that a single family could experience just about every theatre of the largest war ever fought, and have the ear of just about every VIP who took part in it, that doesnt detract from the enjoyment. I hate using such a trite description as a "a rollicking, roller-coaster of a book", it is just that. Highly recommended.… (more)
LibraryThing member kellifrobinson
This is historical fiction at its finest. Even if you think you know all there is to know about World War II and its impact on American families living in the United States and abroad, think again and read this book. The Winds of War is to World War II what Gone With the Wind is to the Civil War. It expertly blends the history of the war itself with a family saga full of love, lust, disappointment and triumph. This book, however, strikes an even better balance and there is lots more political history. I would also recommend checking out the 1983 miniseries of the book which can be watched instantly on NetFlix. I actually watched as I read and found that the miniseries was a very true adaptation of the novel. Herman Wouk himself wrote the teleplay. On a final note, be warned. The Winds of War ends with lots of question marks making it nearly impossible not to reach for War and Remembrance next.… (more)
LibraryThing member Joanne53
Read this book in 1974 and again in1979....just getting around to entering it into my library...but I remember it as a great story and a good introduction to the history of WWII. It made me move from historical fiction to history.
LibraryThing member M109Rider
This is one of my favorite books of all time. I read it like my life depended on it. Once I finished it and saw that there was a sequel (War and Remembrance) I immediately dashed to the public library to get a copy. I also own the TV mini-series and I found it to be very close to the original story.
LibraryThing member pfax
Good read, though sometimes it borders on melodrama.
LibraryThing member russelllindsey
I was once told that this book, along with "Sophie's Choice," would teach me most of what I would need to know about the WW II era. Well, reading both books is a great start. I don't think that enough can be said for that era in history.
LibraryThing member miyurose
This started out a little slow, but by the time the war started, the character backgrounds were done and the story started moving. I learned a lot about the war in this book. I think Americans tend to not care much about WWII before we got into it, but it was rather interesting to see all the diplomatic stuff that was going on. There were also sections that were basically descriptions of military plans from the point of view of a German officer. That was rather interesting as well.

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.
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LibraryThing member loralu
Wouk creatively combines fiction and nonfiction into a breathtaking story of the love, relationships, struggles, and challenges of a US Navy family during WWII. By combining the fictional story of the family and the nonfiction of a German Admiral's diary, as well as other factual events from the war, the reader becomes captivated and transported back in time.… (more)
LibraryThing member Unkletom
An epic novel along the lines of James Michener. Wouk packs a lot of information and a stimulating plot into it's 1100 pages. My only complaint is that the characters seem a little two-dimensional.
LibraryThing member FionaRobynIngram
First published in 1971, The Winds of War is aptly described on the cover as `another splendid epic' as well as being compared to Margaret Mitchell's `Gone With The Wind.' Although such fulsome praise has often been used to describe various tomes, this book deserves such high praise. It is actually the prologue to Wouk's War and Remembrance, and (my tattered old edition) is a 960-pager at that! If you are looking for something that seems to have died out recently, namely, a good old-fashioned read or a solid story, then this is it. Despite being written over forty years ago, there is no sense of being dated, albeit some of the expressions might come across as quaint. The story concerns two families, one Jewish and European, the Jastrows, and the other American and WASP, namely the Henrys. Looming behind the tapestry of lives and loves interlinking is the horrific menace of World War 2. The author is truly a gifted writer in that tackling a subject as monumental as a world war and trying to humanise both friends and foes is daunting. However, this book is superbly written and keeps the reader glued to the pages. Each character brings a unique angle to this novel, even those historical personalities usually relegated to the pages of history books. The stubbornness of elderly academic Aaron Jastrow, who remains in Italy despite the imminent threat of Fascism and Mussolini's pact with Hitler, drags his niece, the strong-willed and beautiful Natalie Jastrow, right into the fray. Pug Henry, a middle-aged US Naval officer, is dismayed to find his youngest son Byron not only gets involved with Natalie, but marries her. When war breaks out she is stranded in war-torn Europe with her cantankerous uncle and a new-born babe. Pug has his own problems with a beautiful but bored and dissatisfied wife (Rhoda) who feels her husband has not achieved the career she had in mind for him. On an observer mission to Europe, Pug himself finds himself attracted to a girl old enough to be his daughter.

