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The Henry Family #1

The Winds of War

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Like no other masterpiece of historical fiction, Herman Wouk's sweeping epic of World War II is the great novel of America's Greatest Generation.

Wouk's spellbinding narrative captures the tide of global events, as well as 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.

The Winds of War and its sequel War and Remembrance stand as the crowning achievement of one of America's most celebrated storytellers.

896 pages, Paperback

First published November 15, 1971

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About the author

Herman Wouk

238 books958 followers
Herman Wouk was a bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning Jewish American author with a number of notable novels to his credit, including The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War, and War and Remembrance.

Herman Wouk was born in New York City into a Jewish family that had emigrated from Russia. After a childhood and adolescence in the Bronx and a high school diploma from Townsend Harris High School, he earned a B.A. from Columbia University in 1934, where he was a member of the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity and studied under philosopher Irwin Edman. Soon thereafter, he became a radio dramatist, working in David Freedman's "Joke Factory" and later with Fred Allen for five years and then, in 1941, for the United States government, writing radio spots to sell war bonds. He lived a fairly secular lifestyle in his early 20s before deciding to return to a more traditional Jewish way of life, modeled after that of his grandfather, in his mid-20s.

Wouk joined the United States Navy and served in the Pacific Theater, an experience he later characterized as educational; "I learned about machinery, I learned how men behaved under pressure, and I learned about Americans." Wouk served as an officer aboard two destroyer minesweepers (DMS), the USS Zane and USS Southard, becoming executive officer of the latter. He started writing a novel, Aurora Dawn, during off-duty hours aboard ship. Wouk sent a copy of the opening chapters to Irwin Edman who quoted a few pages verbatim to a New York editor. The result was a publisher's contract sent to Wouk's ship, then off the coast of Okinawa. The novel was published in 1947 and became a Book of the Month Club main selection. His second novel, City Boy, proved to be a commercial disappointment at the time of its initial publication in 1948.

While writing his next novel, Wouk read each chapter as it was completed to his wife, who remarked at one point that if they didn't like this one, he'd better take up another line of work (a line he would give to the character of the editor Jeannie Fry in his 1962 novel Youngblood Hawke). The novel, The Caine Mutiny (1951), went on to win the Pulitzer Prize. A huge best-seller, drawing from his wartime experiences aboard minesweepers during World War II, The Caine Mutiny was adapted by the author into a Broadway play called The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, and was later made into a film, with Humphrey Bogart portraying Lt. Commander Philip Francis Queeg, captain of the fictional USS Caine. Some Navy personnel complained at the time that Wouk had taken every twitch of every commanding officer in the Navy and put them all into one character, but Captain Queeg has endured as one of the great characters in American fiction.

He married Betty Sarah Brown in 1945, with whom he had three sons: Abraham, Nathanial, and Joseph. He became a fulltime writer in 1946 to support his growing family. His first-born son, Abraham Isaac Wouk, died in a tragic accident as a child; Wouk later dedicated War and Remembrance (1978) to him with the Biblical words, "He will destroy death forever."

In 1998, Wouk received the Guardian of Zion Award.

Herman Wouk died in his sleep in his home in Palm Springs, California, on May 17, 2019, at the age of 103, ten days before his 104th birthday.

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Profile Image for Matt.
919 reviews28.3k followers
March 18, 2023
“They found the narrow tarred roads filling with people on foot and horse-drawn wagons laden with children, furniture, squawking geese, and the like. Some peasants drove along donkeys piled with household goods, or a few mooing cows. Marching soldiers now and then forced the car off the road. A troop of cavalry trotted by on gigantic dappled horses. The dusty riders chatted as they rode, strapping fellows with helmets and sabres glittering in the morning sun. They laughed, flashing white teeth, twirling their moustaches, glancing down with good-humored disdain at the straggling refugees. One company of foot soldiers went by singing. The clear weather, the smell of the ripening corn, made the travelers feel good, though the sun as it climbed got too hot. There were no combatants in sight on the long black straight road through yellow fields when a lone airplane dived from the sky, following the line of the road and making a hard stuttering noise. It flew so low that Byron could see the painted numbers, the black crosses, the swastika, the clumsy fixed wheels. The bullets fell on people, horses, and the household goods and children in the carts. Byron felt a burning and stinging in one ear. He was not aware of toppling into the dirt…”
- Herman Wouk, The Winds of War

Welcome to America’s War and Peace.

Welcome, and enjoy.

That’s the novel I think of when I think of Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War. I am not ashamed of this belief, and you will not be able to convince me otherwise.

Historical fiction is hard. Just ask Ken Follett, who keeps sending waves of cardboard-cutout characters into awkwardly contrived real-life situations.

The difficulty comes from the inherent tension in the genre. Make the book too historical, and you might as well append some footnotes, and make it nonfiction. Make the book too fictional, and you end up in a situation where the relatively trivial problems of the characters overshadow the bigger problems of history. Striking the right balance can be hard. Indeed, striking the balance is almost impossible, since the individual needs and desires of the characters tend to pale against large historical backdrops, and in order to counterbalance this effect, you have to have characters who are impossibly earnest, and thus, do not feel like actual human beings. Again, all this is illustrated in Follett’s “Century Trilogy.”

