“Winter of the World: Book Two of the Century Trilogy”
by Ken Follett
read by John Lee
Published by Penguin Audio
total playing time 31.5 hours
Lately, I have found myself venturing into the unknown. That’s really not as ominous as it sounds, the unknown is what I am using to describe genres of books and audiobooks that I haven’t normally found interesting, therefore have skipped over. This time I decided it was time to dive into some historical fiction. Dive in I did, I took on a 31.5 hour Ken Follett novel about the events leading up to, during and immediately after World War II. I’m not sure what got into me to tackle such a large audiobook in a genre I would not normally give much attention, but here I am, grateful that I did.
To make matters worse, I jumped into this audiobook knowing it was part two of a trilogy. “The Century Trilogy,” by Follett, follows five interrelated families throughout the 20th Century. I figured that since this was historical fiction and many of the events are well known, I wouldn’t have a problem jumping in. I was right, but at the same time I now want to go back and listen to or read the first book, “Fall of Giants.” So if you are wondering if you can just jump on in the middle, the answer is yes, but it will leave you wanting more. So until the third book is released the first one can be at the ready.
One of the aspects of this audiobook that kept me listening was the narrator, John Lee. Lee’s voice is a unique voice that when needed was able to bend and stretch around the voices of the many characters and accents which brought this book to life. Being a bit of a nerd, I immediately recognized Lee’s voice as that of Cogliostro from the “Spawn” animated series, and being a huge fan of the “Spawn” comic books I just couldn’t not listen to Cogliostro talk about World War II. The nerd in me made me listen at first, but the excellent vocal control of the many characters kept me involved in the book.
This story follows five interrelated families located around the world; Buffalo, NY, Washington, D.C, Germany, England and the U.S.S.R. as Adolph Hitler and his fascist regime rises to power and leads the war in Europe. The book also takes us to the Pacific Theatre of the war with first the bombing of Pearl Harbor to some great sea battles in the Pacific and eventually to the development and deployment of the Atomic bombs in Japan.
Through the lives of the families involved, the listener/reader learns of the many atrocities of the Nazis, including Aktion T-4 where the mentally handicapped were executed because they were a burden on the state. Also thrown in are some stories involving espionage, helping prisoners of war escape and even a few love stories thrown in. Basically, it’s a real life look at what happens to individuals during war time.
Ken Follett’s prose created a story that kept me glued to this audiobook for the full 31.5 hours. I have to admit, there were my weak moments within the first few hours where I was tempted to stop listening but the events and relationships between the characters just sucked me end and before I knew it the war was nearly over and the world was beginning to recover. The nice thing about the ending is that the development of the characters and relationships led to what will be, I’m sure, a big part of the next book in the trilogy, race relations, civil rights and more.