One of Follet's best I think. We know all too little about the complexities that led us to WWI and ultimately to WWII through a flawed peace agreement in 1918. All that told through the lives of individual human beings, both entitled aristocrats and struggling lower class folks seeking a better life. A great read (listen). One small criticism, John Lee, who I love, seemed rushed at first but later settled down and got his pacing better.
I went through this in 5 days and night. It is an easy listen with soap opera like fictional plots against historical facts -
I don't know if I could finish reading a novel ever again. I am so addicted to listening to books I have little interest in reading!
I believe I have read or listened to each one of Follet's many novels. In my opinion, he is one of the best storytellers of the 20th century. This novel is no exception. Well researched and rich in the history of WWI, The Fall of Giants exposed my woeful lack of knowledge of that time period and, in particular, the events leading up to as well the the aftermath of the great conflict which ultimately led to WWII. I loved every minute of this book.
The characters are well developed and engrossing. However, there are always common and extremely shallow themes one finds in virtually all of Follet's fictional works. He is obsessed with sex and always, without exception, reveals his heroes' sex lives as virile and unabashed, while giving his villains deviant and sadistic sexual drives. Also without exception, he presents religious figures, priests in particular, as either gay or pedophiles. In reality, even at the height of the sex scandals involving priests, the guilty ones made up less than 2% of the priestly population. But Follet insists on vilifying anyone and any institution that promotes righteousness.
His extremely liberal political views have yet to taint his novels, but I fear his disdain for more recent prominent conservative figures, (he called Margaret Thatcher one of the world's truly evil leaders on NPR in 1994), will make me uneasy in the final novel of this trilogy.
I really enjoyed this book, and far more than Pillars of the Earth. Fall of Giants relied far less on petty issues of good and evil and delved into the far-reaching nuances of the era. It is also informative, educating us about the lesser-understood of the two world wars. The characters are rich and complex and I found myself becoming attached to everyone, including the German. I can't wait for the next book.
I generally avoid fiction, but I enjoyed the Audible versions of "Pillars of the Earth" and "World without End" very much. "Fall of Giants" is the first of a planned triology and I hope Follett completes that project. It is a stand-alone novel like the others mentioned. I regret that I just didn't find the story compelling as the previous two. It may well be just a matter of personal taste. However, I also hoped to be more informed by the historical rendering, context, and prose. I guess I was just spoiled by those two other works. Read other reviews and make up your own mind ... I just came away disappointed somewhat.
Say something about yourself!
I am not a huge Ken Follett fan, and tend to gravitate toward such authors as Russell Banks, Jonathan Safron Foer, Julia Glass, Nicole Krause, Geraldine Brooks, and Audrey Niffenegger. But I do like books in the "sweeping sage" genre, long books that give me a lot of character detail. For these reasons, I bought this book..
It started off verrrrry slow for me. I don't know why, because the narration was quite good and, on paper, the character should have been very compelling. I nearly ditched it (me, a lover of history, esp. WWI-era history!) when it bogged-down in the middle, during all the in-fighting among porminent Russian Revolutionaries.
But I am pleased that I stuck with it. For me, it came to a satisfying conclusion. And I am looking forward (not with jumping-out-of-my-shoes eagerness, but a pleasant, that-will-be-nice kind of looking forward) to the next installment, which will lead into WWII. It should bring up some very intriguing plot twists.
If you want a really great historical novel, filled with intrigue, fast-pacing, and terrific characters navigating real-life events, read Louis Bayard's "The Black Tower." I couldn't stop listening and I hated to see it end!
Although Follett can tend toward being a bit formulaic, he writes great stories. I like this one particularly because it puts you right in the turmoil of the Russian revolution and in the middle of the discontent in Britain over the incompetency of their war leaders. This is a fascinating story. I learned a great deal about the period between the Archduke's assassination and the actual start of the war. Most histories skip this eventful sequence.
I have read a bit about World War II and the Civil War, and even the American Revolution, but I surprised to discover the gap in my knowledge about World War I. This book did an excellent of correcting that deficiency. By intertwining the stories of Russian, German, English, and American families, the book helped me understand a lot more about the history of the early 20th century.
One of the highlight's to me was when Follett described the commandeering of all of the taxi's in Paris in the early days of the war to transport troops to the front lines, since all of the trains were in use. Recognizing that Follett doesn't make stuff like this up, I went to the internet and found video of the historical event to which he referred, and was just tickled that he had worked that story into his account. I didn't realized that there would have been so many taxis in existence by the time of WWI, and that they could be used to transport troops was just amazing to me.
Addicted to Audible!
I am a Ken Follett fan so all I can say is that I LOVED this book. Yes, it does have a bit of melodrama and romance but it also refreshed my memory on the beginnings of WWI. I liked the characters, thought they were of course stereotypes but aren't we all??? I look forward to books 2 &3 and maybe a miniseries!
trying to see the world with my ears
I respect that Follet is a great storyteller although I don't like the subjects of his blockbusters and don't enjoy his prose. Because I love the social history of the period of "Fall of Giants," I really wanted to love the novel . My Irish-Canadian "grampa" went down into the mine at the same age and year as Billy - so I was primed to be engaged by the story even if it wasn't great literaure. But this very pedestrian novel is not even as well narrated as I'd expected by John Lee to make up for the writing. I will probably plod on through the others in the series when they appear - but like the present installment, I will save the novels for background to housework, etc., not prime time listening. It's a two star novel with an extra star for good intentions.
Perhaps if I had not just finsihed Anthony Powell's "A Dance to the Music of Time" I could better tolerate Follett's stuff - Powell was prime time listening about the 20th century.