Author Jeffrey Archer
Review By: V Shrilekha
Born in two different continents, this novel narrates that life of William Kane and Abel Rosnovski. Destiny brought these two men together and the book narrates the relentless struggle of these men to build an empire and how ruthlessly they were consumed by hatred towards each other.
Two babies were born on April 18, 1906. One in the comfort and safety of a hospital and the other in a forest in Poland. William Lowell Kane is the son of Richard Kane, a wealthy and successful banker while Wladek Koskiewicz was born during the horrible times of poverty. Wladek lost his mother the very minute his mother delivered him. A hunter named Jasio finds poor Wladek and takes him home to his mother.
William Kane had always aspired to become a successful banker just like his father. When William was a child, his father died in the Titanic disaster, which made William the only heir to Kane & Cabot bank. William and his mother were supposed to accompany Richard in the expedition but William’s sudden illness abstained both the mother and son to join Richard. William showcases exceptional discipline and intelligence through his academic years. William’s mother eventually finds love and marries Henry Osborne, who turned out to be interested only in women and gambling. William grew up hating Henry and spend most of his time in Harvard and at his best friends Mathew Lester’s home. Mathew’s father owned a successful bank himself called Lester Bank and William always dreamt of becoming the Chairman of Lester’s bank one day. Henry Osborne spends all the fortune of William’s money on gambling and also loses his wife in a miscarriage. Having lost his father in a dreadful disaster and his mother, William Kane immediately sends Henry Osborne away.
Wladek grew up in Jasio and Helena’s family. Among the other siblings in the house, he particularly got attached to Florentyna. They both attended the school together. Wladek had the aptitude for learning and by the age five, he topped at every subject in his class. Amazed by his intelligence, Baron Rosnovski asks him to be a companion to his son Leon and stay as a healthy competition to him. Baron also revealed the sad truth that Leon’s mother died shortly after during the childbirth of their second child and Leon is now raised by Baron and his staff. Jasio was thrilled by the idea that Wladek would live in a castle and would get a good life for himself. However, Wladek was shattered initially but agreed to go only if Florentyna accompanies him. Baron offered to take her along as well and both the children moved to the castle immediately.
Wladek and Leon became good friends and indeed proved to be healthy competition. Sadly, World War I breaks out and the Germans attack Poland and capture Baron and his son. Leon was killed by one of the soldier, while Florentyna was raped and murdered by Russian soldiers right in front of Wladek’s eyes. With a very fragile Baron and Wladek still alive, Baron advises Wladek that he finds a way to escape and eventually figures out that Wladek is his own true son. Baron happens to see Wladek’s chest which had one nipple missing just like him. Baron immediately summons his staff to act as witnesses and does a verbal transfer of the will, making Wladek the sole inheritance of his castle. Baron also ties a family band on the wrist of Wladek and soon passes away.
The author writes in detail on how Wladek finally migrates to United States of America after going through a great ordeal. He changes his name to Abel Rosnovski. Abel started working as a waiter in the Hotel Plaza and took night classes on business in a University. The first coincidental meeting of Kane and Abel happens to be in Hotel Plaza when William, his friend Mathew and his family decided to celebrate Kane’s achievement on a prestigious mathematics award. Abel served them as their waiter and Kane happened to notice the unique silver wrist band on Abel.
Abel worked extremely hard and gains the praise of David Leroy, owner of Richmond Group of hotels. He immediately appoints Abel as the manager of his flagship hotel. Abel obtains David Leroy’s approval to fire employees who were mismanaging the company or were just lazy and finally managed to convert the hotel to a profitable venture. Abel slowly started to buy stock in the chain and finally ended up holding 25% of stake making David Leroy proud.
The country witnessed the great depression and David was desperately in need of a backer to save his company. Unable to find one, he commits suicide and mentions to Abel that Kane & Cabot was the bank that did not support him. Abel inherits ownership of the company and plans to revenge Kane. The bank gets him an anonymous backer and Abel assumes that it could be David Maxton, the owner of Stevens Hotel. David offers Abel the job of manager in his hotel which Abel considers to take while hoping to find a backer for $2 million for his own hotel chain. Abel finds love in a immigrant from Poland named Zaphia and marries her.
Abel changes the name of the chain of hotel from Richmond to Baron and was creating a empire of his own. He collaborated with Henry Osborne, who was by then very active in politics, to ruin Kane and his bank. Abel and Zaphia invite a daughter in their lives who is named Florentyna, in memory of his dead sister while Kane married Kate and has a son, Richard.
William was managing the bank completely with Mathew, his friend assisting him all along. However Mathews drinking habit got everyone worrying and when Mathews father Laster died, his will stated that William Kane will succeed him as the new chairman of Lester’s Bank. Kane happened to read about the inauguration of a hotel in Chicago which belonged to Abel and was happy that his judgment was right and his bank missed out on a good investment. He also worried about the new found friendship between Abel and Henry and engaged a private detective to look into Henry Osborne’s affiliation with Abel. Few weeks later, Kane received a full report on the association of Abel and Henry.
Another incident where the two of them meet, not knowing of each others existence was in World War – II. Kane was injured in the war and was unable to see or hear, Kane was badly injured and was rescued by someone who Kane thought looked familiar, which happens to be Abel but they still did not recognize each other. Upon return from the Army, Abel finds that his wife has no love for him and they decided to get separated.
Meanwhile Kane’s and Lester’s bank merge and they also incorporated a clause that anyone who has a share of 8% can call for board meetings. Abel tries desperately to obtain 8% of the bank’s stock but Kane manages to prevent these attempts.
Many years later, Florentyna Rosnovski graduates and was offered a key position in the hotel management. However she decided that she wants real life work experience first before she starts managing the hotel. Florentyna and Richard Kane met and fell in love and eventually get married amid the protests from their families. They launch a chain of boutique named Florentyna’s.
Finally, Abel manages to obtain enough shares of the bank and expels Kane from power. Kane decides to forgive his son and daughter-in-law and wanted to meet the family. His health was falling and his movement was limited. He dies before he could see them and his grandson William. Abel then comes to know that his backer was not David Maxton, but William Kane. Filled with pain, he reconciles with his daughter and son-in-law. Abel dies soon after, and entrusts everything to his daughter Florentyna, except his silver wrist band, which he leaves to his grandson – “William Abel Kane”.
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