I went through this in 5 days and night. It is an easy listen with soap opera like fictional plots against historical facts -
I am now a fan of Ken Follet. Jon Lee makes the listen great. He is able to make the book come alive. Can not wait for the next book
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!
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.
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!
I'm writing this review after listening to part 1&2 (out of 4). I've listened or read every novel Mr. Follett has written over the years, as far back as Triple and Key to Rebecca and of course, POTE and WWE. I can't help finding this book, well, a bit boring. I will continue to listen because I still have high hopes that something will draw me into the story and knowing that 2 more sequels are to follow, I have to believe it will pick up. I will say, the book makes me want to polish up on my WW1 history and the events leading up to the war. I plan to post another review after finishing part 3&4.
Narrative makes the world go round.
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.
I am amazed at the number of critics who gave this book a poor review and then COMPLETELY missed the boat as to WHY it might be labeled a poor effort!
Most of the critics I saw referenced poor character development, which by the way utter HOGWASH. The vast majority of the book is devoted to character development - and masterful character development at that.
While the book does plod along at times, I believe it was clearly Follett's intent to do so as he sets the stage for parts 2 and 3, with exhaustive character development in this initial offering.
Secondly, a good number of critics attack the fact there are no significant villains in this story. Again, the reviewers not only missed the boat, but they let the oars bounce off their collective noggins with those comments ;)
There are several MINOR characters who are evil and or malicious, and most of them due to their incompetence and/or inexperience as wartime officers. These characters, from an overall perspective, along with the WAR itself, are the evil antagonists of the book - and again, positioned and developed quite well by Follet.
Lastly, whomever would label Ken Follett's work in its entirety as anything other than fine literary work is simply opening mouth and inserting foot with a feeble attempt to boost their ego with braggadocio that simply proves they have no idea what they are saying.
In summary, it's a good start, but whether or not it develops into a good trilogy is yet to be seen. As a standalone product, it will rate poorly. Clearly we really have no idea if it will rival POE and WWE at this point. So far, I am guessing "probably not"; but if I had to guess, I'd say it's still probably going to be worth the time and money.