Well, I've been posting progress reports on Follett's newest book, Winter of the World, for the last couple of weeks. And, earlier this week, I actually posted that I had finished the book, and that it was one of my top 10 all-time. That's really a big deal. I believe that I've read a lot of books in my day, and the top 10 is the elite of the elite. In fact, I know that I've given you my top 3 all-time - Pillars of the Earth (Follett), The Source (James Michener), and Shogun (James Clavell) - but I think I will give you the other 7 sometime in the near future (hint: it will probably include 11/22/63 along with, of course, Winter of the World).
So let me give you the basics of this book. The multiple stories pick up in 1933 (book 1 - Fall of Giants - went from 1911-1924). There are 5 families that the trilogy focuses on - American, German, English, Russian, and Welsh. They are all featured, of course, in each book. And they are also interrelated.
Although I loved the book (as you all know by now), there are 2 elements of it that really stand out for me. The 1st is the whole advent of the Nazi regime. Since the book starts out in 1933, we get the full impact and process by which the Nazis came to power. It feels so realistic that, at times, it's very tough to read. Being Jewish, I'm used to equating the Nazis with the German Jews. But this book (along with In the Garden of Beasts, by Eric Larson) gives you the whole picture. There are many atrocities committed by the Nazis on its regular citizenry. Winter of the World makes you feel how the German people felt - both positive and negative. It's pretty chilling and runs throughout most of the book (until the end of WWII).
The other particularly affecting part is a description of the attack on Pearl Harbor. I felt that I was there. Of course the definition of historical fiction is placing fictitious characters in real historical settings. But, obviously, some authors do it better than others: John Jakes, Jeff and Michael Shaara, James Clavell, James Michener. Ken Follett does it as well as anybody.
I'm always blown away how some (quite a few, in fact) authors can make me care so much about the characters. In a book like this, where there are 5 families and a lot of people attached to each family, there are just that many more people to care about. In case you haven't figured it out yet, I STRONGLY recommend this book.