Ever wondered why the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand caused the whole world to get into World War I? In history class, it was hard for me to hold the whole story in my head. It always seemed a mash-up of unrelated events. And the concurrent social influences of the day - women's suffrage, labor unions, Russian Bolshevism, the beginning of prohibition in America, racism, homophobia, and classism everywhere, etc. - were all neatly compartmentalized in my mind, almost as if each issue affected a different people from a different time. What Ken Follett's done with this book was to make it all into one compelling story. He made me feel the helplessness that Lady Maude, an English aristocratic suffragette, and William Von Ulrich, a German officer, felt when their two nations decided to go to war because of a long domino chain of events that all had to fall just so. Suddenly their English/German budding romance was considered an act of treason, when only days before, these characters had been socializing together at fancy English parties. There were so many likable, believable characters like this, all tangled up in ways designed to show the irony of their political world. I think this may be Ken Follett's specialty, making us care about the real struggle the real people who came before us must have experienced as a result of these well-known historical events. If you slept through your history lecture about World War I, this is your chance to get an idea of how it all would've affected real people at the time. Great book!
Ok, so I love history but this was more of a 50 Shades of Gray in 1914. The book was overall fine but very long and read more like a soap opera at the end of the day. I don't know if I will pick-up book II or not.
Avid reader of histories and biographies. Also keep up on current science developments.
Excellent story with a great collection of characters whose lives intersect in a variety of ways
Descriptions of trench warfare
Yes. I may even listen again!!
I learned about a period of history that I was not much familiar with.
John Lee is a brilliant reader.
CPA, CFP, and serial audiophile.
I have read all of Ken Follett's books, including the other 2 in the trilogy (on paper), so I was excited to get to listen to this one. The story is well-written, but it sounds as if it is being broadcast on the news. When I first started listening, I thought the reader was purposefully sounding dramatic to introduce the story, but I soon found out that this is his actual reading voice. And I need to add that I have listened to many books where the reader was heavily criticized for fake accents, etc. and enjoyed them thoroughly. This is a different level altogether - no intonation, no emotion, just that broadcaster effect.
That said, Mr. Follett's writing never fails to please, it's just a little painful to listen to.
The overall historical scope of the first two tomes of The Century trilogy and the author's goal to relate the events of the last century through many characters and personal journeys kept my interest going. I thought Pillars of the Earth was better written though. I sometimes got tired of the predictable romances throughout the books, the sex scenes often felt shallow and with them the characters, and at times I felt like I was reading some Harlequin romances. A bit disappointed that the author didn't succeed in transcending the rich material with his writing.
I'm a big fan of historical novels and that made this a great read/listen for me. Someone who isn't into the international intrigue and wartime events that surround this story may find it tedious at times. This book couldn't be called "fast-paced." Much of the narrative includes historical background just before and during World War I that sets the stage for the details of a plot that kept me anxious to find out what happens next. I'm familiar with some of that history so it made the story richer for me, but someone else might find it overburdening.
One complaint I do have is that in parts this reads like a romance novel. I like a romantic thread, including a little sex, in a historical novel but not long segments devoted entirely to romantic twists and turns. That's what kept me from giving five stars to the story.
On the plus side is the narrator's incredible ability to make the voices of a couple dozen different characters very distinctive, applying the appropriate accents from all over Great Britain, Europe, and the US.
If you like rich historical detail, this is an excellent historical novel.
Facinating depiction of war
Yes and he is brilliant. Not only does he get all the regional and country accents spot on, he imparts a complete charactirization of the people focused in the book.
Ethel - because she is a trail blazer of her time.
Slow to start but once you get in is a true Follett
Overall a very good book. Reminds us of how things were not too long ago. The story is compelling and you don't mind at all by the length. At times it makes things too obvious because everyone is constantly running into everyone across the globe and that does seem a bit contrived. Although that didn't stop me from listening at any chance I had.
I have listened to all of John Lee's readings of Ken Follet's books.
I am a former police officer turned history professor. I enjoy a good story, be it fiction or non.
Yes. It seemed like there was a clumsily written sex scene in every chapter. I found that to be mostly unnecessary and it didn't really advance the plot.
I don't think so. He has better books than this one.
Unlike the actual story, the narrator did an excellent job. He managed to have the myriad of people all speak with distinctive voices and so you knew who was speaking at any given time. I would gladly listen to another book narrated by John Lee.
I imagine it probably will be at some point.