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  • Winter of the World

  • Written by: Ken Follett
  • Narrated by: John Lee
  • Length: 31 hrs and 43 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (22 ratings)

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Winter of the World

Written by: Ken Follett
Narrated by: John Lee
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Publisher's Summary

Five linked families live out their destinies as the world is shaken by tyranny and war in the mid-20th century. Berlin in 1933 is in upheaval. Eleven-year-old Carla von Ulrich struggles to understand the tensions disrupting her family as Hitler strengthens his grip on Germany. Into this turmoil step her mother’s formidable friend and former British MP, Ethel Leckwith, and her student son, Lloyd, who soon learns for himself the brutal reality of Nazism.

He also encounters a group of Germans resolved to oppose Hitler - but are they willing to go so far as to betray their country? Such people are closely watched by Volodya, a Russian with a bright future in Red Army Intelligence. The international clash of military power and personal beliefs that ensues will sweep over them all as it ranges from Cable Street in London’s East End to Pearl Harbour in Hawaii, from Spain to Stalingrad, from Dresden to Hiroshima.

At Cambridge Lloyd is irresistibly drawn to dazzling American socialite Daisy Peshkov, who represents everything his left-wing family despise. But Daisy is more interested in aristocratic Boy Fitzherbert - amateur pilot, party lover, and leading light of the British Union of Fascists. Back in Berlin, Carla worships golden boy Werner from afar. But nothing will work out the way they expect as their lives and the hopes of the world are smashed by the greatest and cruellest war in the history of the human race.

Winter of the World is the second novel in Ken Follett’s uniquely ambitious and deeply satisfying trilogy The Century. On its own or read in sequence with Fall of Giants, this is a magnificent, spellbinding epic of global conflict and personal drama.

©2012 Ken Follett (P)2012 Penguin US/Macmillan Digital Audio

Critic Reviews

"This book is peopled by excellent characters, both lovable and detestable, and I , along with millions of other Follett fans I’m sure – can’t wait for the third instalment of his Century trilogy to appear." (Shropshire Star)

What listeners say about Winter of the World

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Absolutely wonderful narration

This perhaps is one of the heartbreaking series I will ever read. It was a first hand experience into the lives of people who lived through horrors of the World War Two. I admire how the author made this story feel so authentic with these fictional characters. Adding in the true events at the exact order made it feel like I was living through the war period. I can't wait to know how, if any, for a peaceful world to emerge from the shambles of the brutal war.

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one of the best World War fictional narratives

Loved the storyline, though the details were a bit gory at times. expanded my knowledge about the time period between WW1 and WW2 and the political environment during those chaotic times

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  • Mark
  • 04-11-12

Another rip-snorter from Ken Follett

I read Ken Follett's two mediaeval England books and they were riveting. Tremendous stories that kept me transfixed throughout. Next I read his World War I book and I have just finished listening to 'Winter of the World', the second book of this 20th century trilogy - the story of World War II.

Like the above-mentioned three books, this was a good entertaining story and very enjoyable. The only trouble is that Follett has to manufacture the plot so that every major character from his two basic families (Russian and Welsh) appears at key moments in the war and intervenes to change the whole course of the conflict: inventing the atom bomb, stopping Hitler from systematically killing disabled people, forming the united nations, passing the Nazi invasion plans to the Russians etc, etc.

Unfortunately, this stretches the credulity of the listener and it is always in the back of your mind that two families couldn't have had such an impact. This wasn't a problem with the mediaeval novels, because they were based in a small country with a small population , so it wasn't as far-fetched that the key characters could have such an influence on major historical events.

As for the narrator, he was generally pretty good, but he struggled a bit with some of the accents. At one point I wasn't sure if his Welshman was a Geordie or an Indian!

These were the only blemishes on what was otherwise a great listen.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Anne
  • 03-10-12

Listen and learn

I really looked forward to this book. I'm not disappointed.

I must say that the most annoying thing about this audio book is that I personally really didn't enjoy the fact that John Lee makes voices - especially because it means that large parts of it is spoken in a German accent - sort of. I much prefer the reader to just READ the book aloud. I really think making voices are not suitable for a book for adults.

But I do see that other reviewers like it so I guess it's just a matter of preference.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Alan
  • 11-03-13

History with a good story

I have always enjoyed Ken Follett and he didn't let me down with this book. He once more had me confused for a while with keeping up with the different characters as he zig zagged round the world, but then all of a sudden everything fell into place... great historical story teller...

2 people found this helpful

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  • Christian Kuschel
  • 08-01-13

Not as good as Herman Wouk's WW2 novels

Where does Winter of the World rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

The first novel in the series, "Fall of Giants" was a bit better, in my opinion, and compared to Herman Wouk's epic novel "The Winds of War", Ken Follett's book could have gone a lot deeper.Having just listened to Herman Wouk's World War II novels (very similar approach with fictional characters and real contemporaries mixed), Ken Follett's book just falls short.

