Monday, April 27, 2015

Review: Edge of Eternity

Edge of Eternity is Ken Follett's concluding novel covering the 20th century. After having a novel each covering the two world wars, having one novel covering the rest of the century feels rushed. As such, Follett skipped the Korean war entirely, and jumps straight into the 60s.

It's a surprisingly good book considering it covers events that most people already know. The problem is that in fictionalizing history, Follett has to put his characters front and center, thereby replacing Walter Cronkite, Jane Fonda, Woodword/Bernstein, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn with his own fictional characters so that he use first-hand narratives about the major events of that era.

Because the events are separated by such moments in time, the strength and the continuity of the narrative suffers. Nevertheless, all the major events are covered, though some in much less detail than others. Nevertheless, some events (such as the fall of the Berlin wall) were so memorable that I can remember where I was when I saw the news, and could even remember thinking "now that's history in the making." That sense of power comes through, but I will always wonder whether that's because of my personal association with those memories.

Looking at the Amazon reviews, I'm amused by the highly negative reviews about the liberal bias of the novel. The novel is written in hindsight, of course, so I suppose that's the equivalent of saying that history has a liberal bias.

As with the previous two novels, Edge of Eternity is transparent reading, and compelling and entertaining. It might even be educational, if you hadn't lived through those events. I wouldn't be surprised if children learning history would be be better served by reading these novels rather than the usual boring history books. Recommended.

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