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!
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LibraryThing member JaneAustenNut
Fantastic WWII War Epic film by Paramount Pictures; The iconic pre-war epic mini series broadcast during 1983.
LibraryThing member jonwwil
I am in absolute awe of this book. It (along with its companion novel, War and Remembrance) is quite possibly the finest work of literature I've come across.

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.
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LibraryThing member markbstephenson
Excellent! I read War and Remembrance first and was surprised by how much it educated and entertained, so I read this and liked it even better because of the delectable humour and romance which abounds and makes these tragic years come to vivid life.
LibraryThing member TerriBooks
One of my favorite books ever, I decided to make this a part of my ebook library. So it, of course, deserved a new reading. While it is unrealistic to think that a single naval officer would have actually been so serendipitously involved in the major historic events leading up to the US involvement in WW2, it makes a nice way to tie the story together, and it doesn't seem improbable as you read -- a sign of a great story-teller. This novel reaches across Europe, Asia, and the U.S. as the members of the Henry family find themselves in world rapidly heading into war. The pace, the characters and the ins-and-outs of the plot all make this a book that's hard to put down, despite its length.… (more)
LibraryThing member tlryan1
I love this book. I first read it in high school when I had zero interest in WWII. This book piqued my interest in the war and what it must have been like to live through that era. Since then I have read everything I can about it.
LibraryThing member clif_hiker
This is a 5-star book that should read by anybody with an interest in WW II. The comments and complaints regarding sexism and poor female characters... well the book was published in 1971. Compare it to some of the other fiction being published at the time... Ian Fleming, John MacDonald, Robert Heinlein. Wouk comes of pretty well in comparison to those authors, I think, especially as his subject is war. Despite this, Wouk still constructs some fascinating female characters... and not all of them are brilliant, easy to sympathize with, or even very smart. But then again, neither are the men.

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.
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LibraryThing member bsiemens
The way that Herman Wouk winds tangential stories from the family and friends of Victor Henry, the main character, is highly compelling. His inclusion of a purported work of history, which on its own offers questions about how we interpret history, as written by a Nazi officer and translated by Victor Henry is brilliant. I will continue to ponder the picture of the Axis as a chimera, as described in the work of history.… (more)
LibraryThing member oel_3
A very memorable book about the Second World War.
LibraryThing member dbsovereign
Wouk give us some fictionalized personal essence of WW2 while supposedly pretty much sticking to historical fact. Some passages do manage to capture what I think must have been the utter, chaotic nature of that seemingly inevitable endeavour [/undertaking to create a boon for undertakers].
LibraryThing member DougJ110
Great explanation of the events that led to World War II, presented with an intriguing plot and interesting characters.
LibraryThing member satyridae
This sprawling novel of WWII reminded me of the books my mother and I shared when I lived with her, only this one is far more well-written. This is the story of a family which fortuitously has a member in every place anything important happens. The main character meets all the heads of state, and advises Roosevelt from obscurity. It requires a suspension of disbelief- but once one sails over that hurdle, the book is fascinating, informative and very involving. I was up late numerous nights reading it, and I'm heading right into the sequel without even a coffee break.… (more)
LibraryThing member Stbalbach
The Winds of War is friendly American middle-brow literature. Middle brow meaning it is genre with pretensions to high brow. The reading is easy for a wide audience, with some occasional difficult subjects such as antisemitism and the Western neglect of European Jews. The characters are interesting in an episodic soap-opera way (the low brow) you want to keep reading to find out what happens to the Henry family, who are presented as a likable Everyman American family (though in reality they are among the elite). It adapted to an 18-hour TV series naturally. The analysis of the war is the most interesting. There are various POVs and perspectives that, while not unknown, when put into context of living through the events in real time give them life and significance. Wouk's treatment of Stalin, Hitler, Churchill and Roosevelt are stereotypical. His emphasis on Pearl Harbor as the beginning of the end of Germany due to the US entering the war is partially correct, it was also Hitler's failure to take Moscow and realization that the USSR could be not be immediately defeated like France and Poland, though it all happened around the same time. Overall this was enjoyable and insightful.… (more)
LibraryThing member maneekuhi
“Winds of War” (WW) is a Big Book, literally and figuratively. Published in 1971 and written by Herman Wouk, it registers 886 pages on my Kindle, and considerably more depending on which printed version you might pick up, so the equivalent of up to three novels. But there’s more! Wouk saw WW as a prologue to the follow-up “War and Remembrance” (WR) which Amazon lists at 1396 pages. The story begins with the invasion of Poland in September, 1939, and concludes with the bombing of Hiroshima; the breakpoint for the two volumes is at the attack on Pearl Harbor. But wait, there’s more…. In February, 1983, ABC-TV presented a big budget WW series, shown on eight consecutive nights and totaling fourteen hours and forty minutes (there was a similar series of WR five years later). The two series were masterpieces, and won a number of awards and in my humble opinion, were a critically successful forerunner for the hundreds of series available on TV today. When I decided to “re-read” WW after all these years, it was partly triggered by the recent passing of Wouk ten days before his 104th birthday, and partly recollection of fond memories reading the books and watching the series more than thirty years ago. As I was about halfway through WW, it dawned on me that I had never read it before. Rather my introduction to WW/WR had been watching the WW series, then reading WR to see how the whole story played out, and finally watching the WR TV series.

