These two classic works capture the tide of world events even as they unfold the compelling tale of a single American family drawn into the very center of the war's maelstrom. The multimillion-copy bestsellers that capture all the drama, romance, heroism, and tragedy of the Second World War -- and that constitute Wouk's crowning achievement -- are available for the first time in trade paperback.
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.
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.
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.