Mini Reviews: Winter of the World, by Ken Follett

30/03/13 – Winter of the World, by Ken Follett. I’ve reviewed the first part of the Century trilogy in full, and there are many similarities between the books so a shorter review seems appropriate here. Winter of the World opens some years after the conclusion of Fall of Giants, and continues to tell the stories of the families which feature in the first book. The characterisation continues to be a major strength, as is the way in which Follett deals with the momentuous events of the twentieth century. The rise of Nazism and the oppression of the German people is the crucial and most effectively narrated part of this novel, as are the intricacies of international spy networks, which set the stage nicely for the third book, which will see the families struggling through the Cold War. I have the same reservations about this book as I did the first – the situations the characters find themselves in are astoundingly coincidential, but again it is difficult to narrate the story of the second world war without the characters being present for key events. However it does stretch belief when key international decisions are attributed to the characters, no matter how fond we may be of them. Overall a gripping read, perhaps slightly less cohesive than Fall of Giants, but still certainly an amazing epic – I look forward to part three.

Mini Reviews: Tom All Alone’s, by Lynn Shepherd

11/12/12Tom-All-Alone’s, by Lynn Shepherd. As I only reached half-way before abandoning the read, I think a mini review is more appropriate. This novel is cleverly written but fails to engage. It is inspired by Dickens’ Bleak House, and does vividly depict Victorian London much as the great Dickens has done previously – but its homage to prior works of literature does more to irritate than entertain, with some characters aping original characters to such an extent that the book feels clumsy and mismatched, while other characters are lifted directly. The author is also attempting something not often found in modern fiction by using an omniscient narrative voice to comment on the novel’s events, but this too can be irritating.

Mini Reviews: Lustrum, by Robert Harris

02/08/12Lustrum, by Robert Harris. As I have reviewed the first book in the series, Imperium, I’ll just say a few words here. Lustrum continues the masterful telling of Cicero’s navigation through the dangerous waters of Late Republican Rome, and doesn’t disappoint. It takes the reader through the twists and turns of politics as Cicero faces his greatest enemy yet… Lucius Sergius Catilina.