A VOYAGE WITH KEN FOLLETT
Finally I managed to complete the great Century trilogy of Ken Follett_ 1. Fall of Giants 2. Winter of the World 3. Edge of Eternity. What a delightful way to know history!
Having been a child of 6-10 years during the Second World War, my knowledge of the circumstances of the war was just truckloads of white soldiers passing by our house in Kolar throwing chocolate bars to us the children. Even our history books could not make the events interesting enough for us. Apart from the biased tit -bits we gathered from newspapers, the goings on in the rest of the world remained by and large very sketchy. Later even my English lecturer could not explain the term ‘war to end war’. She brushed it off as a typo in one of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan’s essays.
But the author has interwoven such detailed accounts of the First World War, Russian Revolution, Second World War, The Cold War, The Berlin Gate with the lives and affairs of his characters, their ideologies and political leanings and their romantic escapades into such a delightful pot pourri that the readers absorb the history of the world without their volition.
Though we were familiar with terms like Bolshevism, Russian revolution and names like Churchill, Lenin, Trotsky etc it was a true revelation to me as to how some of them in Britain were bent upon sabotaging Bolshevism. Likewise the circumstances of the First World War and the trials and tribulations people underwent when their countries were at war are indelibly printed on my mind thanks to the gripping depiction by the author.
Actually speaking, in a printed book one cannot help paying attention to the cover of the book one is reading, if not for anything but at least to look at the illustration on the cover though the picture may not have any real connection to the story or characters in the book. Thus with these frequent looks, the title of the book, the author’s name, the sequence in the serial if the book is a trilogy etc get registered in the mind firmly. But when you are reading a bulky novel like Follett’s in a Kindle you are least bothered to go back to the cover again and again more so when each part of the trilogy is a big, interesting independent novel in itself.
Well, having given this as an excuse let me confess to you that I actually read the books in reverse. So for me as I proceeded back from the third book, it was more like going back in time in a time machine or to give a more mundane example it was more like sitting on the pillion of a two wheeler front-side back and watching the traffic recede from you as the machine zoomed forward. After reading about their whole life first, then I would go back to their younger days. Anyway, right order or not, the pleasure in reading was no less and it was with full, complete enjoyment that I read the three books.
Coming to the matter in the books itself, the stories are built around 2-3 generations of people in different continents mainly UK, Germany, Russia and US. But when the actual war scenes are picturised, you cannot help feeling that Fitzberg (he and he alone) fought for UK, Walter for Germany, Gregori for Russia and Gus for US. One hardly gets to know about other more important fronts and real war heroes.
Secondly, I could not help noticing that the author has described each nation and its culture apparently with a thorough knowledge but with a perspective not totally objective and neutral. For example, everything about Russia including their magnificent palaces is shown to be ugly,shoddy, dirty and inefficient (Even their maiden trip to moon is mentioned with tongue in the cheek).The very conspicuous points of Germany such as their discipline, intelligence etc are not much highlighted . The opulence and affluence of US are well brought out. The English of course are perfect.
Apart from these humble observations from a small non-eclectic brain like mine, the reading of the trilogy was an extremely interesting, highly educative and immensely gratifying exercise with no unholy urge to skip through the pages or to rapid-read through them.