Herman Wouk's solution to this tension is to say screw it, and super-size both the history and the fictional drama of the turbulent years leading up to America's involvement in World War II. This is a big, sprawling, ambitious novel set against a factual background and real-life personages. The true-life tragedies are interwoven with a multifaceted soap opera, which Wouk has constructed around Captain Victor "Pug" Henry, the paterfamilias of an American naval family. That family includes his unhappy wife, Rhoda; the perfect eldest son Warren (a Naval flier); their loose-cannon middle child Byron (a submariner); and daughter Madeline, who leaves college to work for a popular radio entertainer, and whose purpose in this novel is almost entirely superfluous. But who cares!? Superfluity is one of The Winds of War’s great charms.

Mocking this book is rather easy, if one is so inclined. There's a lot to pick apart, starting with enough melodrama to fuel a dozen General Hospitals. The characterizations can be less than sharp. There is a Leo-in-Titanic quality to Pug Henry, so that he's always turning up at the right place at the right time, allowing him to roll with the titans of the day (Look it's FDR! And isn't that Churchill! Wait, is that the smell of fish on Stalin's breath?) Moreover, for a book so overstuffed with dalliances, affairs, and wandering hearts, there is a certain chasteness to the proceedings that is both quaint and irritating. This is about war, but veers away from graphic violence. This is riddled with love affairs, but you won’t find a single sex scene. Most of the characters are under constant duress, but none of them curse. Somehow, as I mentioned in my review of Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny, he is able to maintain a Leave it to Beaver-level of cleanliness without utterly destroying the verisimilitude he works to create.

(I should add that I am exaggerating a bit with the Leave it to Beaver crack. But not by much).

Everything that works against The Winds of War can, in the right frame of mind, be seen as advantageous. The messiness and the ridiculousness are endemic of ambition, and despite a slow start, in which we are introduced to the archetypal rectitude of Pug Henry, this huge book is never less than engrossing.

The plot, in brief:

Pug is naval officer sent to England as an observer. This will give him the opportunity to hobnob with historical figures while also fall in love with a woman named Pamela, who is daughter to a British radio star. Later, because of his observer status, Pug will get to chat with FDR and then go to Moscow. Meanwhile, Byron is in Italy working as a research assistant to Aaron Jastrow, a famed Jewish writer. Byron is soon in love with Jastrow's niece, Natalie, and will be with them as the two flee the encroaching Holocaust (a gut-wrenching journey, magnificently chronicled). Warren, the naval flier, is stationed in Hawaii, and his role is mainly to sit there until December 7, 1941. Meanwhile, while Pug is skirting the line with Pamela, his wife drifts towards a love affair with Palmer Kirby. Palmer is a scientist type, and if you guessed that he'll eventually work on the Manhattan Project, you're right! There’s also Leslie Slote, a hopeless pedant who exists to lecture other characters – and by extension us – about the overarching political framework.

Wouk's work is crammed with research. This book has research coming out of its nose. At times, he's able to deftly weave his factoids into the narrative. For instance, in this meeting with Roosevelt, we learn a couple of tidbits about the President without breaking the flow of the story:

Roosevelt sighed, smoothed his thin rumpled gray hair, and rolled himself to his desk. Victor Henry now noticed that the President did not use an ordinary invalid's wheelchair, but an odd piece of gear, a sort of kitchen chair on wheels, in and out of which he could easily slide himself. 'Golly, the sun's going down, and it's still sweltering in here.' Roosevelt sounded suddenly weary, as he contemplated papers piled on the desk. 'Isn't it about time for a drink? Would you like a martini? I'm supposed to mix a passable martini.'

Wouk is less successful using excerpts from a fictional nonfiction book called World's Empire Lost, written by the fictional German General Armin van Roon, and translated by the fictional Pug Henry. Wouk uses these excerpts to set the historical stage, and if you are a neophyte to this period, I suppose it's helpful. However, if you already have some facility with the World War II era, these excerpts are mainly annoying, and a bit too meta.

It is with these explanatory passages that Wouk most consciously apes the style of Tolstoy. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I found Tolstoy’s endless philosophizing about history to be the least enjoyable parts of War and Peace. Both authors share an abiding obsession with the way that grand historical events unfold. Both authors are intent upon sharing that obsession, at extraordinary length.

My favorite part about The Winds of War is its excellent sense of place. Wouk gives you a vivid, tactile sense of being in prewar and wartime Europe: Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia. It puts you into the DeLorean and jams the accelerator down until it hits 88.

The muddy narrow streets of Medzice – it had rained hard during the night, and the rattling on the rabbi's roof had increased Byron's sensed of snugness – were filled with an autumnal fragrance of hay and ripening fruit, made more tangy by the smells of the free-roaming ducks, chickens, goats, and calves. Some of the fowl were encountering tragedy, happily strutting in the morning sunshine one moment, and the next swooped down upon by laughing children and carried off squawking and flapping to be slaughtered. In the fields beyond the outlying houses and barns – mostly one-room log structures with heavy yellow thatch roofs – cows and horses grazed in tall waving grass spotted with wild flowers. Water bugs skated on the surface of the slow-moving brown river. Fish jumped and splashed, but nobody was fishing.

Wouk presides over this bulging story like some sort of god (just as Tolstoy did). There are even times when he steps out of the story to remind us that we are reading something fictional. He does this, for example, on the eve of Germany's invasion of Russia:

The players in our drama were now scattered around the earth. Their stage had become the planet, turning in the solar spotlight that illuminated half the scene at a time, and that moved always from east to west.

