Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom.
Edge of Eternity (Century Trilogy #3)
By Ken Follett
East German teacher Rebecca Hoffmann discovers she’s been spied on by the Stasi for years and commits an impulsive act that will affect her family for the rest of their lives.…George Jakes, the child of a mixed-race couple, bypasses a corporate law career to join Robert F. Kennedy’s Justice Department and finds himself in the middle of not only the seminal events of the civil rights battle but a much more personal battle of his own.…Cameron Dewar, the grandson of a senator, jumps at the chance to do some official and unofficial espionage for a cause he believes in, only to discover that the world is a much more dangerous place than he’d imagined.…Dimka Dvorkin, a young aide to Nikita Krushchev, becomes a prime agent both for good and for ill as the United States and the Soviet Union race to the brink of nuclear war, while his twin sister, Tanya, carves out a role that will take her from Moscow to Cuba to Prague to Warsaw—and into history.
I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about this book. I finished it, sure. I enjoyed parts of it even. However, it’s difficult to tell where the line is- did I like what I did because the story was good? Or because I’m just a history nerd who can’t help herself?
Really, if you are not a fan of 20th Century history, or of history in general, skip this book. Additionally pass if you haven’t read the previous two titles in the trilogy, Fall of Giants and Winter of the World. The first novel is the best of the bunch, but they seem to go downhill from there largely due to pacing and plot repetition.
For those who haven’t jumped into the 3,000+ word Century Trilogy deep end, here is a bit of a synopsis on the whole lot of them. Each bounces between families living in the UK, USA, Germany, and Russia. Each is focused on a single conflict- World War I, World War II, and the Cold War. And each tracks the children and grandchild of the previous novel’s protagonists through their specific involvement in it.
Unfortunately, they each have agonizingly similar plots aside from the historical portions. This would not be as much of an issue if the series had stopped with Fall of Giants, but alas, that was not to be. Because while the wars and settings change, the people involved with them go through the exact same issues over and over. Terrible things happen to good people, a handful get unexpectedly pregnant, someone gets separated from their family, etc. The repetition is even more blatant by the time the third book rolls around because the plot spans nearly 30 years, decades longer than its predecessors. Follett has to cover so much historical ground that the characters are for the most part painfully flat, with little nuance and no grey area.
Annoyingly, while character development suffers and nearly everyone is put into a stereotypical box, the author does find room to add more sex scenes than I can even count. He frustratingly using sexual themes and encounters in an attempt to add depth to his cast of dozens. Some of these scenes make sense within the context of the story (Hippie free-love culture for example) but others could have been cut all together and the plot would’ve been better for it. For some characters, it felt that their only purpose was to either talk about their current political situation, or to have sex.
The world between 1960 and 1990 went through a colossal amount of change, and the historical narrative of this book was really quite interesting (as long as you take some with a grain of salt- the writer has some pretty massive political biases). My personal interest in world politics, especially the Soviet side, made up for some, but not all, of the character weaknesses. But in the end if I felt outrage, or any strong emotion at all, it was rarely because I cared for that particular character and connected with them, it was because I had a strong response towards world injustices in general.
This wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t exactly good either. The first two titles are stronger, and I would recommend Fall of Giants, which covers World War I and introduces you to the families that will be followed through all three books. The shorter time span and narrower conflict made for a far better book. However, if that doesn’t end up being your particular cup of tea though, abandon the series. The next two recycle the same themes of good and evil over and over.