Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett (The Century Trilogy no.3)

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Book: Edge of Eternity

Author: Ken Follett

Rating:7/10

My dearest avid readers, I must begin by being dreadfully honest. I really delayed posting the review of this book. In fact I finished reading ‘Edge of Eternity’ more than two weeks ago, and yet I procrastinated in putting up this review. Why? I was terribly disappointed. Ken Follett is by far one of my favourite authors. Prior to this novel, the century trilogy were a collection of some of my favourite books of all time, full of tales of war, mystery, action, love, history and of course suspense- to keep any reader captivated for a period of time. Although this instalment of the series, was in itself rich in all the previously mentioned characteristics of a great book, indeed at some stages I could not put the book down. However it lacked some of the richness of its predecessors. It felt almost as if Follett himself did not write the book as it was so unlike the previous two novels, in tone and political stance. The ending of the book was quite rushed and I found major historical players were left out, due to the author’s obsession in the promotion of all things liberal and putting down of all things conservative. 

Perhaps my disappointment was also due to the topic of the story itself, where the first two novels in the series covered the first and second world war respectively, this novel traced the major political events of the world from 1961-1987, so events such as the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the fall of Communism, the assassinations of John and Bobby Kennedy, also that of Martin Luther King, the freedom riders and the battle for civil rights, the Hippy movement, the birth of Rock and Roll etc. were covered. Although these subjects were quite interesting to read about, and the terrible events and issues that occurred in these times were cruel and horrific and truly would blow anyone’s mind. I must however, admit it is not a period of history to which I was quite knowledgeable or interested in before. So as result I did not really find myself connecting properly to the story. I would also like to point out that even though I am not of a political mind at all, I could pick up on the biased views of the author in regards to the Republican Party in the USA. Follett clearly is not a fan, and regularly villainizes past Republican presidents of the USA such as Reagan and Nixon. This is all fine and well, but it was done by the author to such an extent that I felt a bit sorry for these characters, I’m sure they weren’t innocent of the crimes Follett mentions, but I found myself yelling at the book and the author to just ‘get on with the story’. Instead of focusing so much on these two political leaders, I would have liked to have seen much more of the political scene in England during this era for example, Margaret Thatcher’s influence (the period of the ‘Troubles’ was completely ignored), the race to space between the USA and Russia, etc. I realise that it is already a large book, but upon finishing it I felt that it concentrated too much on the events in the USA (although an interesting portrayal of John F. Kennedy, it was a bit long winded) and not enough on other countries. 

This instalment of the series followed the third generation of the families introduced in the first and second instalments of the series. As there are so many characters within these books, I unfortunately will not be able to delve into each story line, but I will say that each character witnesses each major political upheaval, and each character is connected to another whether through family ties or connections to past characters in the previous two books. I was deeply disappointed that certain characters from past instalments did not get much limelight in this novel. For example, I loved the Daisy/ Llyod Williams characters in the second novel, and ok I understand that they were never going to have big roles in this book, but I really expected more of these characters. Even the idea that Llyod is the stuffy/stiff/ disapproving British father goes against how he was characterised in the previous novel.  

In fact I will go so far to say I did not enjoy this generation of characters at all. They lacked the fiery/strong natures of their ancestors. I found a lot of the women characters to be insipid compared to their predecessors. I took issue with Maria Summers as a character, it was as if Follet wasn’t sure where he wanted her storyline to go, and her dalliance with JFK was not believable to me at all. The male characters were thoroughly unlikeable and boring at times, from the self important George Jakes (who probably had the biggest story line arc in the book, unfortunately in my opinion) and his fight for civil rights and career in the white house, to the horrible Jasper Murray (intent on standing on anyone in order to further himself career wise) and not forgetting the twisted Hans Hoffman and yawn-inducing Cameron Dewar (very sad that Woody and Bella Dewar produced this son, could have been characterised much better). The love stories in the novel were constantly riddled with unhappiness, and I know that realistically it suited the time and era, but it did not make for an easy read. It did not make me connect to the characters and quite frankly I did not care what happened to any of them by the end of the book, such was my disappointment. 