Nevertheless, it's a very good effort to bring the horrors of war closer to today's audience.

What other book might you compare Winter of the World to and why?

See above - "The Winds of War" by Herman Wouk.

What about John Lee’s performance did you like?

Solid, reliable performance.

2 people found this helpful

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  • ORI
  • 15-07-16

What about the holocaust?

Very nice book, but almost totally ignores the holocaust (that was part of World War Two

1 person found this helpful

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  • lloyd
  • 25-01-13

ALONZO

A book easily read, my first Kollett book. I will certainly read others. The characters, as well as the times are well drawn.. Whilst I generally thought the book met all criteria as far as entertainment went, I felt there were times that it dragged perhaps it is to long and at times a little to much detail. Was I pleased to have bought it?, certainly, would I recommend purchase? very much so.

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  • Debbie Simms
  • 21-05-21

GRIPPING

I cannot rate this entire trilogy, the story nor the narrator John Lee highly enough. The stories are epic accounts of history recounted with exquisite detail so you are transported directly into the lives of the characters - but the narrator makes them come alive - oh my - John Lee is astounding, his accents and story telling ability is remarkable. I don’t want it to end. Standing ovation for this masterful rendition. And again. And again. And again.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 20-03-21

excellent

This is possibly one of those rare occasions where part 2 of a novel is better than part 1. this is a well written book. Someone said it didn't mention the holocaust, but it didn't have to it's good just the way it is.

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  • Julia
  • 18-01-21

What a ride!

Tragedy, Romance, Action, History!
This book had me in tears, biting my nails, looking at history books, and making me blush with the most tender (and hot! I gotta say...) scenes of romance. It made me look at a period I had really never dared look too close at. A wound in humanity's soul, in people's lives. This book makes you look at that, the people, and the inspiration of their imensurable strength. Love it!

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  • Shameema
  • 13-01-19

Great value

superbly insightful account of the two world wars form the background to the tale of generations this family from a welsh mining town.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mr
  • 26-09-12

Fantastic

Right, I have just finished listening to this epic story and I have to say I have not had an audio book like it. Having listened to the previous book in the series (Fall Of Giants) I thought that it would be impossible to top, well this one is even better. Great character development, well narrated and gripping. The story lines are interesting and in some parts deeply shocking with some, not graphic but disturbing descriptions of human behaviour. I noticed that this was a good book when I woke up in the middle of the night and started listening to the audio book hoping to drift off to sleep, then 4 hours later still awake I had to get up and go to work! The sooner the next book in the series is released the better. I would recommend this book to everyone!

27 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Rachel
  • 06-10-12

Winter of the World

I'm a Ken Follett historical history fan from way back. There has never been anything other than a well-researched, brilliant novel. John Lee narrates the books like they were written for him. But Winter of the World has proved even Ken Follett can outdo himself! This should be required reading for history classes in England and the U.S. I have never been a real fan of the history of WWII but this was the easiest and most captivating history lesson I have ever had. Couldnt stop listening. You just cannot go wrong with this book it's a real winner.

20 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ian
  • 28-09-12

Setting a standard

There are many stars in this audiobook. Obviously, the author is one - Ken Follett's majestic sweep both stirring and emotional. The next star is John Lee, who captures a wide variety of accents, from different countries and regions, as well as carrying off both male and female voices. He sets a standard for other narrators. Finally, the various characters shine like stars. Although it is obvious where Follett's sympathies lie, all the fictional characters are brought to life, while the 'real life' characters are realistic and invest the novel with further authenticity. You'll be sorry when you have finished, but then, in two years' time, we'll have the final installment. It is unlikely to reach the heights of this novel, though, given the history that 'Winter of the World' covers.

14 people found this helpful

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  • Kirstine
  • 04-05-14

A heart-breaking but wonderful sequel

This is part 2 of the Century Trilogy and I strongly recommend listening to part 1 first (Fall of Giants) as it introduces the characters and their offspring who straddle the series and whose lives illuminate the horrors and heroics of war more effectively than a merely historical account. As in part 1 of the trilogy this sequel blends fictional characters and real people together to achieve a narrative that left me feeling deeply involved in the lives of the imagined players before, during and after the Second World War. Both books powerfully evoke what life was like during these turbulent times in world history and help the listener to understand how and why these destructive wars came about. I found this second book more depressing than the first as the senseless inhumanity and cruelty was so extreme. Nevertheless I loved this magisterial book and felt sorry that it ended and eagerly look forward to part 3, Edge of Eternity, which, unfortunately is not yet available as an audiobook on this website, though it has been recorded.
John Lee is a superb narrator who brings all the characters to life.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Steve
  • 14-12-13

Enthralling Follet

Would you consider the audio edition of Winter of the World to be better than the print version?

The audible version is precisely that, it enabled me as a long distance Truck driver to listen to this book whilst driving . The printed version might have taken a whole lot longer to read and digest

Who was your favorite character and why?