If nothing else can be said of this book, it certainly does not lack for audacity.

Unsurprisingly, The Winds of War ends with Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, which neatly sets up the followup, War and Remembrance. The battle is described obliquely, and this serves as yet another reminder of how propulsive Wouk keeps his narrative without having many set-piece action sequences. I'm actually at a bit of a loss to describe my vast enjoyment of what is essentially a square novel that eschews the salty language, graphic violence, and equally graphic sex I value in my fiction.

I’ve said it before and will say it again. Wouk is a forgotten genius. He was disparaged by literary critics in his own day, and is often damned with faint praise in the present. Forget all that. This is a tremendous epic, creating a world that surrounds you, a three-dimensional reading experience. The worst thing I can say about it is that it has forced me to read it several times. At nearly 900 pages, that is a lot of rereading, especially with so many unread books in the world.

It cannot be helped. The novel is that good, and it sets the stage for an even better sequel.
Profile Image for Luffy.
862 reviews722 followers
August 11, 2020
Winds of War isn't my favorite book of the (almost dwindled) year. Nor does it break into my all time top 10 books. What it is, is simply a balancing act. In its bare bones, this book is a melodrama. But this undesirable component is supported by a blissfully solemn narrative. The main cast is the Henry family. The book's entire length is about how different these people are from each other, and how much do they cross paths despite their nomadic existence.

All of which has World War 2 as a canvass. The various big shots of history are not written into the book with equal effect. Hitler, unsurprisingly, is given the most treatment. In my mind I cast a Richard Dawkins lookalike as Roosevelt. Worked for me. Churchill is the one disappointment. Stalin is just average. The horrors of war are merely hinted at. Bloodshed doesn't happen by the buckets here. What we see is a world unprepared by modern warfare and global politics. The proven wisdom caught with its pants down.

Since the War is not shown through the eyes of the soon to be dead, its harshness is lessened. The best thing about this book is the twists. These are plausible and satisfactory. I loved the Natalie Jastrow, Leslie Slote, and Pamela Tudsbury characters. I hated the Uncle Jastrow and had contempt for the disillusioned and delusional main character, Victor Henry. So I had a blast living with this book for a couple of weeks. It's much better than the pathetic Century trilogy by Ken Follett. I want to know what happens next. Nothing is guaranteed, but the story is not finished. Which means that the sequel theoretically can be as good as this book.
Profile Image for Murray.
Author 151 books491 followers
March 22, 2023
Masterpiece. I truly felt a part of this book as if I were being swept into WW2 along with them all.

Possibly time for a reread or a good audio version. The film is excellent as well.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
August 13, 2019
The Winds of War (The Henry Family #1), Herman Wouk
The Winds of War is Herman Wouk's second book about World War II, the first being The Caine Mutiny (1951). Published in 1971, it was followed up seven years later by War and Remembrance. The novel features a mixture of real and fictional characters that are all connected to the extended family of Victor "Pug" Henry, a fictional middle-aged Naval Officer and confidant of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The story arc begins six months before Germany's invasion of Poland in September 1939 and ends shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, when the United States and, by extension, the Henry family, enters the war as well.
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال 1987 میلادی
عنوان: گردباد (رمان تاریخی) – دو جلدی. نویسنده: هرمان ووک؛ مترجم: منوچهر بیگدلی خمسه وزیری؛ ناشر: تهران، زرین، سال انتشار: 1365 ؛ در 1112 ص؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان امریکایی - سده 20 م
هرمان ووک (زاده روز بیست و هفتم ماه می سال 1915 میلادی - درگذشته روز هفدهم ماه می سال 2019 میلادی) رمان‌نویس آمریکایی بودند. ایشان برنده ی جایزه ی «پولیتزر» برای رمان «طغیان قابیل» در سال 1952 میلادی شدند. نویسنده ی پرکار آمریکایی، و خالق رمان معروف «شورش کین»؛ «هرمان ووک» از بزرگان ادبیات بودند و رمان‌های مشهور ایشان درباره ی جنگ جهانی دوم «گردباد: بادهای جنگ»، از رمان‌های مهم از نویسندگان آمریکایی است. ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Michelle.
442 reviews13 followers
June 14, 2010
The Winds of War is the first of a 2 part series comprised of The Winds of War and War and Remembrance. This book was impossible to put down. The story of the lead-up to WWII told primarily through the lens of the American Henry family, The Winds of War gives a comprehensive background on the military and political situation in a much more engaging way than a non-fiction book could. It also paints a broader picture by looking at the situation on the ground in both Europe as well as America. Despite its gigantic heft, the book moves very fast. I was sad to turn the last page, although since we were only at Pearl Harbor, I knew we still had a ways to go.