Sex, drugs and rock and roll were to the fore in this novel, which are portrayed quite efficiently by the characters of Dave Williams, and Walli Franck. The downward spiral caused by success and money for rock and roll bands was perfectly captured and characterised by Walli Franck in particular, as he struggles to find his place in the world whilst separated from his own family and a daughter he may never know. Sex and free love is rampant in this book, perhaps a tad too much. Freedom of love,  as was quite realistic for the era of the sixties, was overplayed and one did get sick of characters being cheated on towards the end of the book. Women in this novel were portrayed as vain, selfish, lustful characters intent on causing the ruin of males (I’m slightly joking with this comment, but one could easily take up the portrayal of women this way). Even the portrayal of JFK wasn’t free from this cynicism, with JFK being portrayed almost as a sexual deviant, seducing every woman he came across and even a disturbing seduction scene in Jackie-O’s bedroom which was a bit uncomfortable to say the least. There was also a completely ludicrous scene in which the twin brother and sister from Russia in the book were quite happy to stand naked in each other’s presence, and knew everything about each other in intimate details, not sexually, but it implied a certain innuendo, which as a twin myself, I found not only uncomfortable but slightly offensive. I mean really, what on earth was Follett striving for? Actually, In terms of relationships and marriages in the novel, I constantly found myself wondering aloud if any character would end up happily ever after at all.

Certain story lines were left unfinished also, for example the character of Vasili Yenkov, who wrote dissident novels which were smuggled out of the country by Tanya Dvorkin, while he was being held in a Russian work camp in Siberia, for daring to speak out against Communism. These novels win critical acclaim around the world, and we regularly hear the character of Tanya Dvorkin complain how she wished Vasili could one day be able to be recognised as the man who wrote these famous books and receive the royalties for them. The book ends with no mention of the fate of this character, who was in my opinion perhaps one of the most interesting characters in the story. Even huge characters from the first novel, Maud and Grigori, do not have an effective ending as I would see fit for such amazing characters of their calibre. A shame that Follett did not make a bigger deal with their roles. Even the eventual reunion of the Franck family, separated for more than two decades by the Berlin Wall and their inability to escape East Germany, is quite anti-climatic at the end of the book. 

I do realise that all the above is quite negative and some might question why I gave this book a rating of 7/10 if I’m critiquing it so deeply. I would have given it 6.5/10 to be honest, but my love of Ken Follett prevented me from doing so, plus it is not actually a terrible read. The good, fast moving stages of the novel are quite entertaining and as previously stated, there were times I could not put the book down. Most novels have positives and negatives after all, so although there were many positives also to this book, unfortunately the negatives outweighed them. Regardless Ken Follett is an amazing writer but unfortunately this book does not really showcase this. He also is a fantastic historian and in other books of his I have been thoroughly riveted by the sheer amount of knowledge he has on certain historical topics. Unfortunately in this book this wonderful knowledge and genius (although exceedingly mind blowing on certain topics such as that of East Germany and the plight of the civil rights movement) of his is overshadowed by his own political biases.

In previous novels in the series, Follett’s opinions weren’t as apparent, but in this novel, his beliefs are literally shoved down the reader’s throat left, right and centre in regards to Democrats vs Republicans. I hope I do not offend any of my readers in this opinion of mine. Please believe me when I say I am not politically minded at all, I have very little knowledge on American politics, however it is extremely rare that I am able to pick up on the political affiliation of authors in their books, as it wouldn’t be something my mind would register. So this is why my point is being repeated time and time again. I love historical fiction, I live for it. What I do not love however is politics, unfortunately I’m just not made that way, so this heavy political agenda in this novel, did not appeal to be as a result, and hindered my reading experience. In my reading experience, this novel was much more complicated than its predecessors.  

