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Fall of Giants

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This is an epic of love, hatred, war and revolution. This is 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 This is an epic of love, hatred, war and revolution. This is 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 emigrate 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.


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This is an epic of love, hatred, war and revolution. This is 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 This is an epic of love, hatred, war and revolution. This is 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 emigrate 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.

30 review for Fall of Giants

  1. 5 out of 5

    Beth Bedee

    It's a little disappointing that people are rating this book on Amazon out of protest of its price. It's low rating does not give the book the recognition it deserves. This is my first Ken Follett novel, and I am hooked. I've read where some people have not been that interested in the subject matter of Fall of Giants and prefer the Middle Ages. I'm fascinated with 20th Century history, so this is right down my alley. This novel covers the years of WWI and the Russian Revolution and fo It's a little disappointing that people are rating this book on Amazon out of protest of its price. It's low rating does not give the book the recognition it deserves. This is my first Ken Follett novel, and I am hooked. I've read where some people have not been that interested in the subject matter of Fall of Giants and prefer the Middle Ages. I'm fascinated with 20th Century history, so this is right down my alley. This novel covers the years of WWI and the Russian Revolution and follows 5 families. Their stories all connect at some point. While you invest in the characters, the story is plot driven and moves pretty swiftly through the years. There are times that a character may be left for a year before we hear from him again. But you don't feel like you're missing any crucial information. My favorite portions were before and after the war. There is quite a bit of battlefield sections in the middle. They are well written, but I am more interested in the people than military tactics. I was surprised at how quickly this book reads. Despite it's huge size, you can read it pretty quickly if you have the time to devote to it. I thoroughly enjoyed this. My Review of Winter of the World

  2. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Rochelle

    One of the early reviews I read stated that this book lacked one of Follett's infamous villains. I disagree. The ultimate villain in this enormous book is clearly war and perhaps the arrogance of world leaders. I've always had a difficult time understanding the why surrounding World War 1 and this book helps put it in perspective (even if it is fiction). I remember learning in history class that the US got involved because the Germans torpedoed the Lusitania. And it did play a part, but that happened in 1 One of the early reviews I read stated that this book lacked one of Follett's infamous villains. I disagree. The ultimate villain in this enormous book is clearly war and perhaps the arrogance of world leaders. I've always had a difficult time understanding the why surrounding World War 1 and this book helps put it in perspective (even if it is fiction). I remember learning in history class that the US got involved because the Germans torpedoed the Lusitania. And it did play a part, but that happened in 1915 and the US didn't declare war on Germany until late-1917/early-1918. I STILL don't understand why Germany got all the blame...wasn't it the Austria-Hungary Empire that started the war for NOT backing down to a fight with Serbia?! Obviously, WW1 was fought because a bunch of arrogant world leaders didn't want to look weak. Looking back, they all look like spineless jerks that killed millions of people because they wanted to "rule the world". By destroying the German economic system after all the fighting was done, they helped Hitler gain power and kill millions more in WW2. Way to go early-20th century world leaders...thanks for all the memories. I really enjoyed this book and think it's worth it for everyone to read! While the beginning was a little slow (primarily because of all the character introduction required), it picked up speed and was difficult to put down (despite how heavy it was)! If you liked this, try John Jakes' North and South trilogy. I really think that Fall of Giants is for the 20th century what North and South was for the Civil War. Review of Book 2: Winter of the World