The Winds of War was published in 1971, apparently after approximately 13 years of research and writing, meaning Wouk got started on it in 1958. The book does not seem dated at all -- if anything, the opposite is true. Because the book was worked on and written closer to the time of WWII itself (by a WWII veteran), the story seems much more immediate and much more realistic than more recent books about WWII. I will definitely be moving on to War and Remembrance.
Profile Image for Blaine DeSantis.
903 reviews113 followers
February 9, 2017
There is a whole lot to like in this sprawling family saga that takes us on the journey of the Henry Family from the late 1930's through the bombing of Pearl Harbor and then Clark Field in the Philippines. I had this book on my Kindle for over a year and one day I was talking to the family about the old Mini-Series format from the 70's and 80's (by the way are the 10-episode cable series that dominate todays TV really any different from these? I think not!), and I remembered this show and the book. So I began this almost 900 page book and a lot of things popped out at me. First of all, how horrid the TV casting was of the characters in the book. I know this is a book review, but the mini-series played a big part in why I read this and so I must digress a bit.
One thing that I have always read is that TV shows or movies always seem to get the ages wrong on the participants in these historic events. In the book Pug Henry is 49 and his kids are in the early to mid-20's. In the mini-series we have 64-year old Robert Mitchum trying to portray this character and then all the other casting runs from there with actors portraying characters who are all 15-20 years younger than the actor. And who in their right mind would cast Ali McGraw and Jan Michael Vincent in their roles - I know it is always about ratings but these were terrible choices!
As for the book, we have Pug Henry who is a 49-year old Navy man who has a wonderful sense of perspective and becomes FDR's eyes and ears to the early stages of WW2. His one son is a fighter pilot and other son eventually becomes a submariner, and a daughter who goes into the entertainment business. Not sure what Madeline Henry really added to the book, but maybe that will become more evident in the sequel "War and Remembrance".
Here we get to see the buildup of WW2, the invasion of Poland which was allegedly due to the Poles invasion of Germany - a deliberate faked invasion made up by Hitler - as well as his defensive invasion into Russia. There is a ton of really great history in this book, including portions which give the German point of view and which are very informative and thought provoking.
We see the plight of the Jews, the plight of the Russians, the desperate attempts by Churchill and Stalin to get the US into the war, the Lend-Lease program that was approved by a Congress that did not want to supply arms or supplies to England or Russia but who approved this subterfuge, the mixed convictions of the US populace that wished to remain neutral but also which had a great deal of support for helping our Allies.
I will also give this to Wouk, he made up some very unlikeable characters: Pug's wife Rhoda who is a flighty flirt who drinks to much and is a spoiled brat worrying about what she will wear to meet Hitler at a reception than the fact that the Jews of Berlin are starving and being dispossessed of their businesses and property, and a woman who loves nothing more than shopping; his son Briny who is just an arrogant and moody person who falls in love with the half-Jewish Natalie Jastrow who herself has few redeeming qualities other than dashing throughout war torn Europe to see her relatives and then having Briny chase after her and continually rescue her; and I could go on for a few others, but Wouk shows that families are made of noble stock like Pug, and son Warren, and then there is the flip side of Rhoda, Briny and Madeline. We follow this crew through all these pages and know that we are slowly going to reach the inevitable climax of Pearl Harbor which sets up the next book that will dwell on the actual time the US is at War with the Axis forces of Germany, Italy and Japan.
While this was more of a 4.5 on my scale I rounded the book up because of all the historical research and many of the additional facts that I learned through Wouk's writing. I will take a bit of a break now because the next book in the series is over 1050 pages long on my Kindle and for now the Henry family can blaze away in defense of America and democracy and I will catch up with their saga later.
Profile Image for Rob.
511 reviews107 followers
July 20, 2020
Book 1 of The Henry family series first published 1971

What a monumental undertaking and what a success.
The book is successful on two fronts.
1. As a comprehensive account of World War 2 from just before Germany invaded Poland to the bombing of Peril Harbour and the entry of America into what was to be the first truly global war.
2. As the Henry Family saga and how the war brought so many trials and tribulation to it.

It would be fare to say that the Henry’s are a fractured family.
Victor ‘Pug��� Henry the head of the family is a frustrated, desk bound, sailor.
Rhoda is the socialite wife and mother.
There are two sons and a daughter.
Warren, son one, is married to the daughter of a congressman whose political leanings are at complete odds with Pug’s.
Byron, son two, is interested in doing only what Byron wants to do regardless of his fathers or his mothers feelings. To add to Byron’s worries he has married a Jewish girl who is pregnant and trapped in Italy at the outbreak of war.
Madeline, the daughter, drops out of college to pursue a career in radio much to Pug’s annoyance.

And as the world unhinges and hurtles towards a war that will take countless millions of lives the Henry’s are there to witness every horrific moment.

A truly fascinating journey.

A highly recommended 5 star read.
Profile Image for Erin.
2,960 reviews485 followers
July 26, 2019
If you listen carefully, you might just hear my screams of absolute euphoria that I have completely finished my longest audio yet. At almost 46 hours in length, it's been over a month since I started this book. The Winds of War has lingered on my Goodreads shelf since I began using the site in 2013. It feels really good to have given this WWII historical a listen.

Focusing on the five members of the American Henry family- Victor "Pug" Henry, his wife Rhoda, sons; Warren and Byron, and daughter; Madeline, the book travels quite vast from the US to many countries throughout Europe and Asia in the first few years of the war. Interwoven with this family saga is a novel inside the novel, written in the 1960's and discussing all the political atmosphere and military strategies of the war.

Although there were times when the melodrama of the Henry's extracurricular activities made me frustrated, I did enjoy the way in which Wouk presents the historical record. My one wish is that Madeline might have been given a more fascinating storyline.

