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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