Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett
Edge of Eternity – the final book of Follett’s perspective-shattering Century Trilogy – traces the vibrant lives of the offspring of the British, Russian, German and American families that we got to know in Fall of Giants and Winter of the World. Relationships come and go and fates fluctuate, revealing international intrigues at the highest levels. A salutary feature of the narrative is how most world leaders are revealed as dishonest, weak and morally corrupt puppets of various political and economic factions.
Khrushchev, Gromyko, Kosygin, Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko jostle for power in the Soviet Union until Mikhail Gorbachev arises with his revolutionary (or is it counter-revolutionary) ideas of Glasnost and Perestroika, and his policy of abandoning the former satellite states to their economic destinies. Meanwhile, subversive elements encourage the rebel author Vasili Yenkov (strangely reminiscent of Alexander Solzhenitsyn) and smuggle out his reminiscences of years spent in a Siberian camp for renegades to the West.
We follow events surrounding the Cuban Crisis from both sides, as well as JFK’s secret love life. Bobby Kennedy’s morale is broken when his brother is assassinated. Martin Luther King campaigns for Black rights but fails to achieve true racial justice. Johnson (Vietnam war), Nixon (Watergate), Carter, Reagan and George H. W. Bush follow one another in the seat of power, with only marginal roles in the book. But even Barack Obama gets a mention in the Epilogue.
In Europe, we agnonise with the tormented population of East Germany, who risk all to escape to the West. In Poland, Lech Wałesa and his popular Solidarity movement force General Jaruzelski to capitulate.
And through all these turbulent international developments, the younger members of the key families hassle and strive with one another in unlikely adventures – coloured by politics, journalism, drugs and pop music – and frequently fall into bed with the wrong partners.
For me, Follett’s perspective-shattering Century Trilogy – otherwise brilliantly captivating and uniquely informative – is spoiled by this strong emphasis on sex.