The Book: Herman Wouk, THE WINDS OF WAR. Pocket Books paperback reprint, 1983. Poor condition; covers are taped back on, pages have yellowed.
First read: 1985
Owned since: 1985
I'm guessing on all the particulars of this book, since the copy Matt owns is a spiffy trade paperback that I gave him as a birthday present a couple of years ago. My own copy is one that I borrowed from my parents and never got around to returning -- although to be fair, my mother did own two copies of WAR AND REMEMBRANCE, this book's sequel. It was my college roommate Leigh, however, who introduced me to this book; she had (and may still have) a massive crush on the character of Byron Henry.
No one writes books like Herman Wouk any more. Wouk himself is still alive, at a remarkable 93, and still writing, but on a much smaller scope.
THE WINDS OF WAR is an epic that spans the globe and the decade leading up to the United States' entry into the Second World War. It focuses on the Henrys, a Navy family headed up by Pug, who's a Lieutenant Commander with a stalled career at the beginning of the book. Pug's obsessed with the need for landing craft to fight the next war, and this obsession brings him to the attention of President Roosevelt. Roosevelt sends him to Germany as a naval attache and then, as things heat up, to Russia as part of a Lend-Lease mission. Meanwhile, Pug's three children, Warren, Byron, and Madeleine, are preparing for wars on different fronts, and his bored wife, Rhoda, is amusing herself at home.
THE WINDS OF WAR is exhaustively researched and historically accurate, as far as I can tell; it's a wonderful novel about a turning point in world history, and a titanic achievement. Rereading it, as I've done about a dozen times, is always a pleasure.