On a final note I will say that this review has not been the best I have ever written as I am literally in turmoil over writing a negative review on a Ken Follett book. For those who are fans of the Cold War era or the civil rights movement in the United States and are liberal democrats, then this is the book for you. For those of you readers, who like me, understand nothing when it comes to politics, this may not be the best reading option. I would also like to highlight that I am an avid Ken Follett fan and I eagerly await his next book whatever it is and whenever it will be released, with the utmost excitement. It is an unfortunate end to a first-class, sensational book series. Nonetheless, I have no doubt I will pick up this book series, time and time again to re-read over my lifetime, but perhaps not this instalment. 

As always I look forward to any opinions/comments from readers,

The Avid Reader 🙂

Twitter: twitter.com/theavidreaders

The Ultimate Book List- For every kind of reader.

books_11 Genres   top_collaborati

Hello my avid readers. I recently received a message from a follower who wanted me to give them a list of great books that I had read across the genres. From fiction to non-fiction, from history to romance, there are multiple, books that I would definitely recommend, including many I have already reviewed on this blog.

This question has really motivated me to reflect and ponder what it is about a book, that makes it stand out against all others? The answer is simple. A great book allows the reader to be transported to a different era, a different world, with magical characters that evoke such emotions that when reading, it is impossible not to feel that you know the people involved as if they were your neighbours, your best friends, your family or your crushes.

So with this in mind, I have deduced a number of books (that I have hastily remembered, so if I leave out a few I will add at another time) that reflect this theory of mine and will list them below according to their genre and author. It is also important to note that not all who read these books will have the same reaction to them as I did, it is after all my own personal opinion. However as an avid reader, who has collected and read hundreds if not thousands of books since a very young age, I would say I have become an expert on what makes a good book tick for me.  

Therefore my avid readers, I hope you enjoy the list below (in no particular order of preference) and also I can’t think of all books at the moment so if I remember more in the meantime I’ll add it to the list. Once again the list represents my own personal opinion of the best books I have read and as such it does not represent the opinions of the wider world. If you have any further queries or opinions, please do not hesitate to contact me on this blog or on my twitter page.

Happy reading!

The Avid Reader 🙂 

Genres                                            Book Title                                            Author

Historical Fiction                          Outlander (series)                               Diana Gabaldon 

(please note some                         The Century Trilogy                             Ken Follett

of these books                               The Bronze Horseman                          Paullina SImons

can come under                             The Last Summer                                 Judith Kinghorn

romance genre  also)                      Mariana                                                Susanna Kearsley

                                                        Sophia’s Secret                                   Susanna Kearsley

                                                        The American Heiress                         Daisy Goodwin

                                                        The Distant Hours                               Kate Morton

                                                        World Without End                              Ken Follett

                                                        Pillars of the Earth                               Ken Follett

                                                       The Quantock Quarter                         Ruth Elwin Harris

                                                       The Other Boleyn Girl                          Phillipa Gregory

                                                        The Bridgerton Series*                        Julia Quinn

                                                        Wallflower Series*                               Lisa Kleypas

* meaning particularly laden with romance genre if you catch my meaning 😉

Romance                                     Tully (controversial)                           Paullina Simons 

                                                     Pride and Prejeudice*                        Jane Austen

                                                     Persuasion*                                        Jane Austen

                                                     Mansfield Park*                                  Jane Austen

                                                     Wuthering Heights*                            Emily Bronte (can’t do dots on e)

                                                     Garden Spells                                     Sarah Addison Allen

                                                     The Notebook                                     Nicholas Sparks

                                                     Sugar Daddy                                       Lisa Kleypas

                                                     Bridget Jones’ Diary                           Helen FIelding

* meaning it has historical fiction elements.

Thriller                                     The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo              Stieg Larsson

                                                 The Millennium Trilogy                            Steig Larsson

                                                  Eye Of The Needle                                   Ken Follett

                                                  Jackdaws                                                  Ken Follett

                                                  Hornet Flight                                            Ken Follett

Paranormal                              Sookie Stackhouse Series                  Charlaine Harris

                                                  Mercy Thompson Series                     Patricia Briggs

                                                  Georgian Kincaid Series                     Richelle Mead

                                                   Any of her books                                Simon St. James

                                                  Elena Michaels Series                         Kelley Armstrong

                                                  The Vampire Chronicles                       Anne Rice

Steam-punk                            The Parasol Protectorate Series          Gail Carriger

                                                 Clockwork Agents                                Kate Cross

 * all have supernatural and historical fiction elements to them

Sci-fi/Fantasy                          A song of Ice and Fire series              George R. R. Martin.