Follett's characters are all so real , I had no favourites they were all so well described and written

What does John Lee bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

The narration was superb , the characters brought to life through the change in his Voice

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

There was no particular moment , all historical facts and events were so well intertwined .The Death of the Jewish Doctor was particularly upsetting and made you realise how frustrating it must have been to be an educated Jew under the Nazi Regime.

Any additional comments?

Follet, as never disappointed to date. With his trilogy of the world he as written Classics that will last forever

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • zomodo
  • 25-10-12

Hmmmmmnnn.....

So. How to begin? I would love to say this was a great book, I enjoyed the first one. But I felt this book was more of an historical book rather than a literary novel. Ken Follet really knows his stuff however so I cannot fault him on that and I learned a few things! On a negative side there were far too many silly coincidences. Everyone crosses everyone else's path across Europe, Britain, USA and Russia, what are the chances! I even began to roll my eyes and I guessed that the British brother in the French resistance would be the one to discover his other brother in the fighter plane over France. And it becomes a little condescending when ken reminds us of things more than once, like he doesn't trust us to remember, I didn't like that, it wasnt helpful. And I actually listened to a whole part of a book on time and a half speed, the narration was just a little too slow for me. If u have read the first book I suppose you have to listen to this one but otherwise I wouldn't really recommend (saying that tho, I will probably read the third one when it comes out!)

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Bryan
  • 20-11-12

The horror of war

Follet's story unfolds in a manner that really clamps ice around your heart, and vicariously one gets a feel for the horror that both civilians and soldiers experienced, and for the utterly bizarre social circumstances that war creates

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Kurt
  • 08-11-12

Great author, Brilliant narrator

I have enjoyed every one of Ken Follet's historical novels and this is certainly one of his best. But, what really makes the audiobook special is the narrator, John Lee. I am in awe of his narration skills and have begun to search for his books, regardless of the author. Thank you John for bringing great books to life.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Stuart007
  • 19-10-12

Another cracker from Ken!

I love Ken's writing style, it's so easy to read and thus translates very well to audio. Well done John Lee. Beautifully read bringing another dimension to the characters and realism. This middle chapter of the trilogy was slightly too long - but what to leave out??? Super story cannot wait for number 3.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Barbara
  • 11-11-12

Brilliant

Such well developed characters. I even felt for the Germans in this battle, you find yourself wanting them all to come out of it well.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Rachel
  • 29-07-15

Just as good as the first

Upon finishing "Fall of Giants" and checking out other books by Ken Follett I was thrilled to discover that there was a sequel! I downloaded it instantly and listened in every available moment until I finished.

Building on the background of Fall of Giants, Winter of the World picks up a fair few years after Fall of Giants finishes, and focuses on the children of the characters from Fall of Giants. I found this a refreshing way to go about writing a sequel; it had the perfect combination of familiarity and novelty.

While I recommend listening to/reading Fall of Giants first, that is by no means essential, with the two books complementing each other rather than requiring each other.

There are some scenes in this book that I think will stick in my brain forever. I enjoyed it just as much as the first and cannot wait for the third book to be published.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Bronte
  • 23-11-14

Engaging historical fiction

Once I got used to the clipped narration I really enjoyed this book. The accents were mostly consistent especially the Welsh! The story captures how the separate but interwoven lives of the key characters are changed by WWI. The characters are likeable and I kept listening to hear how each dealt with the major political and social changes of the first three decades of last century. If you like historical fiction and believable characters this is a good series to get into!

2 people found this helpful

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  • Alison
  • 10-09-22

Follett takes on WWII

what an ambitious task to cover WWII and the issues of fascism, weakness, courage and brutality. Ken brought to life unforgettable characters, real and imagined, as well as covering thorny issues. a triumph

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  • madscitist
  • 21-04-22

Not my subject choice!

A very interesting perspective from angles I’ve previously not heard about I.e. what was happening in Russia during the 2nd wild war, in Germany(from the perspective of the people) and simultaneously in England. Well researched, which is classic Ken Follett. A book well worth reading / listening too, highly recommended for historical fiction fans ! 😁

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-01-22

A history of people

Incredible insights into world events through the lives of those enduring them. Remarkable narration by John Lee, particularly the Welsh accents.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 26-12-21

Loved it

Great storyline and characters . I loved the merging of history with the plot. I learnt some new things

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-10-21

What can I say?

I’ve never been more captivated by a book. Beautifully written and read. So worth it.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 27-09-21

history brought to life

A book that broke my heart for humanity, then filled me with admiration for resiliance of life and hope.

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  • Jon
  • 30-06-21

Brilliant

These books are so wonderfully written and even more wonderfully narrated. Its a great way to revise history. Personally, though, I could do without the sex descriptions and the blasphemy.

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  • Shay
  • 08-10-20

Just as good as the first book

Really worth the listen, enjoyed the second instalment of the trilogy. Would’ve liked to have seen an everyday perspective of the Eastern Front perhaps in Stalingrad or on the front line. But can’t have everything. Great book.