I still remember reading this book way back in early 90’s as soon as it landed in our school library. Also, this was the book which made me identify with one of its lead character (Abel) big time that I actually started sleeping without a pillow back then and the habit still continues… to my wife and kiddo’s amusement nowadays, one wakes me up and tells me to come up to the pillow and other one laughs all the time seeing my weird position sleeping either below the pillow or way out of its reach and at times I actually roll it over to the floor and sleep peacefully :). Such was the connection with the guy that I read, started following it and totally forgot about it. As I read this one again last week and was totally amazed to know that this was the book which is responsible for my weird habit. All thanks to a friend who was not able to read any book and we decided to read it together and exchange views everyday in the evening. The friend is absconding since then and I have already finished the book in flat one week. I am shocked, surprised, sad and what not that how come this book is actually considered one of his best works. I so much tried to like it and get thrilled or entertained and what not but to no avail. Also, it answered a question which was in my mind for quite a while that why “Jeffrey Archer” could never become a “Ken Follett”. And why his books will never be called “Classics” not “Timeless Classics” for sure. This was written in 1979 and I am sure it was a rage back then or may be for a decade or more till it reached us. Anyways, it totally doesn’t work anymore (Although my loyalty goes a long way with Archer Uncle) but I am going to complete the trilogy.
As the title suggests, its a story of two guys born on the same day in two different parts of the world. Kane is born in a super rich family of bankers and Abel is born somewhere in Poland, an orphan with no roots to look back to. This is actually Abel’s story from rags to riches and the cross connection with Kane. I so much assumed or tried to remember if they will become the best of friends or the sworn enemies for life (and why?) or they are actually brothers lost at birth (somehow) that was the only point which kept me hooked to the not so thrilling story which Jeffrey Archer to my shock and sadness so much over did that I just couldn’t believe it. He wrote this story in 1979 and it basically covers 60 odd years of their life starting from early 20th century. Every twenty pages, Archer throws a name or an incident that indeed put a smile on my face but he kept on doing it to no end. Imagine a Mr. J P Morgan actually makes an entry. And our rich bankers actually support someone called a Henry Ford who is about to start a car company :). In the background we hear of a Don called Al Capone too and one of the important family members actually dies as Titanic sinks. If that was not enough we have Siberian prisoner camps, Sigmund Freud too gets a hilarious mention. But the cherry on the cake belongs to one of my all time favorite characters from the history of United States of America – JFK. Imagine in early 70’s one could actually pay a quarter of a million dollars to get an hour of his time exclusively to yourself 🙂 Wow, that was a little too much. Even when their paths criss-cross (how many times is good enough?) initially its exciting but later it becomes predictable as well as futile too at one point and I couldn’t even think of a reason why it was happening at all.
Jeffrey Archer, doesn’t specialize in suspense writing but whatever I have read of him in the past and recently too (Clifton Chronicles) was / is able to hold my interest up-to the very end. But in this one, I could actually predict the outcome a mile ahead and lets not even talk about the literary liberties he has taken specially with the banking laws (they cant be that lackluster even in 70’s). I expected it to be a joyride of 600 pages but after half the way it just becomes a big drag and tried as hard he did or I wanted to enjoy, just couldn’t. Somehow I reached the ending hoping that it’s sequel should be good “The Prodigal Daughter” and the end of trilogy “Shall we tell the president”. Do let me know if you have read them as I have no memory of this story going anywhere forward after Kane and Abel. I am totally sure that this book will not work for people born either in 70’s (like me) or even in 80’s. I would really like to know from the people who are born after the 90’s if any of them have read this and did they actually like it? Need to find some and ask. Do let me know your thoughts if you have read it recently, how did it work for you?