Eventually I will select the sequel but for now I think I shall stick to shorter Audiobooks for the next while.

Audiobook narrated by Kevin Pariseau 45h 48 mins 41 secs.
Profile Image for Lori Elliott (catching up).
733 reviews1,779 followers
March 27, 2015
This novel was well worth every one of its 850 plus pages. I loved how Wouk presented all sides of WWII and how the countries involved made the choices they did. What a wonderful history lesson... camouflaged in a great story. In many ways this reminded me a lot of a Ken Follett novel. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.
Profile Image for Negin.
613 reviews151 followers
January 9, 2018
This story, told through the eyes and lives of a Navy family, begins in 1939 and ends right after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. It’s certainly not a quick read. It’s long, over 800 pages long. Reading it was tedious at times, especially all the details with war strategy and military plans, neither of which interest me much at all. However, I’m so glad that I stuck with it. It’s not great literature, but the story and portrayal of characters are what made it for me. I especially loved the patriarch of the family, Victor “Pug” Henry – strong, upright, old school, my type of man. I look forward to reading the sequel.

While writing this review, I just remembered that Herman Wouk also wrote “Don’t Stop the Carnival” which I read more than thirty years ago and loved. Totally different subject matter however, but one that I can relate to somewhat, since we live in the Caribbean.

Here are some of my favorite quotes.
“It is better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you’re a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.”

This one refers to the relief that Victor Henry felt after being in Berlin for a while. I can relate to this, since I feel that Americans are more genuine than most. I always say that you know where you stand with them. I know that others reading this may not appreciate my generalization, but oh well.
“Victor Henry loved being back among American faces, American talk, offhand open manners, laughter from the diaphragm and not from the face muscles, not a bow or a clicked pair of heels, not a woman’s European smile, gleaming on and off like an electric sign.”

I didn’t even know that there’s a miniseries based on the book, but I don’t think I’ll be rushing to see it anytime soon.
Profile Image for David Putnam.
Author 16 books1,517 followers
April 1, 2019
I’m on a sixties author (book) kick. I truly loved the Winds of War. It is an epic that follows one family through the build of World War II. The book is long but always engaging. The characters were well drawn and I wanted to know what happened at the end of the book so I now have War and Remembrance on deck to read (soon). I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys historical fiction.
Profile Image for Scott Axsom.
47 reviews141 followers
July 3, 2017
Huge, compelling read. Though I may hesitate to call the book "enlightening", I'd probably feel comfortable describing it as "broadening", particularly regarding the range of viewpoints on various players' roles and motives in the war. It contains plenteous opinions about martial tactics (particularly Germany's) and the effects of politics (particularly the US's) on the outcomes in WWII. Opinions or not, it was refreshing to see unconventional views stated so thoroughly and convincingly. I was also somewhat shocked to learn how virulently anti-war the US populace was at the time.

[Minor spoiler alert: When the main character, Pug Henry, a Navy Captain having already spent one-on-one time with (in order) Hitler, Roosevelt, Mussolini and Churchill, obtains a private audience with Stalin, the needle on my disbelief suspension meter finally snapped clean off. Fortunately, it didn't detract from the saga as a whole.]

All-in-all, I enjoyed the book immensely and, through it, came by a number of new perspectives regarding the conduct of the war and it's key operatives. It's a fascinating study of the personalities involved and the effects for which each of them were, arguably, responsible. Wouk has an amazing grasp of history and research, combined with a marvelous ability to keep a tale compelling through some 250,000+ words via the use of a seemingly endless array of story-telling devices. There's no deus ex machina and there's plenty of unfinished business in the end - all as it should be. I enjoyed it enough to have already begun the follow-up novel, War & Remembrance and I'll soon enough read his Pulitzer winner, The Caine Mutiny.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I found it particularly enlightening, in light of the current state of American and European realpolitik, to learn how Roosevelt was viewed by many at the time vs. how he's generally viewed today. A fascinating contrast, and particularly pertinent at this moment in history.
Profile Image for Deb.
Author 2 books22 followers
December 29, 2014
The cover says.."Grand..Grandiose..Compelling" and I must agree wholeheartedly

I just finished this huge classic wonderful piece of engrossing fiction based on the beginning of WWII history. It begins in 1939. Vicariously through a military family named the Henry's, we get more than a birds eye view of how things manifested. In this book, I swear, every page you feel as though you must have taken a trip back in time. I chose this book because I'm quite attracted to WWII fiction but I wanted to read something where someone tells me why? What was it like before? How did it get to the point of war and why? I know it was Europe & Pacific but how and why? This book tackles all of my curious questions all rolled up into a family saga with romance, adventure, countless facts and irresistible story. What can I say? It was over a thousand pages. There is too much to say. But I enjoyed every bit of it. I learned so much. It made me even more intrigued and caused me to do online historical research. What more can be asked for when it comes to Historical Fiction? To be entertained and learn at the same time is everything I love about this genre.

I have the second book and look forward to starting it soon. This book stops at 1941 as the Henry's and the United States get into the war. I look forward to the second book to learn more about my country's involvement and the Henry's in the war.

