Sunday, April 19, 2015

Ken Follet's Century Trilogy, well worth the 69 Hours

Fear not, I have not abandoned you or fallen off the earth. After returning from the land of crocodiles and solar showers, I spent a few days with some dear friends recharging my batteries. The idea being that the bathroom would be completed while I was gone. T'was not to be. But I digress.

Sometimes I share a good movie I saw. Today I would like to recommend a great book, actually a trilogy - Ken Follet's Century Trilogy. Because of the length of this tome I have been listening to it through Audible (or books CD/Tape). The total amount of listening time is 69 hours, 24 minutes. I opted for this version over the three paperbacks which totaled 2,612 pages. Yes folks, we are in the realm of War and Peace. Actually this surpasses War and Peace, given Tolstoy's piece de resistance was 1,298 pages. But so much for volume. Stay with me here,  it is the story that counts.

Follet has managed to take five fictional families whose lives are gently entangled, introduce them to us in the beginning of the 20th century and then tell a story that weaves these characters and the generations who follow through the history of the century. While reading (or listening) to the story you learn about the everyday life of the nobility as well as everyday folks. The families are from Russia, Germany, Wales, England, and the United States. With historical accuracy events from the Russian Revolution to WWI, WWII, the Cold War, and Vietnam are covered with members of the generations of these families participating in the events.

You follow the family members as they grow and find their place in the world and often on the world stage. You see them prosper and fall, and often rise again. You are witness to the politics of the Kremlin, Parliament, and the White House. Social issues from prohibition to civil rights are covered. It is like being a witness to history - world history. And, by covering the entire century you get a broad view of how the world changed in that incredible one hundred years.

More than that there is the personal stories. There are the love affairs, the trystes, the betrayals, the joys, and the sorrows. An English lord's affair with a house maid, Russian brothers separated when one leaves for America, a German spy's love affair with a British Aristocrat, the mixed race illegitimate child of a studio head, a family separated by the Berlin Wall, Pearl Harbor, Martin Luther King, JFK . . . and the every day life that entwined these five families around all these momentous events.

Do not be overwhelmed. It is worth it. I chose to listen because I am often in my car and several hours go by quickly when you are listening to this masterpiece. I can also listen to it while I am cooking or doing my chores. The narrator is excellent and uses many different voices and accents to bring the characters to life, unlike many narrators who are mono-tone.

The three books are Fall of Giants, Winter of the World, and Edge of Eternity. I assure you if you start you will find yourself caught up in the lives of these families and on edge to see how it all plays out. Even though we have all lived through the 20th century, none of us survived the way these families did, nor did any of us experience these events in person as many of the characters did. The knowledge I learned about the social norms and customs during the different time periods alone was fascinating, much less the behind the scenes politics, that most history books never covered.

If nothing else, get a copy of Fall of Giants (the first book) (1000 pages) and start it. Personally I think in this case listening to it may be an easier was to keep up with the characters.

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