Saturday, September 22, 2012

Winter of the World


To say I've been over the moon this weekend would be an understatement.  After waiting for more than a year, the second book of the The Century Trilogy has finally hit the book shelves.  Generally I tend to read more academic stuff but since this book fits into the historical fiction genre I'll gladly make an exception. ..and I did get a 30% discount too as it turned out.

Truth be told, I only stumbled across this author by accident and had never even heard of Ken Follett before.  He's been a published author since around the time I started Kindergarten in the '70's....who knew?  Anyhow, it was last year that I noticed one of our summer students reading the first book of this trilogy, Fall of Giants.  A small image of WWI soldiers on the cover caught my attention so I asked her what it was about.  When she told me it involved not only the First World War, but the Bolshevik Revolution and various aspects of social history, I resolved to pick up a copy of my own.  In a nut shell, I read it cover to cover and was taken.  Granted Follett writes in something called transparent prose....very straight forward and understandable language.  It doesn't have a great deal of florid description, which is probably just as well, since the first two installments already run in excess of 900 pages.  Think of the Lord of the Rings....straight forward reading.  Sure, there may not be a lot of character development but the ultimate goal is to tell a great story.

Anyhow, I'm getting off topic here.  I haven't actually started reading this book yet since, after reading his other two historical epics, Pillars of the Earth and World Without End a few times over, I cracked open Fall of Giants to refresh my memory in anticipation of book two.  But I've waited, as I said, for over a year, so a few more days won't hurt I'm sure.

All I know so far is the book takes up right where the last one left off, following the fortunes of 5 families as their lives are caught up in the momentous events from the rise of Hitler through WWII to the start of the Cold War.

I've read some historical fiction and popular fiction before, namely James Mitchener's novels on the Caribbean and Texas as well as a little Pierre Berton (ardent nationalist that I am).  Having taken a history degree I always felt a sort of tension between popular and academic history and yes, for a time, I was one of those who viewed popular histories as not being real history.  Of course, historical fiction isn't real history either, but one of the things it can do (at least I find this the case for me) is that it pique ones interest and cause a person to look into something more carefully, whether it be a particular historical event, person or place.  I have to admit, I even learned a few things about world history by reading Fall of Giants that I hadn't even heard of before. This is one of the great things about historical fiction.

Finally, I'll end by saying that I know that both Pillars of the Earth and World Without End were both made into television mini-series and I made a point of reading the books first before considering the screen version.  I still haven't seen either one of them yet so mom, if you're reading this, consider this a hint for Christmas :)

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