A huge novel that follows five families through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for votes for women.
It is 1911. The Coronation Day of King George V. The Williams, a Welsh coal-mining family, is linked by romance and enmity to the Fitzherberts, aristocratic coal-mine owners. Lady Maud Fitzherbert falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a spy at the German Embassy in London. Their destiny is entangled with that of an ambitious young aide to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and to two orphaned Russian brothers, whose plans to immigrate to America fall foul of war, conscription and revolution. In a plot 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.
©2010 Ken Follett (P)2010 Penguin Audio
I really wanted to like this book. I have been a keen student of 20th century history since high school, 40 years ago.
Alas I found myself unable to really engage with the characters, finding them rather cardboard cutout. I could not help feeling that each was created purely to act as a vehicle to show key historical moments and most of the conversations they had, tended to give us lengthy history lessons. The fact that they seemed to somehow turn up at key points of world events of the time, I found clunky.
The book is redeemed to an extent by some great descriptions, the delivery of casulty telegrams being one good scene.
Overall, while i have no argument with the accuracy of the events portrayed, I feel that Mr Follet may have been better to have reduced the scope of the epic and used history as a background to the characters lives rather than awkwardly dropping them into each significant event. Not a book I could immerse myself in, rather, I skipped along the top, unable to find a way in
This audiobook is worth every cent and every second. I would very happily recommend this book to family and friends.A masterful piece.
Ken Follett is an outstanding author. Yet, I find it very hard to compare one skilled writer's work with other skilled writer's work, even of the same genre, as their styles often differ quite dramatically... and so attempting to compare their work is a bit like debating which is the best type of friut.I can, however, state that there is no better wordsmith for his standard and style of work. The way he keeps your attention from start to finish, never under nor overstating life and it's bare,sometimes brutual, sometimes sensual, but always honest realities. He just weaves you into the lives of his characters and never lets you breath until he's finished.
I have not heard John Lee's performance before, but his reading style is personable and clever. His interpretation of humour is simple and real, and his ability to hold your utter attention in dramatic moments is highly skilled. Brilliant performance... and I will be pleased to listen to any of his other readings.
I certainly laughed at times. And, I was certainly provoked to deep consideration of incidents and experiences, astonishment for the intricate manipulations of the war machine of the early 20th century, disgust for the polarised standards of rights and responsibilities, and I was prompted to empathy,sadness and even tears for the distainful attitude of negligence for life.
Brilliant work. Exceptional story. Plot and networking to real events was outstanding. An utter pleasure that I was sad to finish. A clever, highly skilled work that will stay with listener for some time... Superb!!
This is an enormous book. It tells the story of 5 different families in the years from 1910 to 1924. The research involved must have been immense and the book is almost successful. Perhaps this should be two books because I felt that the different stories all lost dynamism in cutting from one to the other. Nonetheless this is what might be called a 'jolly good read'.
I felt that the writing about the fighting on the Somme, the leading up to it and the reasons for it's dreadful body count were among the best I have read.
The audible version was rather spoilt for me by the reader who attempted numerous accents with varying degrees of success. I also cannot see why a German or Russian needs to speak with a strong German or Russian accent if he is speaking in his native tongue.
Tell us about yourself!
This was a book really worth listening to. Not only was this due to Follett's strong narrative skills but because it was read by John Lee: he read with calm objectivity which linked his outstanding management of the many voices and the accents ??? wonderful acting.
This is an interpretation of the major events of one hundred years ago ??? the causes and the conduct of the first world war, rise of the Bolsheviks, the Versailles treaty and unionism, amongst many compelling themes. Follett demonstrates the human tragedy, the waste and pointlessness of war, the foibles and careless decisions of many of the leaders, both military and industrial (leaders coming from the so called ruling classes), the fights for women's rights. He clearly shows where he feels the seeds for future wars were laid.
And all this is very human as he interlaces stories of the personal lives of interesting characters.
So, one hundred years later, what have we achieved from the hell of the battle of the Somme? It was not easy to watch the news and ask whether the modern decisions of giants, the desperate current revolutions are just mirror images of the limits to humanity that Follett presents.
Yes absolutely!! Fall of Giants is compulsive listening. I got so involved in the characters lives, loves and losses. A great insight to the different classes of the time and how war impacts on them. Love Ken Follett books - this is the third novel I've listened to.
I love this narrator! I so enjoy listening to him, he has wonderful tone and a beautiful accent and he reads at the right pace - not too slow, not too fast, and I was able to absorb the story fully. He can switch accents several times in one sentence - amazing, and brings the characters to life! I actually look for books that are read by John Lee now.
Yes. John Lee's reading takes me into the story.
I loved Eth. Her ability to rise above mysogisistic jibes. A woman before her time.
A great story, with a good smattering of history to educate us.
I would recommend this Audio book to anybody, it is an amazing book.
The understanding I got from the history of the 20th Century, the motivations of actions that shook the world of my grandparents, described in a way that I could believe and understand.
I would choose another book read by John Lee, if it was a choice between him and anyone else. Some less than kind comments have been made previously. They are not what I have found.
