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The Winds Of War (2002)

The Winds of War (2002)

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4.35 of 5 Votes: 3
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0316952664 (ISBN13: 9780316952668)
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About book The Winds Of War (2002)

“ Peace, if it ever exists, will not be based on fear of war, but on the love of peace. It will not be the abstaining from an act, but the coming of a state of mind. In this sense the most insignificant writer can serve peace, where the most powerful tribunals can do nothing.” --Herman WoukThe “Winds of War” is the grandiose epic of the Henrys, an American naval family disrupted by World War II. Through the Henry family (or their lovers or friends), we trot the globe from before the German invasion of Poland to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (1938-1941). (I review this book thirty years after I last read it, and assign the rating I would have given it at the time.)Captain Victor “Pug” Henry, USN, is the patriarch of the family and of the story, the epitome of a stoic warrior—a recurring military archetype throughout Wouk’s books. Pug wants only to command a battleship but feels thwarted when he is assigned to be naval attaché to prewar Berlin. From Berlin, Pug writes prophetic dispatches that impress President Franklin Roosevelt, who then assigns Pug to other globe-trotting errands. Through Pug we meet Hitler, Churchill, and Stalin, but, even though he gets to fly night raids with the RAF bombers, Pug still yearns to sail with the fleet. Will Pug get his battleship before the Japanese strike Pearl Harbor?Pug has two sons. Byron is a capable free spirit who gallivants around Mussolini’s Italy with his girlfriend, Natalie Jastrow, who works for her uncle, a Jewish scholar. Through the Jastrow family, we witness the plight of European Jews, and we also witness the invasion of Poland, while running from dive-bombing Stukas. Pug’s oldest son, Warren Henry is a naval aviator in the Pacific who marries a Senator’s daughter. A naval academy graduate, he is solid and stable like his father.Pug is married to Rhoda, and we learn that 25 years of military service is tough on a marriage.Ingeniously, Wouk tells the German point through a fictional German, General Von Roon, and Wouk inserts chapters from Roon’s book “World Empire Lost,” every 100 pages throughout the narrative so the reader understands global strategy.Wouk wrote a sequel, War and Remembrance, which continues the story from Pearl Harbor to the Japanese surrender at Tokyo Bay.My Personal MemoriesI discovered this book in 1982 thanks to my 10th grade French teacher, Madame Broyles, with whom I was enamored. One day, we ran into each other at the public library, where I was sitting on the floor, surrounded by a stack of books that I was attempting to narrow down. We chatted it up, and, after learning that I loved history, she suggested I read Wouk’s two books. That was all it took. I dutifully checked out “Winds of War” and carried its 1,200 mass-market pages to class with me, and I always remained behind a few minutes after French class to discuss with Madame Broyles my life with the Henrys and World War II. Then Madame Broyles broke my heart by moving to Louisville toward the end of the term. Ces’t la vie. This was not my last encounter with Madame Broyles, but I will save that story for my review of volume II, “War and Remembrance.”I write this review with fond memories. Out of loyalty to my first literary loves, I will still rate this book 5-stars, though I doubt I would rate it as highly today. Regardless, the breadth and ingenious plotting of this fun novel are a force of nature. I will always remember this book fondly—like an old teen lover whom we meet at our 30th high school reunion. She has a few more wrinkles, but we can still remember the exciting young beauty after whom we once lusted. November 28, 2012Here is a link to my review of the sequel, War and Remembrance: epic of historical fiction that I loved in high school was James Michener's “Centennial,” which I recently reviewed:

