What comes first: the character of the times, or the characters who give it theirs?
The Strangest End charts the trajectories of the characters who fell from power in the bloody breakdown of Europe’s old order between 1917 and 1924, and those who for whom the restless chaos marked the beginning of an unlikely rise to fame.
Year by year, we follow Kaiser Wilhelm into his wood-chopping Dutch exile, and Lenin from his Swiss library-desk to his muddled end as an invalid in revolutionary Russia gone stale. Ernest Hemingway criss-crosses the Atlantic in search of himself: soldier, hack journalist, writer, fisherman. Surrealism is born in a Paris attic. Europe suffers a nervous collapse, alternating between revolution and reaction. America takes fright. A Viennese doctor of eclectic tastes becomes an intellectual celebrity. An Austrian ex-soldier touts himself as the tribune of the German people.
Outside the classic frames of war and peace, these all-too-human tales – funny, tragic and fateful – tell a wider story of the exuberant dreams, dark fears, grubby ambition and sheer chance which marked Europe’s post-war metamorphosis, and the century to come.