Edge of Eternity
|16 September 2014|
|Media type||Print (Hardback), Ebook|
|Preceded by||Fall of Giants, Winter of the World|
The novel tells the story of the third generation of families developed in the first two novels and located in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War. The novel's characters become involved in a number of the most important global events during the period, including the Cuban Missile Crisis, the British Invasion, the J.F.K. Administration, Watergate, and the Civil Rights Movement.
The story follows characters from Germany, Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union, who become linked by events from just before the construction of the Berlin wall in 1961 to that wall’s demise in 1989 (and in an epilogue to the night of Barack Obama’s election in 2008). Once again, the major characters are the children of the characters who were seen in the first two novels.
The novel covers a range of world events during the period, often from multiple points of view. These include the civil rights movement in the US, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the Vietnam War, the Watergate Scandal and the Solidarity movement.
The novel also covers a range of personal events. Others tour the world as reporters or aides to major political figures. Characters in the US work (under six presidents) to overcome prejudice and discrimination and to win the Cold War. Characters in East Berlin and Moscow work (under five different Soviet leaders), subtly at first and then more overtly, to bring about the start of the fall of Communism. And a family split apart by the construction of the Berlin wall is eventually re-united the night that wall comes down.
Here are the principal Point-of-view characters around which the plot revolves:[Note 1]
- George Jakes, a young Harvard graduated lawyer working in Robert Kennedy's Attorney General Office during the JFK administration. He is the illegitimate son of Jackie Jakes and Senator Grigori "Greg" Peshkov.
- Rebecca Hoffman, an East German teacher in East Berlin, the adopted daughter of Carla von Ulrich and her husband Werner Franck. Originally married to Hans Hoffman, she discovers he is Stasi agent. Soon after the Berlin Wall is erected, she flees to the west with another school teacher, Bernd Held, who soon becomes her husband.
- Walli Franck, Rebecca's musical younger brother who also crosses the Berlin Wall to West Germany to become an international pop star. He is forced to leave behind his pregnant girlfriend Karolin (also a singer) who is taken in by the Franck/Von Ulrich family.
- Lili Franck, Rebecca and Walli's youngest sister whose way of protesting against the Communist Government of East Germany is in the form of singing subversive songs.
- Dave Williams, son of Lloyd Williams and Daisy Peshkov and grandson of Earl Fitzherbert; first cousin of George and second cousin of Walli, a dyslexic young musician who become an international pop star and music producer. He and Walli become the core of the band "Plum Nellie". He falls in love with Cameron's younger sister, Ursula "Beep" Dewar.
- Dmitri Dvorkin, a young apparatchik in USSR working for Nikita Khrushchev, and responsible for organizing parts of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Although he believes in Communism, he is disgusted with the inefficient and conservative leadership of the Soviet bureaucracy, especially after Nikita Khruschev is deposed.
- Tanya Dvorkin, Dmitri's twin sister, a journalist, who actively campaigns to expose the problems with the Soviet regime.
- Cameron Dewar, a conservative student at Berkeley who joins the Nixon administration, and assists in Nixon's use of illegal espionage techniques. He later becomes a CIA agent stationed in Poland.
- Jasper Murray, the son of Daisy's German-Scottish friend Eva Murray; an investigative journalist, he comes to America to report on the Civil Rights Movement (among other topics) but soon becomes pulled into the Vietnam War when he is drafted. Dave's older sister Evie initially has a crush on him.
Genre and style
As a series of historical novels, the whole Century Trilogy revolves around an episodic treatment of history, highlighting the most significant events of the 20th century by immersing characters in those events. In doing so, Follet covers almost all of the major historical events between 1961 and 2008, the termination of the novel. Steve Novak of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette described the novel as "an extremely extensive refresher course [in history]. This isn’t just a few snapshots of history — this is a miniseries." Novak points to Follet's deliberate choices about representing the past that make the treatment of history successful; Novak quoting an interview in which Follet said "The research and effort at authenticity is more difficult when you’re writing about history that is within living memory."
Despite this exhaustive treatment of history, most reviewers noted the quality of the reading experience. Novak describes the novel as better than a history book, by thrusting the reader into the "immediacy of the events described". The Historical Novel Society reviewer Viviane Crystal describes this skilled character development as what saves the novel from being "a skimming of the surface of history" is that the "set of characters [...] live and engage in all these events over the years, with romance, terror, frustration, determination, fury and celebration." As Steve Donoghue of Open Letters Monthly notes, however, this approach to the historical novel follows a conceit commonly used in historical fiction, saying its "oldest gimmick in the historical fiction bag of tricks, the eyewitness-to-history trick in which the author invents a character or cast of characters who just happen to be in the room when the great and the mighty eat, fornicate, and make the decisions that change the course of nations."
Many critics focused on the tension between the novel's length and deep dive into history and the novel's compelling treatment of that history. Critic Steve Novak for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said that "Reading any 1,100-page book is a chore, but if you stay with “Edge of Eternity,” Mr. Follett’s characters just might grow on you." Publisher's Weekly described the novel as the "mesmerizing final installment is an exhaustive but rewarding reading experience dense in thematic heft, yet flowing with spicy, expertly paced melodrama, character-rich exploits, familial histrionics, and international intrigue."
- For an exhaustive list of the cast of characters at the beginning of the novel, see the list on Follet's Website or in the preface of the novel.
- Novak, Steve (October 5, 2014). "Edge of Eternity': Ken Follett completes his popular Century Trilogy". Retrieved December 2, 2014.
- Crystal, Viviane (August 2014). "Edge of Eternity". Historical Novel Review (69).
- Donoghue, Steve (September 7, 2014). "Book Review: Edge of Eternity". Open Letters Weekly. Retrieved December 2, 2014.
- "Edge of Eternity". Publisher's Weekly. September 2014. Retrieved December 2, 2014.
- Maslin, Janet (September 4, 2014). "History Loves Company:'Edge of Eternity' Completes Ken Follett Trilogy". The New York Times. Retrieved December 2, 2014.