The books have a huge cast of characters but focus on one Navy family, that of Victor “Pug” Henry. Pug is a Naval Attache steaming across the Atlantic with wife Rhoda to his new assignment in Berlin. Pug is a bit short, a former Navy Academy football player, a tough to bring down halfback, bulldoggish in many ways, hence “Pug”. The Henrys have three kids – Warren a Navy flyer, a soon to be submarine officer Byron, aka Briny (I think of him as Whiney), and Madeleine who has completed one year of college and is ready to tackle New York City doing what she does not know. On the ship the Henrys meet and befriend a Brit journalist, Talky Tudsbury and his 28 year old daughter Pamela.

Over the next 860 pages, there are chapters following the lives of these main characters. Many of the chapters are very interesting, depicting critical WWll events along with little known bits of historical fact. There are action scenes, and there are romantic scenes. Some characters are a lot more interesting than others. To break up the monotony, Wouk occasionally introduces historical characters who interface with members of the Henry family on occasion. For example, early on in his new assignment, Pug speculates on the possibility of a German-Russian Pact, and when it comes to be he is invited to fly back to DC and meet with FDR in person to share other insights. Some chapters are not so great – early on Briny develops a relationship with Natalie, a Jewish woman, niece of a famous author. As time passes she and uncle find it impossible to escape from Italy despite many, many pages describing their attempts to get immigration paperwork in order. But the great chapters, especially the Pug-Pamela ones, far outnumber the not so great ones and hence my rating for WW is 4 ½ stars.

I have a yellowed copy of WR and Wouk has written some interesting comments about his two books. He saw WW as a prologue, and that it need not be read before reading WR. He says WR is “the main tale I had to tell”. He describes the books as romance (but not as a love story). I strongly recommend reading both – I will re-read WR next year since I’m not crazy about reading 1000+ page books back to back.

There are two additional points I would like to make to enhance your reading of these books, possibly. The first has to do with the television production, specifically the cast. Pug Henry is played by Robert Mitchum. I recall to this day that there was a lot of criticism about this choice, mainly concerning Mitchum’s age. And perhaps rightly so. Many scenes worked anyway, but not all of them. And I make that comment noting that WR is released five years later. But Mitchum’s height certainly played much better than Wouk’s descriptions. As I read through WW, I watched a number of scenes of the 1983 TV presentation, courtesy of YouTube, and I strongly suggest you consider doing the same. It was much nicer watching Victoria Tennant as Pamela instead of conjuring up my own image. But there are drawbacks. When anyone mentions FDR these days, I get a mental picture of Ralph Bellamy ! Secondly, the TV series was produced in the days of video tape, long before digital. DVDs did subsequently come out but there are few “new” ones available and the prices are outrageous since there is very limited supply. Buyer beware – too often in situations like this quality is less than expected and/or the product may not include the entire telecast!
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LibraryThing member keylawk
The author also wrote the Caine Mutiny. Epic.
LibraryThing member DinadansFriend
A novel that transmitted directly to the screen. A battleship commander has familial difficulties. his relatives are dispersed across the usual areas to portray some of the horrors of the conflict. Concocted rather than written, there's no emotion.



LITTLE BROWN (1971), Edition: 4TH PRTG, Hardcover

Original publication date



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