Review of Follett’s “The Century Trilogy”

Once Ken Follett was asked during an interview, “What is the core difference in your relationship with your audience (Interview with Jennifer Byrne for ABC Book Show May 2011). Follett: “Well, I think all the time about my readers … All the time every page, I think ‘Will readers like this? Will they believe that this could happen? Will they care?’  And most importantly, ‘Will they want to know what happens next?’ I think about that constantly.”

Ken Follett wrote an amazing historical epic called “The Century Trilogy:”   The Fall of Giants, Winter of the World, and Edge of Eternity. This is a massive undertaking of 2919 pages of action, description and dialogue. 

(The Fall of Giants, author Ken Follett; published by Signet; sold by Penguin Group, 2011; 983 pages)

It is very daunting when you pick up a book that is about 4″ thick and 983 pages. Each book of “The Century Trilogy” begins with a six page character list. Each family listed under their country language: American, French, German, Austrian, Russian, and Welsh. Sprinkled throughout each book is also a collection of real historical characters named in real historical events.  

I was looking at my 2016 Reading Challenge (blog 12-10-2015) and decided I wanted to read the book that is over 400 page challenge. Now that I’ve almost finished the trilogy, I am going to add it to the “Reading a book on war” also. I am a slow reader for several reasons one reason being, when I read I have a movie going on in my head. I need the description so I can step into the story and actually see the communities, the hillsides, the houses people live in, and the people themselves. I am certain that my version will be different from the author’s, but for me it brings the story alive.  So slow as you go — don’t want to miss a detail!

I like description and dialogue. Yes, I know — all books are descriptive and have dialogue, but I want to see the whole picture. I want to see 13-year-old Billy Williams leaving school to work in the Welsh coal mines. I want to see the palatial places of the rich and hovels of the poor. I  want to see what is happening on the battle fields of World War I and II. I want to see where and how the two orphaned Russian brothers, Grigori and Lev Peshkov survive. I want to see in my mind the relationship that is built between a 15-year-old housekeeper and the aristocratic lady of the house. 

Ken Follett weaves the characters in and out of each others lives seamlessly in The Fall of Giants. They move through Washington D.C. to St. Petersburg flawlessly. Follett takes the reader from the dirt and grime of the coal mines to the battle field of World War I intermixing individual lives and destinations. 

(Winter of the World, author Ken Follett; published by Signet, 2012; sold by Penguin Group; 832 pages)

Winter of the World is a little less daunting. It has only 832 pages — just kidding! Winter of the World is the second of the three-volume set.

Again Ken Follett takes the reader to the depths of despair and up to the heights of celebration. Follett carries the reader along with all his characters from the 1890’s & 1920’s into the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. He covers World War II from the burning the Reichstag to the killing of Jews and the “unwanted” of the Nazis concentration camps. Although Follett does not go into great depth of the concentration camps, he does describe the destructive camps and what effect they had on a few families. Pearl Harbor is attacked and United States enters the struggles of World War II.

Carla von Ulrich is engulfed by the Nazi tide and has to have a great deal of courage to live in Germany. The American brothers Woody and Chuck Dewar go separate ways as one is moved up in the Washington political scene and the other heads off to the Pacific with the American military. Lives are greatly effected with the fear of communism spreading around the world. With courage and individual and family strength, the characters — who by now are my friends — move toward the “social, political, and economic turmoil” of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s (Amazon review). 

(Edge of Eternity, author Ken Follett; published by Berkley, 1st edition, 2014; sold by Penguin Group; 1104 pages)

Book #3, Edge of Eternity, Ken Follett carries his characters forward into the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s I have not finished reading Edge of Eternity, so I am depending on information from other reviewers.   

Ken Follett’s Trilogy  intertwines families — American, German, Russian, English and Welsh — who have grown into 3rd and 4th generations. The characters, old and new, experience the “civil rights movement, assassinations, Vietnam, the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis, presidential impeachment, revolution — and rock n’ roll”. (Amazon review).

“With ‘The Century Trilogy,’ Follett guides readers through an entire era of history … In this climatic and concluding saga (Edge of Eternity), Follett brings us into a world we thought we knew, but now will never seem the same again” (Amazon review). One book review said, “Follett has developed so many characters that what happens is not unlikely. His characters seem to merge with each other and then separate much like the designs of a kaleidoscope” (Jill Meyer 9-8-2012).

