I have the same quibble with Edge of Eternity that I’ve had with both the earlier books in this trilogy — Ken Follett’s writing is almost aggressively mediocre — but also the same praise. Despite the lack of literary flair, the story is compelling, and the way in which he weaves the well-known events on the twentieth century around the lives of a group of interconnected individuals over three generations keeps me turning pages even as individual phrases and sentences make me cringe.
After spending a weighty tome each on the First and Second World Wars, Follett turns his attention to the Cold War era. With one set of characters trapped behind the Berlin Wall in East Berlin, another working in Washington, DC during the civil rights movement and the Kennedy assassinations, yet another working in the heart of the Kremlin, and another becoming part of the British Invasion of pop stars, Follett once again manages to give us an inside view on all the major issues of the era.
While there are characters in here pulled from real life — particularly the political leaders of the era, who are often portrayed in very human detail through the eyes of subordinates, friends and even lovers — there are also several points in the novel where Follett’s fictional main characters stand in for real life famous people. One of the Russian characters is a writer whose life parallels that of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, while a fictional character makes Jane Fonda’s famous trip to North Vietnam — and reaps the scorn and condemnation that was heaped upon Fonda in real life.
If I had a problem with this book other than the bland writing, it was with pacing — although the book covers the era from 1961 – 1989 (from the building of the Berlin Wall to its destruction), fully two-thirds of the pages are spent in the early 1960s, which means that everything in the 1970s and 80s has to be rushed through very quickly. This makes for a somewhat uneven reading experience, but it’s still a page-turner. This whole trilogy would be a good read for anyone who wanted to get a light, fun, not-too-indepth overview of the great events of the past century through historical fiction. There are better and more detailed books, both fiction and non-fiction, that you could go on to afterwards, but Follett certainly gives you a bird’s-eye view of history.