It often makes me wonder how some simple decisions can affect one’s life. As simple as the choices may see, they come with life altering capabilities. Heads you Win- the latest Jeffrey Archer fiction is based on a similar thought. How a single decision, on the basis of a toss of a coin can change the course of one’s life.
My love for Archer’s books goes back to my early reading years, when I savored his Kane and Abel. The book still stays with me and even years later, it keeps me engrossed despite multiple reads. This November saw me reading two Jeffrey Archer books back-to-back- Sons of Fortune and Heads You Win. Of course when you read two books by the same author back-to-back, you end up comparing the two. Where Sons of Fortune amazed me with its awesome momentum in plot, Heads You Win played it slow, yet steady.
When all that decides the fate of a man, is the toss of a coin. At stake are two lives…
It is Leningrad, Russia and the year is 1968. Alexander Karpenko the smart and intelligent young boy grows up in the warmth and care of his parents, living and learning like all teenagers around. But his content world is to be shattered soon, when his father is assassinated by the KGB. At stake are two lives- his and his mother’s. And before it is too late, they must leave the country. Their only way out is by sneaking into cargo containers that leave the shores of Russia. At a crucial crossroad, Alexander needs to decide- should he take the container that’s heading towards Britain or the one that’s America bound? How would his life turn out to be if he chose one country over the other? On the toss of a coin, his decision is made. From Leningrad, the two flee across the sea to find a new life. Over the next three decades, Alexander’s life is strewn with triumphs, failures, love and loss.
Simultaneous movement of two plots-The crux of the book
The beauty of this book lies in the dual story placed side by side. In alternate chapters, readers follow each of Alexander’s choices – Britain and America. So you have two distinct stories running simultaneously. Much as it may sound complex to have two points of views being portrayed together in one book, I must say it didn’t leave me confused. Nor did I find myself flipping pages back and forth. It all blended in so flawlessly that despite the plot progressing in a slow pace, my reading continued. Both lives of Alexander are laden with triumphs and defeats as he attempts to bury his past and accept his life as an immigrant.
Archer the master storyteller
Heads You Win is a typical Jeffrey Archer fiction. For those who are already familiar with his style, this book may seem no different. Expect the usual twists and turns that an Archer fiction often contains. He has this ability to build in a certain momentum towards the end leading up to the most unexpected final twist. Heads You Win comes with one such twist that will take you by storm. Cleverly executed in true Archer style. A tightly woven drama, with politics and history thrown in here and there (which did bore me a bit), makes the book a pretty intense read. But hang on till the end and it will turn out to be a satisfying read.
I did have a bit of an issue with the slow pace, but then the latter half of the book picks up on the thrill factor, so I surely wouldn’t want to complain. In fact, the book starts on a decent pace, loses momentum midway and picks up yet again towards the end. Also, his characters didn’t seem all too new to me. Having read Archer books earlier, I found them to be way too similar to his previous ones.
Heads you Win is still a worthwhile read. For first time Archer readers, this book may seem to be intense. But it would be a good start to get accustomed to Archer and his form of fiction. For seasoned Archer readers, give it a shot, though I wouldn’t consider this his best.
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