Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Herman Wouk's World War II novels, again

On Memorial Day weekend, I began re-reading "Winds of War," Herman Wouk's unsurpassed novel of World War II. Together with its sequel, "War and Remembrance," Wouk offers an engaging and accurate, though fictional, account of World War II as seen through the eyes of the Henry family.

Wouk's protagonist is a career Navy officer, a commander at the novel's outset, eager for sea duty aboard a battleship. Pug Henry and his two sons, daughter and wife see the world's greatest conflict unfold before their eyes. The Henry family travels to pre-war Berlin, to the Soviet Union, the South Pacific, Poland, and other places where the war was fought or planned. Historical characters include Roosevelt, Stalin and others whose decisions molded the war and the post-war world.

For those who dislike reading pure history — I am not one of these as I am fascinated by history, especially when it is well written — Wouk's two novels will tell you more than you'd ever imagine as you breathlessly follow the lives of the Henrys.

I first read these novels more than 35 years ago. More precisely, I devoured them. When I had to stop reading one novel midway through because I was moving to another city and had to return the library book, I immediately went to the library in my new home and checked out the book I had dropped off. I could not wait to continue reading.

Wouk has written a number of other fine novels, including "The Caine Mutiny" and "Marjorie Morningstar," but "Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance" are his masterpieces. They were turned into a TV mini-series decades ago, but that video presentation inevitably fell short of the power of the novel.

My wife, spurred by her father's WWII memoirs, reread the Wouk novels not long ago, and we recently purchased one of the novels to complete our collection. Now it's my turn. The two thick tomes will take me a while to plow through, but I will enjoy every word.

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