Ken Follett's new novel, "Winter of the World", is the second in the planned three volume set about the history of the 20th century. Beginning in 1933, Follett brings his huge cast of characters along from the years up to the end of the Great War. To talk about the plot of the new book is impossible. Way too many characters and too many plot points. BUT, Follett's such a good writer that he brings the reader up to date with ALL his characters. Follett gives most of his characters enough nuance that few seem like caricatures.
The interesting thing about Follett's second book is the breadth of the coverage of the 1930's and 40's (and into the `50's). Everything from the burning of the Reichstag to the T4 Euthanesia program under the Nazis, to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the battle of Midway to the development of the atomic bomb is covered. Now, in a regular novel, the reader would think, "oh yeah, how can one character or family of characters be present at all these historic events?" But Follett has developed so many characters that what happens is not unlikely. His characters seem to merge with each other and then separate much like the designs in a kaleidoscope. The American heiress from the Russian-emigree father goes to England in the mid-1930's and marries the son(s) of members the British/Welsh nobility. The German characters interact with both the British and the Russians. All these families had been introduced in Follett's first book and all interacted in Follett's second.
Something else interesting I noticed from Follett's first book and his second is the fact that none of the major characters in the first book died. They had to survive to make the second book possible. Now in the second book, several of the main characters do die, which, given the war setting, is a bit more believable.
Also, and this is important. Follett doesn't do a lot of reintroducing characters, their relationships, and plot points from the first book to the second. I guess he just assumes most readers have read the first book and so know the characters of the second. As a result, there's little awkwardness to his writing and the second book flows pretty naturally.
A question a new reader might ask is if he should read the first book,"Fall of the Giants" before "Winter of the World"? This second book could be a stand-alone novel. Follett sets an ambitious course with his proposed three volume set. So far, with the first and second books, he's done quite well.
I don't normally write such short reviews but there's no way to talk about the plot except to say Follett is a master. And if you don't like the book, you can always use it as a door stop. It is a large volume, containing a great story. Enjoy.