Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Ken Follett's Edge of Eternity (#3 in the Century Trilogy) -Add It to My 4.25 list - 2nd Best All-Timers

Let me start by saying that I made a mistake.  Follett published the 3 books of the Century Trilogy in 2010, 2012, and 2014.  The 1st 2 I read immediately.  The 3rd one I just finished - basically 3 years after the last one.  The extra year, I think (along with my increasingly fading memory!), made it really hard to remember the stories about the earlier generations. This might be the only thing that keeps it from matriculating into the top all-timers - the 4.5s. With that mea culpa, here are a couple of excerpts found on the jacket for Edge of Eternity:

"Ken Follett's Century Trilogy follows the fortunes of five intertwined families - American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh - as they make their way through the twentieth Century."

"Edge of Eternity, the finale, covers one of the most tumultuous eras of all: the 1960s through the 1980s, encompassing civil rights, assassinations, Vietnam, the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis, presidential impeachment, revolution - and rock and roll."

All of that is true.  Even if you did not grow up in the 60s (which I did); or grow up in the Bay Area (which I did), the home of the Black Panthers; or know that your brother was on a plane, a member of the 82nd Airborne, ready to go to Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis (which mine was), you still know that the 3 decades chronicled by Follett were crazy in their national and international scope.  And Follett has recounted them beautifully.

We all know what historical fiction is.  It basically takes fictional characters and places them alongside historical ones.  Nobody does that better than Follett.  But he not only does it well.  He also does it in a way that you actually believe the fictional characters existed with the real ones.  When JFK, RFK, and MLK are all on the verge of being assassinated, you worry what the impact will be on their make-believe followers; and how it will affect their lives.  When one of JFK's staffers has a long-term affair with JFK, you believe it and feel her pain when he is gone.  When one of Bobby's staffers sees Sirhan Sirhan point the gun at JFK's brother, in the kitchen area of the hotel in LA, you feel his horror, followed immediately by his pain.  Very few historical fiction writers can do what Follett does.

And speaking of feeling, I have numerous notes where I wrote such things as "raised eyebrows," "emotional reading MLK's DC speech," "smile," "jaw dropped - then tears," "MLK assassination - rough," "chills/smile," "whoa, ho, ho," and "raised eyebrows/tears."  Need I say more?

Finally, as I so often do (speaking of raised eyebrows - probably yours), I like to point out a few lines in a book that I can relate to.  Here are only 3 (but not all, lucky for you):

1.  There is a line in which one character says to the other: "Are you dating anyone?" When my youngest, Lauren, was in her teens, my father-in-law would inevitably ask:  "Is she datin' anyone?"  A cool memory of Grandpa Irv.
2.  At one point, a character drinks jasmine tea - Joni's favorite.
3.  2 rock stars are talking about the advancement in audio speakers.  One says, "It's kind of a miracle."  Back in 1982, our house was invaded by birds that got in through the chimney.  We received a lot of TV coverage.  When a local newscaster asked our son, Josh (who was 6 at the time), what he thought, he said:  "It's sort of a miracle."

I love that I can enjoy books not only for how well they are written and how emotionally connected I am to the characters; but also how they bring back memories, usually happy ones, both old and new.  Call me sentimental.

There is much more to say about this book.  But you already know that, if you haven't already, you should read this series.  Book 1 is Fall of Giants (also on my 2nd all-timers list).  Book 2 is Winter of the World (on my 1st all-timers list!).  And now Edge of Eternity. All 3 books (along with Pillars of the Earth - top 3 all-time) are in my top 25 books ever read.  If nothing else, that's quite an endorsement.


  1. I've always been intimidated by the size of his books so I've never picked one up. I know that's totally wrong - hopefully I'll remedy that one day.

    1. Kathy, if you do, make it Pillars of the Earth. It's in everybody's top 10. I have a friend who, I think, has read 1 book - that one. And she read it non-stop. And I have another friend who's an intellectual and very picky. And he read it in 2 or 3 days. It's just that good.