This is the second book in the Century Trilogy and I’m going to try to finish the series this year, instead of letting it hang around for a few years.
Genre: historical fiction
Length: 940 pages
Font: Warnock Pro
Setting: USA, Germany, England, and the USSR, 1933-1949
Summary: We mostly follow the children of the first book in the series. They all interact in the lead up to, fighting, and aftermath of WWII. Trying to describe how everyone interacts would be a long, confusing summary, so I’m just going to mention the major events.
We see the rise of Fascism and Hitler in Germany, and the consolidation of power by Communism and Stalin in Russia. The NKVD and Red Army Intelligence of Russia often worked against each other. Key to winning the war were anti-Nazi spies in Germany, feeding information to the Russians. England and the U.S. were reluctant to get involved in the war, but we see the U.S. developing an atomic bomb to end the war. Of course, once the U.S. has a bomb, the USSR needed one as well. Conditions in Europe were very difficult during and after the war. The U.S was able to improve conditions and keep Communism from spreading throughout Europe.
Final thoughts: This was quite a gripping novel, which it needed to be to keep me reading for over 900 pages. Even though I knew the major events that were happening, by putting his characters in the middle of the action, Follett brought it home to me. The Americans weren’t as involved in this story as they were in The Fall of Giants. Instead, we saw more from the Russian point of view. I found it fascinating to see the ideal of Communism and its lofty goals succumb to reality and tyranny. Follett is definitely making the point that the American approach is much better than the Russian approach, both politically and economically. The Russian spy traveled to the U.S. and marveled over how easy it was to travel anywhere and how anyone could buy a tractor without having to get put on a list and wait a few years. It was a good thing the NKVD had his wife in prison or he might not have come back!
Another common theme was the amount of random violence and death in Russia and Germy. If someone in power didn’t like you, there was little you could do to stop them from taking anything from you, including your life. The book doesn’t shy away from violence, although we don’t spend much time in interrogation rooms or concentration camps. There are quite a few frank discussion of sex and, in one case, rape. I’m curious as to where the third book will go – maybe the Cold War? The trilogy is truly epic, but at no point do I feel bored. It helps that when the action slows down in one arena, Follett can just switch to another location and pick up the thread of excitement again.
Title comes from: It refers to WWII, which was definitely a low point for the world.
Reading challenges fulfilled: book #20 for the year, an F in my Author Reading the Alphabet Challenge, and #6 in my Finish the Series Challenge
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