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The Winds of War (1971)

by Herman Wouk

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2,799503,504 (4.2)193
A Masterpiece of Historical Fiction-The Great Novel of America's "Greatest Generation" Herman Wouk's sweeping epic of World War II, which begins with The Winds of War and continues in War and Remembrance, stands as the crowning achievement of one of America's most celebrated storytellers. Like no other books about the war, Wouk's spellbinding narrative captures the tide of global events-and all the drama, romance, heroism, and tragedy of World War II-as it immerses us in the lives of a single American family drawn into the very center of the war's maelstrom.… (more)
  1. 21
    Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis De Bernières (paulkid)
    paulkid: Both are set in Mussolini's Italy, although Wouk's work spends time in Germany, Russia, and England while de Bernières spends time in Greece as well.
  2. 10
    Winter of the World by Ken Follett (mcenroeucsb)
  3. 11
    Fall of Giants by Ken Follett (mcenroeucsb)

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» See also 193 mentions

English (46)  Italian (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (49)
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
Amazing...I loved all the characters. Just a great read. No dramatic deaths or wreckless plot twists. A story of a truly American family wrapped around the history of World War II. ( )
  ReneeNL | Jun 29, 2020 |
The author also wrote the Caine Mutiny. Epic.
  keylawk | Aug 11, 2019 |
“Winds of War” (WW) is a Big Book, literally and figuratively. Published in 1971 and written by Herman Wouk, it registers 886 pages on my Kindle, and considerably more depending on which printed version you might pick up, so the equivalent of up to three novels. But there’s more! Wouk saw WW as a prologue to the follow-up “War and Remembrance” (WR) which Amazon lists at 1396 pages. The story begins with the invasion of Poland in September, 1939, and concludes with the bombing of Hiroshima; the breakpoint for the two volumes is at the attack on Pearl Harbor. But wait, there’s more…. In February, 1983, ABC-TV presented a big budget WW series, shown on eight consecutive nights and totaling fourteen hours and forty minutes (there was a similar series of WR five years later). The two series were masterpieces, and won a number of awards and in my humble opinion, were a critically successful forerunner for the hundreds of series available on TV today. When I decided to “re-read” WW after all these years, it was partly triggered by the recent passing of Wouk ten days before his 104th birthday, and partly recollection of fond memories reading the books and watching the series more than thirty years ago. As I was about halfway through WW, it dawned on me that I had never read it before. Rather my introduction to WW/WR had been watching the WW series, then reading WR to see how the whole story played out, and finally watching the WR TV series.

The books have a huge cast of characters but focus on one Navy family, that of Victor “Pug” Henry. Pug is a Naval Attache steaming across the Atlantic with wife Rhoda to his new assignment in Berlin. Pug is a bit short, a former Navy Academy football player, a tough to bring down halfback, bulldoggish in many ways, hence “Pug”. The Henrys have three kids – Warren a Navy flyer, a soon to be submarine officer Byron, aka Briny (I think of him as Whiney), and Madeleine who has completed one year of college and is ready to tackle New York City doing what she does not know. On the ship the Henrys meet and befriend a Brit journalist, Talky Tudsbury and his 28 year old daughter Pamela.

Over the next 860 pages, there are chapters following the lives of these main characters. Many of the chapters are very interesting, depicting critical WWll events along with little known bits of historical fact. There are action scenes, and there are romantic scenes. Some characters are a lot more interesting than others. To break up the monotony, Wouk occasionally introduces historical characters who interface with members of the Henry family on occasion. For example, early on in his new assignment, Pug speculates on the possibility of a German-Russian Pact, and when it comes to be he is invited to fly back to DC and meet with FDR in person to share other insights. Some chapters are not so great – early on Briny develops a relationship with Natalie, a Jewish woman, niece of a famous author. As time passes she and uncle find it impossible to escape from Italy despite many, many pages describing their attempts to get immigration paperwork in order. But the great chapters, especially the Pug-Pamela ones, far outnumber the not so great ones and hence my rating for WW is 4 ½ stars.

I have a yellowed copy of WR and Wouk has written some interesting comments about his two books. He saw WW as a prologue, and that it need not be read before reading WR. He says WR is “the main tale I had to tell”. He describes the books as romance (but not as a love story). I strongly recommend reading both – I will re-read WR next year since I’m not crazy about reading 1000+ page books back to back.

There are two additional points I would like to make to enhance your reading of these books, possibly. The first has to do with the television production, specifically the cast. Pug Henry is played by Robert Mitchum. I recall to this day that there was a lot of criticism about this choice, mainly concerning Mitchum’s age. And perhaps rightly so. Many scenes worked anyway, but not all of them. And I make that comment noting that WR is released five years later. But Mitchum’s height certainly played much better than Wouk’s descriptions. As I read through WW, I watched a number of scenes of the 1983 TV presentation, courtesy of YouTube, and I strongly suggest you consider doing the same. It was much nicer watching Victoria Tennant as Pamela instead of conjuring up my own image. But there are drawbacks. When anyone mentions FDR these days, I get a mental picture of Ralph Bellamy ! Secondly, the TV series was produced in the days of video tape, long before digital. DVDs did subsequently come out but there are few “new” ones available and the prices are outrageous since there is very limited supply. Buyer beware – too often in situations like this quality is less than expected and/or the product may not include the entire telecast! ( )
  maneekuhi | Jul 26, 2019 |
I was first prompted to read this book as a teenager after being fascinated by seeing bits of the miniseries War & Remembrance. The story kept my attention with the fascinating characters and historic background. On the first reading the Von Roon 'authored' sections dragged a bit, but I enjoyed them more when reading the book again later. A good book for giving a feel for the scale and scope of World War II. ( )
  bevok | Jul 31, 2017 |
A novel that transmitted directly to the screen. A battleship commander has familial difficulties. his relatives are dispersed across the usual areas to portray some of the horrors of the conflict. Concocted rather than written, there's no emotion. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Apr 14, 2017 |
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With love to my sons, Nathaniel and Joseph
First words
Commander Victor Henry rode a taxicab home from the Navy Building on Constitution Avenue. in a gusty gray March rainstorm that matched his mood.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This work represents the complete novel Winds of War, and only this novel.

Winds of War is published in both single-volume and--especially in foreign translation--multi-volume editions, as well in sets together with War and Remembrance. Please do not combine this work with individual volumes of a multi-volume edition of the novel, nor with sets that include War and Rembrance. Thanks!
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Wereldbrand is the Dutch edition of The Winds of War.
Der Feuersturm is the German edition of The Winds of War.
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