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Carpe Librum

Bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.


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Historical Novel Society

Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett

Edge of Eternity - Ken Follett

As the final installment of Follett's sweeping Century Trilogy, this book is difficult to rate. Fall of Giants and Winter of the World were fabulous novels, the first covering WWI and the second WWII. The scope is expanded for Edge of Eternity to cover the entire remainder of the 20th century, starting in 1961.

Civil rights, communism, and the worldwide struggle for power are the focus of this book....if I could say that there was a focus. Part of the problem with this book was that there was just too much. 1098 pages covering four decades through families that have grown to include dozens of members of extended families created a labyrinth of a story. In Fall of Giants, I felt a close connection to the characters. In this book, I could barely keep track of who was who as families grew into their 4th and 5th generations. Certainly, there were too many characters fighting for attention for the reader to be captivated by any.

I have to respect Follett's ambition, research, and ability to continue weaving together the stories of our American, British, German, and Russian families. Unfortunately, I also found a lot to turn me off.

As others have noted, history is told from an extremely left wing point of view in this book. That I could live with if all the characters weren't such stereotypes of the groups they were representing. White southerners were all ignorant, violent racists. Black people were all highly intelligent, peaceful and wrongfully held back, until the capstone moment when Barack Obama became president. Not only was this moment not in the correct century (admittedly it is included as an epilogue), but I didn't really feel that it was more notable than much bigger moments in history that had already been covered. Communists and republicans are all arrogant bullies, but socialists and democrats are favorably represented. I had to roll my eyes at times at the generalizations made about entire populations of people.

This is not the only Follett novel to contain horrible female characters. Chubby, kindhearted housewives need not apply. Follett only casts sexy career women who enjoy giving oral sex even more than men like to receive it. I'm not sure he has written a single character that hasn't slept around (in any generation and it only gets worse as his characters hit the 1960s). We even have a few female characters who have affairs with famous historical characters.

Part of the problem with this book is that it enters the period of history that we've lived through. Reading about the 1980s just doesn't interest me, especially since Follett takes the opportunity to bash most of the presidents that the US has had within my lifetime. The Century Trilogy has been a remarkable project for Follett and an exciting read, but I am happy to have it brought to a close.