Fall of Giants is Ken Follett's magnificent new historical epic. The first novel in The Century Trilogy, it follows the fates of five interrelated families—American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh—as they move through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women's suffrage.
Thirteen-year-old Billy Williams enters a man's world in the Welsh mining pits…. Gus Dewar, an American law student rejected in love, finds a surprising new career in Woodrow Wilson's White House…. Two orphaned Russian brothers, Grigori and Lev Peshkov, embark on radically different paths half a world apart when their plan to emigrate to America falls afoul of war, conscription, and revolution…. Billy's sister, Ethel, a housekeeper for the aristocratic Fitzherberts, takes a fateful step above her station, while Lady Maud Fitzherbert herself crosses deep into forbidden territory when she falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a spy at the German embassy in London….
These characters and many others find their lives inextricably entangled as, in a saga of unfolding drama and intriguing complexity, Fall of Giants moves seamlessly from Washington to St. Petersburg, from the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty. As always with Ken Follett, the historical background is brilliantly researched and rendered, the action fast-moving, the characters rich in nuance and emotion. It is destined to be a new classic.
In future volumes of The Century Trilogy, subsequent generations of the same families will travel through the great events of the rest of the 20th century, changing themselves—and the century itself. With passion and the hand of a master, Follett brings us into a world we thought we knew, but now will never seem the same again.
Exclusive interview: Ken Follett and John Lee Talk about Fall of Giants.
©2010 Kevin Follett (P)2010 Penguin Audio
"A big Book, Follett''s hugely ambitious saga is a sweeping success. Ken Follett has hit another one out of the park with the initial installment of the hugely ambitious Century Trilogy. His fans will rejoice at the richness, complexity, historical sweep and simmering lust in a saga spanning the years 1911 to 1923." (Newark Star Ledger)
"A dark novel, motivated by an unsparing view of human nature and a clear-eyed scrutiny of an ideal peace. It is not the least of Follett''s feats that the reader finishes this near 1000-page book intrigued and wanting more." (Chicago Sun-Times)
"[Follett] meticulously reconstructs an era and leads us through the follies and occasional heroics of its protagonists real and imaginary. He is masterly in conveyers so much drama and historical information so vividly...Grippingly told, and readable to the end." (New York Times Book Review)
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
"The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why" Mark Twain
There are a lot of reviews about this book, most of them are positive and most of them are focused on how Ken Follett can tell a fictional story while teaching his readers factual parts of history. And I think most of these reviews are accurate. The listener will enjoy a very well told story and learn about the causes and circumstances that led to WWI.
I think my favorite thing about The Fall of Giants is how the listener gains a sense of camaraderie with the characters and their feelings. The story helped me see that most of the victims of wars, especially in some of the more aggressive nations, are everyday citizens. Follett does a great job helping you realize that people are people, each with complex emotions and feelings. Just like every German in WWII wasn't a Nazi-loving fascist, we can now realize that every Afghani is also not a Taliban-loving terrorist. It just makes you appreciate humanity for what it is - at least thats how I felt.
Another thing I want to point out is that Follett obviously touts the principles of socialism and more liberal ideologies throughout his novels. This isn't so much of a complaint as it is a recognition of his bias. Nonetheless it was a phenomenal novel and I highly recommend all 31 hours of it.
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.
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 enjoyed Fall of Giants. I thought it was a very good novel that closely followed the build-up to and prosecution of World War I from multiple perspectives. Overall it seemed, from my reading of various non-fiction historical accounts of WWI, very accurate. In fact I found this approach to be one of the most accessible ways to understand WWI that I have encountered.
I thought the multiple interweaving storylines were each interesting and unlike some other reviewers, I didn't have an issue keeping track of different characters or their motivations. In fact, if I consider the novel stand-alone, my only significant criticisms would be the lack of a clear antagonist (other than circumstances) as all the characters seemed noble in their own way and personally I would have liked to see more of the "bad" Russian brother, who seemed the most interesting of the main characters.
But that is the problem, isn't it? It is very difficult to consider this novel independently given Follet's other massive historical novels - Pillars and World's End - were just so remarkable. Fall of Giants doesn't really compare to either book, but I felt it deserved 4 stars because it is enjoyable in its own right. I understand that this is the beginning of a trilogy and perhaps the subsequent books will allow for even more interesting developments and be on par with Pillars and World's End. But even if they don't achieve those heights, they still could be very good books - and there is nothing wrong with that.
I can certainly recommend listening to this book, just keep your lofty expectations in check.
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.
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.
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.
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