Literature: The Century Trilogy
The Century Trilogy
is, as the name indicates
, a trilogy of novels by Ken Follett
which tell the history of the 20th century through the eyes of five interrelated families—American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh. The trilogy consists of the following novels:
- Fall of Giants (2010): Covers 1911 to 1923, but most of the novel is set during World War One.
- Winter of the World (2012): Covering 1933-49, focusing on the rise of the Nazis and World War II
- Edge of Eternity (2014): Covering the Cold War.
The five families are:
- The Dewar family—aristocrats with high connections in the American government.
- The Fitzherbert family—ditto, except they're British.
- The von Ulrich family—ditto, except they're German.
- The Peshkov family—two Russian peasants, one who emigrates to America and one who stays behind and gets involved in the Russian Revolution
- The Williams family—Welsh coal miners.
The series as a whole provides examples of:
- Anguished Declaration of Love: Happens from time to time.
- Been There, Shaped History: The characters often have small but pivotal roles concerning the outcome of crucial historical events.
- Contrived Coincidence / One Degree of Separation:
- In the first book:
- Was it pushing things too far for Earl Fitzherbert and Walter von Ulrich to meet each other in no-man's-land on the day of the 1914 Christmas Truce?
- Or for Gus Dewar and von Ulrich to be on opposite sides of the battle for Chateau-Thierry?
- In the second book:
- The same maid serves Daisy Peshkov and is sweet on Lloyd Williams.
- A Jewish girl who knows the von Ulrich family in Berlin emigrates to America and becomes Daisy Peshkov's friend.
- The obnoxious NKVD agent who irritates Volodya Peshkov also turns out to be courting his sister.
- The Dewar family goes to Pearl Harbor in time for the Japanese attack.
- And the biggest of all has to be Boy getting shot down right in front of Lloyd.
- Everybody Has Lots of Sex: A Ken Follett trademark.
- Historical-Domain Character: Many. The POV characters wind up interacting with most of the Great Men of their era.
- Loads and Loads of Characters
- The Mistress: Lev Peshkov has several over the course of two books.
- Sequel Hook: Fall of Giants ends with some bitter Germans taking interest in a rabble-rousing politician named Adolf Hitler.
- Winter of the World ends with the Cold War well underway (the Soviets detonate a nuclear bomb, and the Berlin Airlift marks the end of any trace of cooperation between the Soviets and the West).
- Shout-Out: In Giants Fitz sees a church from the year 1000 and wonders why people are interested in old churches.
- This may also be a subtle bit of characterization from cathedral enthusiast Ken Follett, since Earl Fitzherbert is the closest thing to an antagonist that the first book has.
- In Winter, Joanne says her hangover feels like the Black Death.
- Spiritual Successor: To The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. After writing thrillers and spy novels for most of his career, Follett told the story of 12th and 14th century England (respectively) through those two novels about the residents of a fictional English town called Kingsbridge. The Century Trilogy is recounting the events of the 20th century through a similar narrative style.
- Switching P.O.V.:
- Giants has eight POV characters—Gus Dewar, Earl Edward Fitzherbert and his sister Maud, Walter von Ulrich, brothers Grigori and Lev Peshkov, and Billy Williams and his sister Ethel.
- Winter has a new set of of POV characters—the children of the first set. This time it's Woody and Chuck Dewar, Daisy and Greg Peshkov (Lev's children), Lloyd Williams (love child of Earl Fitzherbert and Ethel), Carla and Erik von Ulrich, and Volodya Peshkov (Grigori's son). The only POV character outside of the original circle is Thomas Macke, a Gestapo officer.
- The Von Trope Family: The von Ulrichs.
Fall of Giants provides examples of:
- Author Tract: It sure does seem like Ken Follett is a Labor Party voter.
- Dramatic Irony: At the end of the novel, Maud greets news of the failure of the Beer Hall Putsch with a relieved "Thank God that's over."
- Groin Attack: Lev Peshkov kicks a thug in the nuts.
- Historical In-Joke: Fitz makes a comment about how Bolshevism should be "strangled at birth". A visiting Winston Churchill likes that turn of phrase.
- Hustling The Mark: Lev Peshkov does this to Gus Dewar in Petrograd.
- Law of Inverse Fertility: Earl Fitzherbert and his wife are struggling to conceive but the earl knocks up maid Ethel Williams pretty quickly.
- Love Across Battlelines: Walter and Maud, being German and British respectively during WWI.
- Man on Fire: After the explosion in the Aberowen coal mine.
- One Head Taller: Gus towers over Rosa, as he is very tall and she is rather petite.
- Red October: Grigori is an enthusiastic participant.
- Riches to Rags: Rich, aristocratic Lady Maud Fitzherbert winds up playing a piano in a seedy German bar after her brother cuts her off and her husband's family is ruined by the war.
- Shot at Dawn: The unfortunate fate of a fifteen-year-old boy who panics and bolts as troops are assembling to go over the top at the Somme.
- A Taste of the Lash: Lev receives this after impregnating the daughter of his powerful and Russian-mafia style employer
- World War One
Winter of the World provides examples of: