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.
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.
'It always seems impossible until it's done.' (Mandela)
Loved every single word in this novel. Engaging and varied characters, a thrilling plot, and plenty of historical detail that made it an unforgettable read. I've already downloaded book two, Winter of the World and I can't wait to read it The narrator was excellent. I John Lee really brings the characters and story to life.
I read this book years ago, and the following novels in the trilogy. It's one of those reading experiences that leaves you hollow after it is done. In a good way that is. The journey that Follett takes the reader on is one that stays with you for a long time. The characters are beautifully portrayed and developed and the history, our history, makes it not only a good read, but a wonderfully intriguing look at events that shaped the modern world.
This is a must read for anyone interested in historical dramas.
The speed of narration is monotonously constant and unnecessarily fast. I tried to live with that as I was very curious about the story, but the narrator just made it impossible to enjoy the story. The accents given to characters seem illogical and annoying.
Once more, I have no words to describe how glad I am by hearing our world history so gracefully told. Amazing. Of course I have to go on. The narrator, by the way, is out of standard. I recommend both.
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.
"A superb historical novel"
There are many novels based on the impact of the First World War on peoples’ lives but none better than this book. The factual content is an excellent analysis of how countries slipped into what turned out to be a disaster and a salutary reminder of how hubris and stupidity can change the course of history. Where this book scores over a straight historical account of the period is that the author creates such engaging characters who are deftly inserted into this tumultuous period of world history whose fates become personally important and whose imaginary lives illustrate forcefully the impact of the war on all strata of society, on women and countries across the world. The book isn’t jingoistic in that there are sympathetic characters as well rogues and autocrats from both sides of the conflict though there is more sympathy for the ordinary people than for those with influence over events.
I was engrossed for over 30 hours by superb story-telling, excellently narrated, and will be downloading the next part, Winter of the World, as my next listen.
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!
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.
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.
I keep recommending this book to friends. It's one of those books that both educates and entertains - a real winner as I feel I'm improving myself rather than simply indulging in escapism. If the sheer size of the traditional paper version puts you off, then this is definitely one to do audio-style. The narration is spot on.
Rich story-telling in satisfying Follett style. I happened to be listening to the Battle of the Somme as we reached Remembrance Sunday this year - right at the time the papers were full of photos of the poppies at the Tower of London. Really quite poignant.
Setting the key families in the UK, Germany, Russia and the USA gives the listener a very full picture of the world at the time. A fabulous window to history.
I have just finished listening to book two in the series - just as good, though equally harrowing in places. Feeling slightly shattered - the world really did get itself into a right mess, didn't it? Book three has just been released.....fingers crossed it's of the same standard.
"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).
"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!
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