                                                 The Hunger Games Trilogy*                 Suzanne Collins

                                                 Divergent Trilogy*                                  Veronica Roth                              

 * meaning young adult genre also

Young Adult                             The Vampire Diaries*                            L.J SMith

                                                   The Mortal Instruments                       Cassandra Clare

                                                   The Infernal Devices                            Cassandra Clare

                                                    Divergent Trilogy                                 Veronica Roth

                                                    Harry Potter Series                               J.K Rowling

                                                    Beautiful Creatures                              Kami Garcia

                                                    The Secret Circle series                       L.J Smith

                                                    The Night World Series                        L.J Smith

                                                    Eragon                                                  Christopher Paolini

                                                   Strange Angels Series                         Lili St. Crow

PLEASE NOTE: I will add more books to list as I remember some more or if I read newer books that I find are exceptional. ALSO: Apologies for how this layout looks, for some reason when I press publish, the whole list starts going all over the place! will try to fix asap.

Twitter:  twitter.com/theavidreaders    

Winter of the World (#2 in The Century Trilogy) by Ken Follett

winter

Rating: 9/10

Book: Winter of the World.

Author: Ken Follett

Apologies for my inactivity on my blog of late that is due to my being on a midterm break, school is out for a week so I’m a happy teacher 🙂  Right now however I once again have the time to beguile you all with the wonderful book I have read of late.

As to the latest read of mine, it promises everything a book should, it incorporates history, war, adventure, politics, romance and many more interesting titbits that will leave the reader positively gagging for more. The book I am reviewing this week is none other than ‘Winter of the World’ by Ken Follett. And let me inform you, it is a fantastic read. As mentioned in the review for the book previous to this in the Century series, this was my first encounter with Ken Follett as a reader. I had literally never heard of him before this, which I am deeply ashamed to say. Nevertheless I have countered this by reading as many of his books that I can get my hands on.

Winter of the World is just like its predecessor. A story that follows the lives of five families (now the children of the families in the first book) in five different countries (England, Wales, Germany, Russia, America). However instead of revolving around the First World War, this novel concentrates on the Second World War, and the impact it had on the characters in each of the countries previously mentioned.  As an avid fan of anything to do with the Second World War, you can understand my intrigue with this book. Not only does the author provide the reader with a look at society during this era but also provides us with an in-depth historical and political analysis of the time, which is reflected quite effectively through his character storylines.

The novel chronicles the major events between the years 1933-1949, so we are privy to the sate of Germany following the aftermath of the First World War, the rise of Hitler and his fascist movement, the lead-up to the involvement of allied countries, the Spanish Civil war, the final entrance of America into the war through the war in the Pacific and the brewing tensions between Russia and other countries leading to the Cold War. Ken Follett successfully describes the horrendous nature of this war and the persecution of various races through the use of his well developed characters who represent the courage and fear that was widespread during this terrible time. 

This is one of those novels where you come away from reading it actually learning something new. As already mentioned, I’m a fanatic when it comes to the Second World War, so to actually come away from reading this book with such new knowledge was a wonderful experience. There were many scenes and characters that stood out for me in this novel, from the brave and passionate Carla, who dared to fight against the tyranny of Nazi Germany, to the Welsh character of Lloyd, who seeks to rid the world of fascism, to Daisy, a brash American who quickly realises that buying into a title will not buy one’s happiness. There are such a wide variety of characters, who are both interesting and dynamic so the reader quickly becomes part of their world without any trouble. 

What I also like about Ken Follett, is his ability to show us points of view from every ranking in society, be it the lower classes or royalty. He superbly captures the personification of these classes and the reader can literally observe what daily life was like for these groups of people in this era. He does this with such clarity that the reader is transported back through time and scenes become so realistic its uncanny. Follet also has a talent for writing a monstrous sized book and yet the story is so fast paced, one finishes it without realising just how long the story is. A true talent of an author I must admit. 

