Friday Book Whimsy: Edge of Eternity

imagesEdge of Eternity is book three in a trilogy written by Ken Follett. Much like his Pillars of the Earth books, Follett presents history through fictitious characters and situations related to historical fact. The first book of this trilogy, Fall of Giants, introduced us to characters who lived during the early part of the 20th Century, including World War I. The second book in the trilogy, Winter of the World, carried these same characters forward, added offspring, and introduced us to events during the post-WWI period and into and just after World War II.

I really enjoyed both of those books. I always like learning history, or at least historical background, through novels that I find entertaining. Though both were enormously long, I couldn’t put either of those books down.

Winter of the World was published in the fall of 2012, so I have been waiting eagerly for this third book for two years. I literally wrote the date of publication in my calendar so that I could download the book immediately. I knew Follett was going to present the years of the Cold War.

I dove in with relish.

Follett is such a good storyteller that I found, once again, I was immediately caught up in the story. However, little things started bothering me.

Did people really talk like that?

Do all men really look immediately at a woman’s breasts, no matter the situation in which they’re meeting or who the woman is?

Do women really giggle, while men laugh?

Are all “good guys” sexy and handsome or pretty and beautifully dressed, and are all “bad guys” really homely and beady-eyed and sporting crew cuts?

Could Mr. Follett possibly be using, well, stereotypes?

But I kept at it because I am really interested in that time in history.

But seriously, when everyone in the entire world is pretty darn sure that while they are sleeping, the missiles located in Cuba are going to be shot at the United States which will retaliate by sending nuclear bombs into the Soviet Union and the world is going to end before daylight, what they all decide to do is have sex? And not with their spouse? My friends, according to Mr. Follett, there was an unimaginable amount of boinging going on all around the world the days during, and following, the Cuban Missile Crisis. Who knew?

I’m not exaggerating.

I PROMISE you I’m not a prude. But the amount of sex in this book became absolutely distracting to what was an attempt to be good storytelling. And the stereotypes that the author presented are embarrassing to his status as a well-read author.

About halfway through the book, I began counting the number of women who giggled. I came across seven instances of highly-positioned women in the Soviet Union and the United States who giggled (using Follett’s word), just in the second half of the book. I was greatly distressed. There wasn’t a single male giggler.

And I also PROMISE you that I am aware and comfortable with the fact that fiction writers don’t have to present facts. They can be biased. And unlike some critics, I don’t think Mr. Follett necessarily presented all liberal characters in a positive light and all conservative characters in a negative light. He certainly didn’t make the Kennedys out to be saints. I guess I must admit I can’t think of a single conservative character who was presented in any kind of positive light. But, still, that’s the author’s prerogative.

However, if you are claiming to write historical-based fiction and you don’t give President Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher the slightest credit for helping to dismantle communism in the Soviet Union and East Germany, you simply can’t be taken seriously. If you are to believe the author, Mikhail Gorbachev pretty much single-handedly was responsible for the Berlin Wall being torn down. The pope and the Catholic hierarchy in Poland were concentrating on building up their own importance and Mr. Reagan was busy being a liar and a crook. Poor Mrs. Thatcher isn’t even mentioned.

I am sorry to say that I simply loathed this book, though I read all 1,100 plus pages. I owe the fact that I read the entire book to Follett, who, despite the faults I mentioned, tells a good yarn,  even if the characters were one-dimentional.

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