World War II continues to rage and the Henry family is swept up in the battles of Europe and the Pacific. Natalie, Louis and Aaron experience the horror of Hitler's Holocaust first hand at Auschwitz and the world changes forever with the American decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan.
Like The Winds of War before it, War and Remembrance is a masterpiece. This book is much harder to read than its predecessor, however. The Winds of War tells mainly of the hope and glory of an American naval family on the cusp of a world war; War and Remembrance doles out the gritty and harsh details of living (and dying) that war. For all of that, this is a phenomenal work, awe-inspiring in its scope and execution. It brings the war home, for someone like me who did not live through it, in both a grand and personal scale.
Read these books. This one, in particular, will break your heart several times over, but read them. It is worth every single second you spend doing it.
I wandered over to the W's and picked a thick something off the shelf, discovering only at that very moment there was a sequel to The Winds of War. I'd had no idea.
(Of course, in retrospect, The Winds of War ending on the eve of Pearl Harbor should have told me something . . .)
But the scene I am referencing comes from its sequel, War and Remembrance, when Aaron Jastrow is led into the gas chamber. I can't imagine there is another fictional chronicle anywhere that captures better exactly what it must have been like more than this scene. And yet, Wouk somehow makes it a triumphal moment.
Now, had it ended there, it would have been memorable enough. But it doesn't. We follow Jastrow's journey from the floor of the gas chamber, to the crematorium, through the chimney, out the smokestack, and to freedom.
I read both these though the audio narration by Kevin Pariseau about 100 hours total - audio is a funny thing because the narrator can ruin a book, be a neutral influence, or enhance it. Pariseau's brilliant acting - an art form of its own for audiobooks - brings the characters alive in a way reading would not, he adds an extra dimension that improves on the original.
Kevin Pariseau was terrific and I am happy that I chose to experience these books in audiobook format.