This is a read that must not be missed my avid readers. For those of you that love a fast paced thriller which incorporates history, romance and politics, this is the book for you. I also dare to say that this novel is even better than it’s predecessor. It is a great pleasure to have had the honour to write a review for it and I do hope I have convinced you all of its worth.

As always please do not hesitate to leave your opinions or any comments either on my blog or my twitter page.

The Avid Reader 🙂 

https://twitter.com/theavidreaders

Fall of Giants (Books #1 in the Century Trilogy) by Ken Follett

Fall_of_Giants

Let me begin by stating that previous to reading these books I had never heard of Ken Follett, insane I know, since he is quite possibly one of my favourite authors. Also he regularly writes books based in the Second World War era, which is an obsession of mine and further outlines my disbelief at myself for not discovering this world famous author long ago. It was my boyfriend who gifted me with the second book in the series, Winter of the World, as a Christmas present. My boyfriend created a monster. Since this excellent gift, I have read eight of Follett’s books. It is however this series I constantly return to to re-read. What makes this series ever so excellent, is that these books although arranged in a trilogy, can be read as stand alone books also. So without further ado I will begin my latest review.

Book One: Fall Of Giants

Rating: 8/10

Five families, five countries and five political backgrounds set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution and the First World War during the years 1911-1925. I must admit I was originally intimidated at the prospect of trying to follow the story of five separate families during this turbulent era of history, but this is where the talent of Ken Follett emerges as an author, his ability to provide you with these five point of view families, and yet manage to intertwine them so they effectively portray the realities faced by the people at the time and all connect all the stories together as a whole.

Follett always lists out the various characters and their families at the beginning of the book so one has a means of revising which character belonged to which family. The five main families dealt with in this novel are: The Fitzherberts, the Von Ulrichs, The Peshcovs, The Williams, and the Dewars. The characters come from a wide range of backgrounds, from the working class to the elite royalty, so the reader is witness to the problems faced by each class division. The author also cleverly inputs real life historical figures such as Woodrow Wilson, King George V, Churchill, Lenin and Trotsky, so effectively one would forget that this book is actually a fictional novel. 

The reader is given an in depth look at the political upheaval of the first world war particularly as previously mentioned the Russian revolution, but also the plight of the Women’s Suffrage movement, the beginning of the demise of the landed gentry estates, the overthrow of Russian Royalty, the threat of conscription, the breakdown in class barriers as a result of war, the breakdown in families themselves, and the beginning of the red stain of Communism. It is horrifyingly clear how the decisions made by leaders of each political corner, can lead their people to either success or utter devastation. It is evident that the author has heavily researched the history of this era and his knowledge permeates the stories of the various characters and their countries. 

The book also has your usual classic love stories that will also attract any reader, unrequited love and also the ever so popular forbidden love. The story is rich in adventure and suspense, and gives a rather in-depth look at life in the battlefields of World War one, and the political dramas that set up the events leading to the War and Russian Revolutions. Spies are quite a feature in these books and therefore add to the suspense. I personally found the chapters pertaining to the split in Russian society between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks quite enlightening.

This novel successfully highlights the deep seated tensions between the various countries, the problems and breakdown in communications that existed and led to the outbreak of war. It is fast paced and easy to follow, but also complex without being confusing, which is quite surprising since there are so many characters and story-lines present. Although I personally prefer the second book in the series, Fall of Giants is undoubtedly an excellent read. The characters provide a foundation for the following sequels, and the families will also play roles in the books to follow. The author also allows us to relate to the characters and form an attachment to them, which is a sign of a good writer. 

So my dear avid readers, without revealing too much details, as I have been known to do in the past, I instead wish you all to form your own opinion of the trilogy. It is a must for any history and World War one fanatic out there. Ken Follett is a true champion when it comes to fast paced thrillers and successfully creates a society to which one can immediately relate to. I do hope you enjoy this book immensely.

As always please leave any comments or opinions you wish,

The Avid Reader 🙂 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/theavidreaders