Winds of War, The

by Herman Wouk

Hardcover, 1972

Call number




Little, Brown (1972), Edition: Limited


Classic Literature. Fiction. Literature. Historical Fiction. HTML:Like no other masterpiece of historical fiction, Herman Wouk's sweeping epic of World War II is the great novel of America's Greatest Generation.Wouk's spellbinding narrative captures the tide of global events, as well as 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 Winds of War and its sequel War and Remembrance stand as the crowning achievement of one of America's most celebrated storytellers.

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
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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.
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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 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.
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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.
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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
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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 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
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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 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
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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 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 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
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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.
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LibraryThing member pfax
Good read, though sometimes it borders on melodrama.
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 JaneAustenNut
Fantastic WWII War Epic film by Paramount Pictures; The iconic pre-war epic mini series broadcast during 1983.
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
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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.
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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
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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 mainrun
I enjoyed this book. The writing is very entertaining. I think the four star recommendation is fair. However, I wonder if I rate books due to genre. Historical fiction is a favorite of mine. It had a stupid, mean, female character who had me talking to the book. I hope no one heard me when I
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actually spoke, “You stupid, mean, lady!” I look forward to reading “War and Remembrance”
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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
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war, the reader becomes captivated and transported back in time.
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LibraryThing member bevok
I was first prompted to read this book as a teenager after being fascinated by seeing bits of the miniseries War & Remembrance. The story kept my attention with the fascinating characters and historic background. On the first reading the Von Roon 'authored' sections dragged a bit, but I enjoyed
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them more when reading the book again later. A good book for giving a feel for the scale and scope of World War II.
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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 DougJ110
Great explanation of the events that led to World War II, presented with an intriguing plot and interesting characters.
LibraryThing member BookConcierge
Book # 1 in the Henry Family saga introduces us to Commander Victor Henry, his wife Rhoda, and their children: Warren, Byron and Madeline. Victor wants a battleship, but he’s been selected to serve as Naval attache in Berlin. It’s 1937 and he’ll have a front-row seat to history.

This is a
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larger than life story to tell, and Wouk could not manage to finish it in just one volume (even though this book is nearly 900 pages long in original hardcover). It ends just after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the Henry family is facing not only a world war but considerable personal upheaval. Both sons are naval officers serving in the Pacific, while daughter Madeline remains at her job in New York (and the subject of a scandal that will surely ruin her reputation). Victor’s Jewish daughter-in-law remains trapped in Europe, having delayed her return to the US in deference to her aged (and improbably naïve) uncle. And both Pug and Rhoda are questioning whether they want to continue their marriage, or find more suitable partners.

The soap opera drama of the family’s story pulls the reader through, but Wouk includes much history. There are occasional interruptions in the family saga to report on the historical events, including examinations of each side’s military readiness and strategy.

I first read this book sometime in the mid to late 1970s; it was originally published in 1971. Recently my husband found a hardcover copy in our local Little Free Library. He’d never read it before and was so enthusiastic about it that I decided to re-read it. I’m glad I did. He has already read the sequel, War and Remembrance, but I think I’ll hold off on re-reading that one for a while.
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LibraryThing member japaul22
This is the first book of two detailing WWII through the lives of a military family, the Henrys. The book is supposedly very thoroughly researched and historically accurate and details the build up of the war through Pearl Harbor.

This is a long book, almost 900 pages, but is very readable. Unlike
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most wartime historical fiction I've read, I enjoyed the parts about the war more than the characters in the book. I think the fictional writing definitely took a backseat to the war history and the characters aren't particularly deep or captivating. They also ended up conveniently placed to witness all of the major events of the war. But the situations they are in, though crafted to highlight the war events, are definitely gripping. Wouk's writing style of short, terse sentences and fairly lame female characters annoyed me at first but I think that the writing style ended up fitting the subject matter fairly well. I never did connect to any of the female characters, except maybe Natalie, a Jewish American stuck in Italy.

Long story short, I enjoyed this despite some reservations and will look forward to reading the follow up book next year.
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LibraryThing member thosgpetri
I never thought I would ever read, or want to read this book. Then one day on my way to the bathroom I grabbed a book and it was this one. Too late to chose something else. I was in a hurry and stuck with the Winds of War. Well, I thought how bad can it be if my dad read it and and recovered it
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with a hard binding. And it was a good story, it ran to many characters and peculiar situations. The made-up characters mingled with the real people of the late 30's and early years of W.W. II. I am not in a position to judge the possibility of such events being possible, it did shed light on documented characteristics of important people and the reactions of every day people caught up in events not of their own doing. I believe this novel sheds light on subjects important about damage to society and to people while the military and the politicians pretend to save the world from itself. Inherited this book from Dad.
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LibraryThing member keylawk
The author also wrote the Caine Mutiny. Epic.
LibraryThing member melondon
Unbelievable book.


Audie Award (Finalist — Fiction — 2012)
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