A great idea, to follow the lives of two yound men from different worlds who meet up doing National Service back in the 1950s. As their lives intertwine, then drift apart, only to keep coming together, it's a full potted history of life in the UK for the last 70 years, taking in the Cuban Missile Crisis, the decade of strikes and shortages that were the 70s, the freedoms of the hippy era, the difficulties of being gay in unenlightened times, etc
Sadly, what it's not is gripping. Although I did finish the book, I skim read a lot of the more wordy and repetative pages. Repeating someone's name at the end of every sentence does not make for good reading, and quickly becomes very irritating. I didn't find many characters very likeable, or even believable. Drum, a big strong man, becoming little more than a yes man to his more affulent 'friend' Carter. With friends like that, who need enemies? Both wives might just as well have been cutout paper dolls for all the part they played. Other than producing children of course.
Thankfully the next generation did have more character, and there's a complete role-reversal at the end which was the highlight of the book for me.