Posted by: Jeanie F | September 30, 2012

Winter of the World by Ken Follett

It is with real disappointment that I tell you I am abandoning this book. I had such high hopes for it! I know, I know – Follett is not what you would ever call a great writer, but he has always been such a good storyteller that I’ve been willing to overlook his literary shortcomings. Pillars of the Earth is still one of my favorite books. I thought Fall of Giants was engrossing. And, of course, Eye of the Needle is one of the great spy novels of all time. So what happened here?

Winter of the World is the second in what Follett plans to be a trilogy chronicling the 20th Century. The first book, Fall of Giants, covers the beginning of the century to the end of World War I. Winter of the World picks up with the Nazi rise to power and continues through the advent of the atomic bomb.

I think the main problem is that the story of World War II is already told, and told well. City of Thieves, Diary of Ann Frank, Maus, Winds of War, The Tin Drum – well, the list goes on and on. In order for any book on this subject to be of interest or import, it really needs to bring something new to the table. Winter of the World tells the same old story, but Follett overreaches in his attempt to bring all sides of the story together. Even at more than 900 pages, it’s a difficult task to do well.

In this book, Follett tells the story through the eyes of various characters from each of the major players -the US, England, Germany, Russia (very, very little included on Japan and the Pacific) – the same characters we met in Fall of Giants, plus their offspring. This large cast of characters results in superficial treatment of both the events and the characters. Interspersed with trite dialogue you’ll find an over-generalization of the events. As a reader, I was frustrated on both scores.

Even the greats are allowed a misstep or two, so I’m willing give Follett a pass on this disappointing book. However, I’m not willing to spend the time needed to read the last 450 pages when there are so many deserving titles on my long TBR list!

Grade: Incomplete


  1. Too bad but wise decision to stop. If you are going to invest that kind of time reading, you better be engrossed in the book. I do like his stories and have enjoyed the same ones you mentioned. I may give it a try anyway whenever my library delivers ( long wait list) – but with lowered expectations.

  2. There have been some positive critical reviews, but not from many of the ones I pay attention to (NYT, LA Times,, etc). Still, if you can get it from the library, it’s worth a try. Sadly, the KINDLE edition was $20!

  3. I loved Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, Fall of Giants has been on my “to read list: for a while. I can understand why you would put the book down. Follett’s 900+ page books are quite the commitment. Sometimes you have to know when to quit!

    • I’ve heard from others who have really liked it, so it might just be me. I’ll be interested to hear what you think!

  4. No you were right first time, it’s rubbish. Follett has truly jumped the shark with this one. The mix of styles and amateurish writing in places makes me question whether ghost writers were involved. One to avoid.

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