Even though there is a lot of praise for Ken Follett’s “The Century Trilogy,” once we get to the third book, Edge of Eternity,  reviewers begin to make more negative comments about the historical accuracy of Edge of Eternity. Several reviewers did not like the way America was depicted in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Then on the other hand, reviewers love the whole series — as one reviewer stated “Sorry it ended.” I agree.

As I said earlier, I have not finished the Edge of Eternity, but I am not putting the book down until I finish. I like “The Century Trilogy,” and I am glad I read it. All the historical events that take place, may not be totally accurate, but today the history I learned in school is now being brought into question. I believe that Ken Follett does an excellent and fair job of presenting facts within a fiction context.

There is so much going on within the 2919 pages of “The Century Trilogy” that I  would like to read this trilogy again. I cannot imagine how Ken Follett is able to keep all the characters and their interactions moving forward without a mess at the end — but he DID!! I would rate this epic 5 STARS. Only 672 pages to go; so now back to reading Edge of Eternity. 

Today do something that will challenge you!!

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4 Steps to Moving Forward

“Age has given me what I was looking for my entire life — it has given me me. It has provided time and experience and failures and triumphs and time-tested friends who have helped me step into the shape that was waiting for me. I fit into me now. I have an organic life, finally, not necessary that one people imagined for me, or tried to get me to have. I have the life I longed for. I have become the woman I hardly dared imagine I would be.” Anne Lamott — an American novelist and non-fiction writer, progressive political activist, and writing teacher.

For several months, I have been “following” blogs written by 20 & 30 year olds. They are a delight to read — all their enthusiasm and advice. They write everything from uncluttering your home and life, to books too read. I absolutely love reading them! 

As I read these blogs, I began to wonder what was out there in cyberspace for women much older. I did not find much! Oh sure, there’s AARP (boring) and a couple on older women’s fashions (also boring). The one thing I have found and read every day are several blogs on Genealogy. Are any of you following blogs by older women? If you are, and you are enjoying them, please pass them on to me.

Reading the fun advice these young women give, I began to wonder if the advice was something older women (and men) could benefit from. Of course, advice is advice to anyone at any age. So today we are going to look at “4 Steps to Moving Forward.”

As a new “retiree” I was so excited — no more 6 AM wake-up alarms, no more working 8+ hours a day. I could renovate my new, little retirement home. I could do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I could concentrate on my writing. I can read all day; stay home in bad weather — what’s not to love!! But the days slid by and I was getting nothing done.

Working over 45 years, I had a schedule that I had to followed. There was always so much to do and deadlines to meet. I think that all of us who have worked outside the home most of our lives have run into the “lack of a schedule or planning problem.” While I was reading the “young” blogs, I realized that their advice could easily be used as reminders we can still use in our retirement phase of life.

1)  What Is Your Project?
What is it you want to do? Travel to every state in the United States? Read the Classics? Renovate your home? Take a yoga class? Name and claim your project. My project is to write in as many arenas as possible: publish in a magazine (which I have already done), short stories, blogging (yes, blogging is writing), write about certain topics (which I have done), and my ultimate goal is to write a book or several books. But when you look at your project, it is way too big to tackle all at once. So then you go to step 2.  
2)  Break your project down to smaller, defined pieces.
A project the size of “reading the Classics” is huge. Are you going to read American Classics, or European Classics, or Russian Classics, or German Classics, or a mixture of all Classics? How many will you read to meet your goal: 50, 100, 500, a 1000? Do you have a favorite Classic author: Hemingway, Twain, Sandburg, Tolstoy, Austen …? If you do not know where you are going, how do you know if you have arrived?  
3)  Break the smaller, defined pieces down to “bite-size” pieces and write it down.
Even #2 may sound too big. So break your project down even further. Pick your author and get the book (the public library is full of Classics and you don’t have to buy the book or store it later). Now to break that down: how many pages do you want to read a day? Do you want to begin a “reading list?” Do you want to set a schedule to follow or read at random? Once you finish one book, what is the next book you are going to read? Then write your plan down! There’s something about committing words to a piece of paper that makes you accountable for your progress.
4)  Now do it!
Sit back and enjoy the read!!
Of course, we have done breakdowns like this all our lives, but it is nice to be reminded that the system works even after you retire. When I first retired I did everything at random and accomplished little. Now that I am blogging I need the “breakdown system” to keep me focused on where I am going. Being organized and productive when you are retired is not a bad thing. We have a lot to look forward to. But how do we know when we have arrived at our destination if we don’t “plan the trip?” Remember: if you don’t plan some of  your time for what you want to do, someone else will plan it for you. Now go and do!!
Today do something that will challenge you!!