I give this 6 stars. Pretty close to perfect for me. I will read more books by this author. He is definitely to be heralded for such a saga, such a large successful work. I do recommend this to real Historical Fiction lovers and those who are willing to give some time to its 1047 pages..but you won't be sorry for devoting the time. I'm going to be jumping back in soon.
Profile Image for ALLEN.
553 reviews120 followers
June 21, 2019
The death of Herman Wouk at age 103 in the Spring of 2019 made me think back on the multi-talented writer’s life and celebrated career. I ordered THE WINDS OF WAR, one of the author’s key bestsellers that I remembered liking very much when I read it in the early 1970’s. I wanted to see if the sweeping (885-page) realistic novel held up for me, and am happy to say it did.

WINDS is set in the USA, the UK, Germany, Poland, the Soviet Union, and Italy, and begins in the Spring of 1939, when naval attache Victor (“Pug”) Henry and his “flibbertigibbet” wife Rhoda are sent to Berlin at a time when the USA and Nazi Germany still had normal relations. It ends in mid-December, 1941, by which time the USA was at war against all members of the Axis and firmly allied with the UK in what main character Pug calls the first true WORLD war, as opposed to the so-called First World War, which to him was merely a general European war. Wouk had originally intended to tell the story of the United States’ preparation for, and experience in, World War II in one volume, but was constrained to tell the rest of the story in the thousand-page WAR AND REMEMBRANCE, which was published much later in the Seventies.

In this volume Pug is hopscotched around the globe in ways which strain credulity, though under Wouk’s skilled narration we accept it: He meets not only FDR but Hitler, Churchill, and Stalin, and as a naval man gains insights into the coming war that could not be gained by conventional diplomacy or outright espionage. All along, what Pug really wants his own battleship to command, the typical career apex for a mariner like him. In the meantime, THE WINDS OF WAR is not entirely free of domestic-drama concerns, as Pug seriously considers an affair with a British journalist’s spunky young daughter.

It is important to note that THE WINDS OF WAR was first published in 1971, a time at which other American bestsellers like RABBIT, REDUX (John Updike) and WONDERLAND (Joyce Carol Oates) were in a firmly revisionist mode as to American morality and American capability. WINDS has few of those doubts: Pug Henry is firmly aware of his mission in life, and part of that is his understanding that the USA will have to enter World War II, and fight it to win. At the same time, though, Wouk cannily creates an antagonist, a foaming isolationist Senator whose beautiful daughter Pug’s older, career-Navy son marries. Pug is dismayed when his own daughter drops out of a prestige college to pursue a career in New York, and even more dismayed when his younger son shows no initial affinity for military service, preferring to wander Europe in search of art and culture. But while he expresses his misgivings, he is not the type to forbid his children any reasonable endeavor.

Now, it is only fair of me to say that while THE WINDS OF WAR is a fine book, it may not be a great book. It was written to be a very readable bestseller and succeeded admirably. But author Herman Wouk had long been saddled with misgivings by critics as a mere purveyor of middlebrow entertainment. Back in 1966 an influential critic and widower of author Shirley Jackson complained that:

“He can compete with the worst of television because he is the worst of television, without the commercials,” Stanley Edgar Hyman wrote, when he described Mr. Wouk’s readers as “yahoos who hate culture and the mind.”

While this may be an entertaining salvo in the culture wars, it seems to this reviewer to be misguided as to Wouk's earlier works, and wholly unfair as to this one. Wouk’s Pug Henry is a conservative, top-level warrior but hardly a yahoo, nor were Wouk’s readers. In fact, Pug’s Mainline Protestant family is forced to confront the many ways anti-Semitism has strained Western society, first in Hitler’s Germany and later on, when one of Pug's sons marries a Jew.

Should THE WINDS OF WAR be read by the several generations that have followed the book’s publication 48 years ago? Absolutely, though if the idea of a nearly 900-page sprawler is uncongenial, in 1983 the ABC network put together a faithful mini-series based on the book, starring Robert Mitchum as Pug. The DVD boxed set is readily available at a good price.

Photo: The author, midtown New York, 1950’s. Courtesy New York Times.
Herman Wouk in an undated photo. His taut shipboard drama “The Caine Mutiny†lifted him to the top of the best-seller lists, where he remained for most of a career that extended past his 100th year.
Profile Image for Marquise.
1,711 reviews401 followers
July 30, 2017
Although my review is only for the first book in the duology, these three things I have to say about this installment also can apply to the second book. Let's see...

One, Herman Wouk has a very noticeable tendency to write preachily and moralisingly. Those fictional "excerpts" from the also fictional German general's memoirs placed at the start of each part and before certain chapters are obviously just an excuse to indulge in lecturing on history and Germany and America's role in WWII. I am not sure how many real German memoirs this author read before writing, but what he makes the general say is often a blatant strawman argument that seems to be there just so Wouk will have a chance to "counter-argue" and "debunk" supposed apologia and justifications by the vanquished side. Yes, there were definitely that sort of people, but unless you happen to be like Jodl or Göring, much of it doesn't even sound like what career generals would say.

Second, protagonist character Victor Henry's nickname shouldn't be Pug but Forrest Gump. The man is a poster child for the Forrest Gump Syndrome. He's friends with every top dog and big name in America, and somehow manages to be at the right place and at the right time for every single blasted major turning point! If not him, then one of his two sons or the Jastrows. That's unbelievable and robs the saga of credibility; the author should've limited himself to placing the main leads on a single major theatre with just occasional incursions into the others instead of making him stumble into everyone everywhere from Europe to America to Asia.