I've just finished reading The winds of war for the second time, about 25 years after reading it the first time. I had never thought that I would re-read it -- it just seemed too long. It was not that I hadn't enjoyed reading it, but it seemed that once in a lifetime was enough.And then my wife bought the DVDs of the TV series based on the book, and we began watching it. In the first episode I was struck by the trouble that had gone into making it. It was not all shot on location, of course, and some of the locations no longer exist. But setting up a 20-second scene of someone entering a building and taking care to avoid anachronisms was quite impressive. The Second World War is history, and there are plenty of history books about it. What most of them fail to show, however, is how it affected ordinary families, and this is what author Herman Wouk tries to show. Of course it is contrived. While almost everything that happens in the book has some parallel in actual events, having all these things happen to one family is a bit too much. The protagonist, and paterfamilias is Victor "Pug" Henry, a somewhat dour and taciturn US navy officer, who is stationed in Berlin as naval attache about six months before the war begins. His wife Rhoda, who is something of a social butterfly, whose horizon does not extend much beyond clothes and shopping and hobnobbing with celebrities, enjoys the parties and invitations to spend weekends with Nazi officials and businessmen who have profited by their rule. Her husband finds these difficult to stomach, but attends out of a sense of duty, for the opportunities for intelligence that they provide. When the war begins the Henrys' younger son Byron is trapped in Poland in front of the advancing German army, with a girl, Natalie Jastrow who decided on a whim that she wanted to visit her Polish cousins in the village from which her parents had emigrated. By such devices of giving very different people family ties, Wouk manages to show quite a range of the effects of the war on one family -- from Polish peasants to an isolationist US senator. While one of Pug Henry's daughters-in-law witnesses the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbout, on the other side of the world, the other daughter-in-law is trapped with her baby as an enemy alien in Italy when Mussolini declares war on the US. Pug Henry himself manages to meet Hitler, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin in person, and to fly in a British bomber on a raid over Berlin, and later to visit the Russian front linhe when the Germans are trying to encircle Moscow. While on one level it seems improbable that all this could hapen to one man, or to one family, it does help to show how many ordinary people were affected by the war. When I remarked to a friend that I thought that it did seem a bit improbable, and he pointed out that nobody complains about the many and varied adventures experienced by the characters in Homer's Odyssey. And by stretching relationships a bit, there are similar things in our own family. My father-in-law, Keith Greene, fought for the Allies and was captured in Tobruk, and was a prisoner of war in Italy. His 3rd cousin, Rudolf Schrader, was part of the German army that invaded Poland, and was killed there in the first month of the war. Such things happened, and they happened to many families, and it is something of this that Wouk manages to convey in his book, while maintaining a high level of historical accuracy. One of the things that seemed quite strange to me was the degree to which civilian airlines seemed to operate in war time. On checking up on it, I discovered that it was so, and that BOAC (the British Overseas Airways Corporation), for example, maintained flights to neutral Sweden, even though it would have meant flying over German-occupied Norway.

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Winds of War is a vast, sweeping novel covering the complicatedinternational relationships leading up to World War II. It doesthis by following the Henry family, whose members manage to beinvolved in nearly every theatre of the war. The scope of the book is tremendous, and the family story managesto keep it all tied together. Wouk is very skilled at bringinghis characters into believable situations so as to give personalwitness accounts of the important developments before the war.It is detailed, clear, precise, and from what I know, fairly accurate.Included here and there are excerpts from a history ostensibly writtenby a German general. These give an interesting perspective on thewar, and are integrated nicely into the fabric of the novel.Wouk's writing is meticulous, complete, and, I have to say, dry.For all its wealth of rich detail and information, it lacksemotion and passion. The characters, though well developed andsomewhat interesting, are interesting, but only in a rathermechanical way. I found no real connection with any of them,no sense of empathy.For its rich scope and wealth of historical background, thisis an excellent novel. For its lack of real feeling, I have torate it down.
—Richard Palmer

The Winds of War is the first of a 2 part series comprised of The Winds of War and War and Remembrance. This book was impossible to put down. The story of the lead-up to WWII told primarily through the lens of the American Henry family, The Winds of War gives a comprehensive background on the military and political situation in a much more engaging way than a non-fiction book could. It also paints a broader picture by looking at the situation on the ground in both Europe as well as America. Despite its gigantic heft, the book moves very fast. I was sad to turn the last page, although since we were only at Pearl Harbor, I knew we still had a ways to go.The Winds of War was published in 1971, apparently after approximately 13 years of research and writing, meaning Wouk got started on it in 1958. The book does not seem dated at all -- if anything, the opposite is true. Because the book was worked on and written closer to the time of WWII itself (by a WWII veteran), the story seems much more immediate and much more realistic than more recent books about WWII. I will definitely be moving on to War and Remembrance.

I loved Wouk's writing. It was, as other reviews say, compelling and spell binding.I found my major criticism of the book was I grew to intensely dislike the family. I understand the Henry family being a vehicle with which to tell the story but I would have been interested in having other fully developed characters' perspectives outside of their interaction with the Henrys. I found, for the majority, them to be caricatures of people living in the '40's and '50's; very "Leave it to Beaver"-esque.

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