This is an amazing book, the first of the Century Trilogy. It is superbly researched and masterly written. We follow the events leading up to WWI through the eyes of several interrelated characters, from America, Great Britain, Germany and Russia.
Fitz is a British aristocrat, with a magnificent residence in Wales; he is married to a Russian princess, and becomes an officer when war breaks out. To his horror, Maud, his sister, has socialist leanings, strongly opposes the war and falls in love with Walter, the son of a prominent German adviser to the Kaiser. Ethel, Fitz’s maid, from a poor but devout family, becomes pregnant with his child and later campaigns successfully for women’s suffrage and left-wing values. Her brother, Billy, a worker in Fitz’s mine, finds himself assigned to serve under Fitz, whom he despises and hates, first in France, later on a secret mission against the Bolsheviks in Russia. Grigori, a factory worker in St Petersburg, is conscripted to fight against Germany; later, he plays a prominent role in the Revolution. His shameless brother, Lev, finds his way to America and works as a chauffeur for a wealthy Russian, whose daughter he is forced to marry, although she is engaged to Gus, an adviser of President Woodrow Wilson.
The characters, the relationships, and the tensions arising from the unbelievably horrible war, are all very vividly portrayed. My only reservation is that each encounter seems to start with a very explicit sex scene. Even if such were the case, it wouldn’t have had to be described in such lurid detail.