World’s End is the first in an eleven book series written by Upton Sinclair in 1940. The Protagonist is Lanny Budd, the American son of a millionaire munitions salesman, Robbie Budd. Lanny’s mother, Beauty, is the American daughter of a Baptist minister living in Paris. Lanny is born in Switzerland in 1900, illegitimately because his father’s father is a Puritan New Englander who forbids Lanny’s father from marrying Beauty. She had several times posed nude for artists and this was unacceptable to Robbie’s father. Beauty persuades Robbie from ruining his life and refuses to marry him. Instead they pretend to marry and divorce, but always working for the best for Lanny.
Lanny is 13 years old when we meet him in World’s End. He is a precocious teenager living an idyllic life on the Riviera. Because of his father’s visits to Europe on business, Lanny is privileged to meet many political and military figures to whom his father sells his munitions. Lanny also learns to decode messages at the beginning of the First World War and thus from this humble task he begins a career as a budding diplomat. Through his mother, Beauty Budd, he is privy to the sophisticated and genteel society in Europe. Lanny meets many influential and powerful figures as the son of two such parents in their business and social circles.
World’s End is a must read for those interested in World History from 1913-1919. Primarily set in Europe as World War one begins with the assassination of the Arch Duke and future heir to the throne of the Austrian Empire, by a deranged Serbian. Germany aligns with Austria when the Austrians declare war on the Serbians. France aligned with Russia and soon with the British. Germany declares war on the French and soon thereafter the English. Virtually the entire continent is at war when fighting begins in 1914.
Lanny lives for a short time in the New England home of his father and step-mother. He attends prep school and has a tutor. He has a paranormal experience for the first time when he is awakened to see the apparition of his best friend Rick, who is a pilot with the English Air Force.
Lanny returns to Europe after one and a half years and due to his fluency in French, German in addition to English he is hired as an assistant to a top geographer working with President Wilson to redraw the map of Europe at the end of the war. The Austrian and Ottoman empires are eliminated. New countries are created out of these former empires, most with vast oil reserves, important to all industrial powers.
There are severe reparations towards Germany, sowing the seeds of discontent within Germany that leads to the eventual takeover of Germany by Hitler and the Nazi’s by the mid to late 1920’s.
Lanny is a sensitive and kind person who is conflicted throughout this and each book that follows. He loves art and believes peace and kindness is essential in a civilized world. Though Lanny is affluent, he learns of the struggling workers and slums throughout Europe, Thus for the entire series he is torn between his easy comfortable life and the misery and love for the impoverished, the poor and oppressed.
This is a must read for the reader who loves Upton’s work and may perhaps have read only the third of this series, the 1943 Pulitzer Prize winning, Dragon’s Teeth. This and the other 10 books in this celebrated series were best sellers when published in the 1940’s by Viking Press. Out of print for decades, Frederick Ellis and I are proud to reintroduce this beautiful work to readers throughout the world
The journey of reading this epic account of world history in the narrative form is one you will not want to miss. If, like me, you read volume one, World’s End, you will fall in love with this important and epic work.
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