Third, I sadly am left withour having found yet one WWII novel set in the Pacific theatre of operations that I've liked. Come on, writer folks! Midway, Guadalcanal, Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima, Okinawa... You can't possibly be lacking in inspiration with battles like these!

On the positive side, this wasn't bad as a whole, it has interesting moments, especially in the first half and towards the end (the middle is rather forgettable). It just suffers from overstretched plot and an overambitious narrative arc that's not handled well.
Profile Image for Barry Medlin.
339 reviews28 followers
October 19, 2021
This was an amazing read with wonderful writing! Historical fiction at its finest!! War and Remembrance is the sequel to this novel and it will be a must read for me!
Profile Image for Laura.
6,872 reviews556 followers
July 8, 2013
Just arrived from Australia through BM.

What a magnificent book, one of the best books on World War II I have ever read.

This first volume tells the saga of Victor "Pug" Henry, a middle-aged Naval officer and confidant of the President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In my opinion, the main point of this book is the accurate description of the development of World War II, starting with the Nazi's occupation in Poland. Russian's fight was the following historical event and this volume ends with the Pearl Harbor attack.

Peace, if it ever exists, will not be based on the fear of war, but on the love of peace. It will not be the abstaining from an act, but the coming of a state of mind. In this sense the most insignificant writer can serve peace, where the most powerful tribunals can do nothing.
by Julian Benda

Opening lines:
Commander Victor Henry rode a taxicab home from the Navy Building on Constitution Avenue, in a gusty gray March that matched his mood.

The Winds of War is a 1983 miniseries which was made based on this book.

The sequel of this book is War and Remembrance which I will start to read pretty soon since I cannot wait to know what happens next.
Profile Image for Sarah.
732 reviews73 followers
July 21, 2016
This book really lagged in the middle and temporarily took all of my high hopes with it. It did actually pick up towards the end and the end does leave you wanting to jump into the sequel. The problem was that Wouk was prone to lectures... Lengthy monologues about history. I do love reading about history but I prefer to do that in non-fiction rather than being lectured in fiction. The reason that it picked up at the end was because the monologues ceased and the action picked up. The characters are good and overall I do like the story. I just didn't love it.

As for the audio - I listened to this guy on The Caine Mutiny and didn't have any issues. This time I struggled, though, over a few things. Maybe because this is a much longer audio? The weird thing was that he needs to take a breath in odd places and it actually changes the meaning of the sentence or your understanding of who is talking. It's very strange. He's also excellent with accents but not with voices, which created some additional confusion over who was talking at times.
Profile Image for Ian Beardsell.
230 reviews24 followers
June 25, 2019
This is an incredibly enjoyable fictional read for those interested in WWII history and how it affected families in Europe and in the U.S.

Perhaps the most unfavourable aspect of Wouk's tale, however, is how he places at least one member of the protagonist Henry family in the very center of practically every major milestone event of the war: the attack on Poland, the historic meeting between Roosevelt and Churchill at Placentia Bay, Pearl Harbor, and so on. In every case a family member is right there to give us the narrative first hand. Granted, that is one great way to narrate history and make it come alive, which the author does well, but I find it a wee bit contrived.

On the whole, though, it is a fascinating and well-researched book, bringing the disparate events of the most sweeping, wide-flung conflict of the 20th Century together for readers in a very readable yet detailed way.

Interestingly, Henry Wouk passed away when I was half-way through his novel. He was 94 years of age!
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,820 followers
January 25, 2011
I would have liked it more if it hadn't turned so blatantly into a soap-opera. You'll probably find it interesting but you'll also probably be exasperated by some of the characters. This I suppose speaks to how well they're written....but it's still a soap opera.

This was a big series in it's time and the attempt to wind a romance into WWII including the Jewish population and the concentration camp death camp experience didn't work that well for me.
Profile Image for Sonia Gomes.
308 reviews94 followers
September 20, 2020
My introduction to World War II, is The Winds of War. I loved this book because there are no hard core statistics and you get a 'Story' but it has been difficult to review this amazing book, it truly is.

If you want a really good review read Matt@https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

But a 'story' of Pug and his Family going through the War did help.

But hey...suddenly halfway through the book, I realise these are people, and I want to know more about the people.
What made them so resilient? Thousands of people were uprooted from their homes what was it like? How could the people of London be so stoic in the face of so much destruction? How could the people of Germany survive the 'shame of losing a War' the terrible food shortages, and so much more...
Much later after The Winds of War I read a great deal more, strangely I found a lot more from Authors who wrote YA Lit, the voices of children told me much more. The voices of the British children in Noel Streatfeild books and the voices of the children of Germany as told by Margot Benary-Isbert.
Then there was that amazing book, 'The Tender Victory' by Taylor Caldwell which really got me in the midst of the suffering of the thousands of Orphans wondering around Europe, that was the pitiful legacy of the War.
Yes I am done with the Battles and Statistics I want the people to tell me more...
Profile Image for Donna.
3,903 reviews21 followers
November 23, 2018
WOW. I liked this one. (More than I thought I would.) It is historical fiction WWII. It was so close to 5 stars.....I still may change it from 4 to 5. I first read this author's The Caine Mutiny not long ago and I really enjoyed the ease of his writing. So I picked this one up and thought the same thing. I loved the writing and that this book was about war AND people. The war strategies, the thoughts, the fear, and the willingness to step up and step in, were well done here. The family drama was also captivating. It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. So I just bought the second book a few minutes ago and will start that one today.
Profile Image for Patrick Peterson.
462 reviews187 followers
August 19, 2020
June 2017 - I read this book in the early 70s and have some pretty vivid memories even now.
The descriptions of the special German groups (Einsatzgruppen) tasked with exterminating the Jews during WWII are haunting. In particular, the main method of disposal/elimination cannot be forgotten.

