Finally, the third and final tome of The Century Trilogy: EDGE OF ETERNITY. Ken Follett has outdone himself, again.
First came FALL OF GIANTS where we learned about WWI. Then came WINTER OF THE WORLD and WWII. Now Follett sets us down smack dab into the sixties and seventies: it’s the Cold War.
It’s the 1960’s. The United States is dealing with civil rights, Viet Nam, The Berlin Wall, Cuban Missile Crisis, impeachment of a president, assassination of a president, Russia and the Cold War, and all the craziness of rock and roll.
We were introduced to five families in FALL OF GIANTS. These five families hale from America, Germany, Russia, England, and Wales. We’ve followed them through hell and high water for three generations. We’ve come to love them and have been eagerly anticipating this finale. Now these five families are so fatefully enmeshed that they have become a blur.
I absolutely adore Ken Follett’s writing. I think he’s a genius. He was able to bring these characters back to the page in a way that I could pick up where I left off in WINTER OF THE WORLD, without feeling like I needed to go back and reread it. So I took right off running with the first page.
Ken Follett has managed to tell the story of the twentieth century in a trilogy of more than three thousand pages. But do not feel daunted by the sheer number; the pages fly through your fingers as you find yourself reading as quickly as you can. These characters have become so familiar over the years.
EDGE OF ETERNITY begins in 1961 in Berlin, Germany. Rebecca Hoffman, an East German teacher, discovers she’s been spied on by the Stasi for years and changes her life and her family’s lives forever by escaping to the West in a harrowing experience you will never forget. The video above gives you a good idea what the Berlin Wall was like. I learned so much about this tumultuous time that I feel as if it is all true. Now, mind you, Follett does his research. Most of this is true. He only makes up the characters.
Dimka Dvorkin is an aide to Nikita Khrushchev, when he finds himself in the middle of U.S.-Soviet nuclear power plays; while his twin sister Tanya travels to Cuba and beyond as a journalist during the Cold War. We find Tanya in Cuba during the Missile Crisis. Yes, Follett traveled to Cuba during his research.
But the majority of this novel takes place in America and is about civil rights.
George Jakes, the son of a black woman and a high-powered white man, is unforgettable as he works with the Freedom Riders and then works with Bobby Kennedy in the Justice Department. As George Jakes flies into Birmingham, Alabama. “The most racial city in America was probably Birmingham, Alabama. George Jakes flew there in April 1963.
“Last time he came to Alabama, he recalled vividly, they had tried to kill him.
Birmingham was a dirty industrial city, and from the plane it had a delicate rose-pink aura of pollution, like the chiffon scarf around the neck of an old prostitute.
George felt the hostility as he walked through the terminal. He was the only colored man in a suit. “
America is also a hotspot for drugs and rock and roll. A small group of English ragamuffins become one of the hottest groups in the world. While the escapades of President Kennedy pepper the pages with intimate details about his womanizing. Actually, none of our presidents are seen favorably in this novel. At times, it was almost like a personal and political tell-all.
So while I was reading about the civil rights movement, and the rioting in the streets, I was also hearing of the rioting in this country in our midwest, right now. It was unsettling to say the least to read about rioting so many years ago, then turn the news on and find the same sort of rioting going on HERE, NOW. It did take the wind out of my reading sails, at times.
I will say that my favorite parts of the story are behind the scenes in Russia with Khrushchev, and everything about The Berlin Wall. I learned so much that I did not know. And Follett made me feel as if I were a fly on the wall. Not only the warm and endearing characters, but the unique inner stories, brought this part of the novel to the forefront for me.
Maybe I didn’t enjoy the parts about the civil rights as much since I remember vividly living through a lot of it. It was a rough time to be a teenager. I had friends who went to Viet Nam. And I remember the song playing on the radio about Bobby and Martin and John. It still makes me quite sad as I can hear it ringing in my ears right now.
However, saying all this, Ken Follett is a brilliant writer. I would read anything he writes: essay; grocery list, etc. You know what I mean.
This finale to a larger than life trilogy ties up the twentieth century into one fine knot. Do not miss it.
My review copy came from the fine publishing people of Dutton books. You know how much I love you guys! Thanks so much.