The Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett is the final book in the Century Trilogy. I hugely enjoyed both Fall of Giants and Winter of the World, and at around 900 pages each these three books kept me (relatively) sane in a rather crazy year at work in 2019. They follow the main political events of the twentieth century through the eyes of three generations of families, in America, England, Russia and Germany.
The Edge of Eternity starts twelve years after the end of Winter of the World. It is now 1961 and the Hoffman family are struggling to live in East Berlin under the restrictions of the cold war, Russian-backed, Communist government. The family are under the watchful eye of the Stasi, due to their past affiliation with the Social Democrats. They contemplate escaping to the West, but leave it too late as the Berlin wall goes up, catching them, and everyone else, by surprise. Reading this inside story of a divided Berlin was particularly poignant after the thirty year anniversary of the wall coming down in 2019 had got me listening to the excellent podcast Tunnel 29, about Germans escaping through tunnels under the wall.
Back in The Edge of Eternity, in America George Jakes is working for President Kennedy, who is trying to deal with the cold war and the civil rights movement at home, whilst Dimka Dvorkin is in Russia working for Khrushchev, advising him on how to balance Soviet power with peace. It’s not long before they are all caught up in the heart of the Cuban missile crisis, as the world stands on the brink of nuclear war.
This rich cast of characters is soon reeling from the assignation of President Kennedy, but some light relief is provided by the rise to pop stardom of Dave Williams, grandson of Ethel Williams, and Walli Franck, grandson of Maud Fitzherbert, both of whom we first meet in Fall of Giants in the early twentieth century. Dave and Walli take us through the flower power revolution of the late 1960s in San Francisco. We are then into the Nixon resignation of the 1970s, which again our characters are intimately caught up in, one protecting Nixon, whilst others are trying to get him impeached. Finally, the novel takes us right into and through the 1980s and to the fall of the Berlin wall, finally reuniting the families we have been following since the early 1960s. The epilogue is a poignant scene of Obama’s election-night speech in 2008, underlining just how far the world has come.
This is a truly epic series, with each book as brilliant as the last. I am so sad to have to leave these characters behind, after travelling with them for so much of 2019.