Wouk's history book of the war, within the novel, written from a German Wehrmacht general's perspective (Armin von Roon), was an ever fascinating device that illuminated much about the war. I remember a particular "Editor's Note" (the "editor" was one of the novel's main characters, an American Admiral), something to the effect that "This is one of several instances where you might note that the General (von Roon) seems to be blaming the invaded country for the need for Germany to invade them." Clever.

This novel and it's sequel are truly grandiose in scope and power. The characters were very well drawn and compelling. I remember finding myself really rooting for the good guys and seeing reasons why the bad guys (partly) did what they did. Even though it was an historical novel, where everyone knows the outcome of the historical parts, Wouk was STILL able to create suspense - quite a skill.

Though I remember disagreeing with Wouk about various parts of the historical and emotional drift of the book, I still recommend it. I just wish he did not allow his focus on the Holocaust to have tainted so thoroughly his non-descriptions of the even larger horrors of the Soviet regime, which I remember thinking he drew far too sympathetically, due to the Russian people's suffering during the war. In reality they suffered not only due to Hitler's attack, but just as much or more due to Stalin's implementation of communist dogma, tactics and strategy - slaughtering or starving to death 10s of millions of his own people.

Highly recommended, as well as the sequel book: War and Remembrance. They are long, but worth it.

Re: the TV mini-series - well, not great. Perhaps if you watch them first, they might be an ok intro to the books. But do NOT read the books first and expect the mini-series to live up to the quality of the books.
Profile Image for Tony.
402 reviews3 followers
October 16, 2021
The Winds of War is a very enjoyable novel that combines clever analysis of WWII with an entertaining--albeit somewhat melodramatic--story. The analysis of real events is always astute and, at times, brilliant. In fact, it is better than any interpretation I have yet encountered in non-fiction works on the period. As one small example, take Wouk's observation that while the Allies coordinated their efforts for approximately a year before the US entered the war, the Axis never jointly planned any of their major strategic moves. The fictional story follows an American naval family through the twists and turns of their personal and professional lives from approximately 1939-1942. While not as compelling as the discussions of the war, the plot was good enough to put the sequel to this work on my list of definite future reads.
Profile Image for JoAnne Pulcino.
663 reviews59 followers
September 11, 2013
THE WINDS OF WAR (The Henry Family,#1)

Herman Wouk

Continuing my love affair with the “Golden Oldies” this is a book that should be required reading for all Americans as it is the definite novel of the stunning impact of war and its gigantic toll on the world and individual families.

WINDS OF WAR is the epic masterpiece of historical fiction of the Great American novel of the Greatest Generation. This is the crowning achievement of one of America’s greatest authors and story tellers. Beginning with World War II in WINDS OF WAR and followed by WAR AND REMEMBRANCE these spellbinding narratives encompass the global events and battles in great and fascinating detail while wrapping the story around a single American family surrounded by war.

Mr. Wouk’s amazing accomplishment is without equal when writing about all the tragedy, the heroism, the horror, and the romance the fast paced drama and the patriotism in this astounding book and its sequel.

THE WINDS OF WAR was made into a very successful TV miniseries in 1983 starring Robert Mitchum. WAR AND REMEMBRANCE was made into an also very successful TV miniseries in 1988 starring Robert Mitchum.

Highly Recommended

Profile Image for Kelley.
Author 1 book27 followers
May 14, 2023
This is only time I've ever read such a massive book (887 pp.) twice. Once you are introduced to the likable Henry family, they stick with you for a lifetime, which is what makes this epic story set during the start of World War 2 one of the masterpieces of American literature. Herman Wouk brilliantly weaves the tale of the Henry family through the lens of the key events and leaders of the war. Wouk's genius is to make the historically gigantic figures such as Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill serve as incidental players around the lives of the Henry family as they face the frantic time leading up to the start of the World War and the the US entry into it. Each Henry is a fully developed unique yet flawed character. That is part of the great power of Wouk's story as you're privy to their lives and the tragic horrifying events of the time -- one sees them not as heroic or stereotypical characters, but instead they're identifiable precisely because they are so realistically portrayed as normal people facing extraordinary and unprecedented times. Once you read about them, they'll feel like they're your deep intimate friends. That is what makes Wouk's book a masterpiece of the ages.
Profile Image for Campbell.
544 reviews
July 13, 2019
This was as good a work of historical fiction as I've read. Being a little knowledgeable regarding the Second World War I can vouch for the accuracy of the history and while the plot itself had quite the flavour of a soap opera, that seemed to fit quite well, lending as it did an air of the everyday painted on the massive canvas of war.
Profile Image for Stratos.
870 reviews87 followers
February 15, 2021
Διαβασμένο χρόνια μια ενδιαφέρουσα ιστορία
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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