This is a huge book, as are most of Ken Folletts books, which are particularly suited to audiobooks, due to the size, reading of a book of this length would take forever, and I probably would get sidetracked by something else before i finished.
The story is one of fiction wrapped amongst fact. The ability to read a story immersed in a great plot but at the same time learning fact is delightful and entertaining
The reader was amazing his ability to speak with authentic accents Welsh, Russian, Cockney,American,Upper class English, he could switch from one to the other easily . It made the story really come to life. The plot is interesting and engaging . I spent many nights until the early hours listening when I should have been sleeping.
It was an interesting way of learning the history of WW1 from a human point
They were all essential
billy rock solid character
Great story looking forward to no 3 and John Lee does a sterling job of Narration 5 stars John !!
Ken Follet has packed this epic with accurate information on the 2nd World War, its prelude and aftermath. I am going to have to listen a second time as there is much I would like to put into perspective.
It is difficult to say there is another book one can compare this one to, but from an historical perspective, much of what is captured in the following, one can appreciate in "Fall of Giants" is set out in some detail in: The history of the South African forces in France by John Buchan, and Pyramids and Poppies: The 1st SA Infantry Brigade in Libya, France and Flanders by Peter Digby.
Walter von Ulrich stands out as the most credible character for me - compared to most of the other characters, he was unaffected in playing politics and manipulation others.
Of Aristocrats and Comrades
As a reader of World War 2 History, I think this was the most enjoyable and refreshing overview of the Great War I have ever come across - and historically accurate as well!
Probably the best audio book I have ever downloaded. The narrator is brilliant at keeping the book alive with good accents for different characters. The story itself is also great, i didn’t know too much about this period and almost nothing about the Bolsheviks in Russia but this novel takes you through it on a level at which anyone could relate to the experiences of the characters.
Funny, thrilling, interesting and educational.
Write another one please!
"What a discovery"
I have found this an absolutely absorbing listen, and have even found myself drawn to listen to another chapter at times outside my normal listening schedule. It has encouraged me to purchase a further two of the author's books as I had not listened or read any of his books before.
Gripping novel which kept me hooked! I think this has helped me understand the causes and the length of World War 1 more than any history lesson ever did at school. I really hope Ken Follett follows it up with a sequel as the characters were so realistic and would love to know how their lives evolve....maybe during World War 2? Would recommend unreservedly!
"An interesting piece of social history"
I learnt a lot about the class system in the early 20th century and the reasons for the first world war. The book follows five families: Welsh miners, English aristocracy, German Aristocracy, American upper class and Russian peasants. The story is well woven together, slow at times but enough to keep you interested at all times. I found the book thought provoking and was left wondering why we did not have a revolution in the UK after WW1. Maybe if we had 90% of the wealth would not be with 10% of the people as it is in the early 21st century. (My age group 50-60).
I was engulfed in the story from the start when a 13 year old boy starts work in the welsh coal mine. From here it seamlessly moves around linking 5 different families and follows their lives before, during and after the first world war. This is probably the longest novel I have read (listened to!!) but possibly the best to date. I couldn't wait to listen to the next installment and I'm afraid to admit that my household chores have suffered a bit due to this book. I loved it!! I hope you do too.
"Follett at his best..."
I loved this book, it really gripped me. Written in Follett's usual well paced style with strong female characters (who he always has in his stories) the whole book was just so interesting to me as I knew so little about the era. of course Follett shows us the horrors of war but the idea to depict it back "back home" with all the telegrams from the losses at the Somme arriving all at once was genius. Really moving. Can't wait for the other two sequels. John Lee does his usual great job in the narrators chair and is never pedestrian.
"Fall of Giants"
Ken Follet at his best, well written with fantastic plot and great characters. I cant wait for his next block buster.
A fantastic view of the political and emotional battles in the early 20th Century. Before reading this book if someone had asked me why the First World War was fought, I would have answered "something about an assassination of an Austrian Arch Duke". Now I know the reality, and having always found history books boring, this is brilliant. The characters are wonderfully interwoven with real historical people, that brings this very relevant story to life.
"An absolute must"
Mr Follett has done it again, a brilliant mixture of facts and fiction, believable characters and an exciting stroyline. I will admit that I did struggle at the beginning, the narrator spoke rather fast and I had to get used to the different accents pretty quickly to be able to keep up but once I did I couldn't stop listening. I am an avid reader and I will read the book as well... yes, it's that good!
"A Huge book read by a Master"
I have almost finished listening to John Lee read this book. He is fantastic at doing all the voices and accents. I'd certainly look out for any other books he has narrated. The story of Fall of Giants is astonishing in its scope. It really gives the background to the complicated start of WWI through the lives of the characters. It highlights the differences in lifestyle and expectations in Wales, England, France, Germany, America and Russia. Especially how people are inter-related through their families and servants and make diplomatic connections in the circles in which they move. Most enjoyable listening - but inevitably some very sad scenarios. However, hope shines through.
A mammoth task achieved by Ken Follet. Can't wait to listen to the sequel.
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