  3. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    This book is utter trash. Is that too harsh? Let me rephrase. This book is a steaming pile of garbage. Still a bit mean? It doesn’t matter. Ken Follett does not care. His editor and publisher do not care. His accountant certainly is indifferent to this complaint. It’s not that Ken Follett is critic proof, because that implies that he achieves astronomical sales figures despite scathing reviews. That’s not the case. Rather, he achieves those astronomical sales with the apathetic approbation of cr This book is utter trash. Is that too harsh? Let me rephrase. This book is a steaming pile of garbage. Still a bit mean? It doesn’t matter. Ken Follett does not care. His editor and publisher do not care. His accountant certainly is indifferent to this complaint. It’s not that Ken Follett is critic proof, because that implies that he achieves astronomical sales figures despite scathing reviews. That’s not the case. Rather, he achieves those astronomical sales with the apathetic approbation of critics usually quick to slash and burn. Ken Follett cannot be criticized. He is covered in Teflon, Kevlar, and Valyrian steel. Book reviewers understand this and have given up. Still, it needs to be said. This book is awful. And I don’t care that Ken Follett can’t hear me because his ear canals are plugged with diamonds. Moving on. Let us start with what Ken Follett is not. He is not a poet. He is not a short story writer. He does not craft literary fiction. He doesn’t even do thrillers anymore. Instead, Ken Follett writes dumbbell-sized works of historical fiction that manage to be simultaneously prodigiously researched and absolutely inauthentic. What is Ken Follett? Ken Follett is a wizard. He is an alchemist. He takes magic beans, plants them in fallow earth, and grows trees that shed money. He turns charcoal into diamonds, iron into gold; he sleeps in a room built from emeralds, and blows his nose in the finest silk. His ingredients are horrible characters, lack of psychological insight, lumbering plots, and striking coincidences. He mixes all these into 1,000 pages and creates a bestseller. Ken Follett has entered into a dark pact. I’m sure of it. To be fair, Fall of Giants does not aspire to be great, National Book Award-contending literary fiction. Ken Follett does not want to be Jonathan Franzen; he doesn't even want to be John Jakes. There isn't a very high bar for this kind of book. Unfortunately, I can’t imagine any bar that Fall of Giants actually hurdles. It’s not good fiction, it’s not good literary historical fiction (ala War and Peace), and it’s not good historical fiction. Ken Follett makes Herman Wouk read like Proust, and Terry C. Johnson appear as Dostoyevsky. Fall of Giants is the first in a proposed “Century Trilogy.” It is an ambitious undertaking, I’ll grant, and I’d be far more excited if a different author’s name was above the lame, innocuous title. Instead, there are at least 2,000 more pages of inanities to come. [Cue Ken Follett’s accountant going Gangnam Style]. The plot of the first installment is easily summarized: it’s World War I. Literally. The historical realities dictate everything that happens in this novel. Follett has taken the historical timeline and plugged it with so-called “characters” meant to give these real-life events human-sized drama. You will find more drama, however, on any Wikipedia page. These turbulent years – somehow made exceedingly boring with Follett’s paralyzing touch – are viewed through the eyes of five interrelated families. It would be a stretch to call these characters archetypes. The words “cardboard cutout,” “tired clichés,” and “hopelessly derivative” are much more apt. Nothing happens or unfolds or is said that hasn’t happened, unfolded, or been said better in other books or movies. There is no wit, warmth, or ingenuity to be found. The only surprise is that Follett does exactly what you expect him to, every single time. Take, for instance, Earl Fitzherbert, the English Lord of the Manor. Take a wild guess what he’s like. Conservative. Check. Insufferable. Check. Against suffrage. Check. Sleeping with his maid. Check. You might not believe it, but there’s also star-crossed lovers! Yes, I know, you didn’t think he’d pull the whole German man in love with a British woman bit (so daring!). But this is Follett. He does it. And if you also surmised that this German man will be suspiciously anti-imperial (no spiked helmet or pointy mustache here!), you are also on the money. Or what about the Williams family? They’re Welsh. They’re coalminers. As though there is a difference. Also, you know they’re Welsh because the son, Billy, calls his dad “Da.” I stand in awe of the research it must have taken to uncover that nugget of detail. The use of “Da” and “Dai” is the extent of the Welsh idioms employed by the Williams family. It is the extent of the use of any idioms, really. Every character, whether English or Welsh or Russian or American or German speaks in the exact same way: unconvincingly. That is, they converse in robotic monotones meant to deliver historical exposition to keep us moving down the timeline toward the sequel. There is never a moment when two characters share original thoughts, insights, or profundities. I found no evidence, on the basis of the many interactions and conversations that occur, that anyone in this novel is a human being. Take, for instance, an exchange between Gus and Rosa. Gus works for President Wilson. He won’t let you forget about that, because it’s all he talks about. He also has a big head. Rosa has one eye. That is the extent of their characterizations: “I’m sorry,” [Rosa] said. “For you, for me, for the world.” She paused, then said: “What will you do?” “I’d like to join a Washington law firm specializing in international law. I’ve got some relevant experience, after all.” “I should think they’ll be lining up to offer you a job. And perhaps some future president will want your help.” He smiled. Sometimes she had an unrealistically high opinion of him. “And what about you?” “I love what I’m doing. I hope I can carry on covering the White House.” “Would you like to have children?” “Yes!” “So would I…I just hope Wilson is wrong about them…He says they will have to fight another world war.” “God forbid,” Rosa said fervently. God forbid, indeed. SPOILER ALERT. Gus and Rosa’s big-headed one-eyed children will have to fight another “world war.” If there’s a more awkward and clumsy way to set up the next book, I frankly really, really, really want to read it. For humor’s sake. Everything about Follett’s recreated world seems fake. It’s like a studio back-lot for a western movie: everything is a façade, with no actual dimensions. Every location, from England to Germany to Russia to the United States feels exactly the same. Follett’s research is a facile gilding. In Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, Follett demonstrated his inability to create memorable personages or write convincing dialogue. Yet he also did a marvelous job cramming period-specific detail into the story. I still shudder to think about medieval bread, thanks to Follett’s meticulous recounting of how it was made. Nothing like that level of detail is present here. Instead, famous events are often passed off in the form of exposition. Towards the end of the novel, there is a nice little scene showing rampant inflation in postwar Germany. This small, intimate, anecdotal moment, shows Follett at his best, working his research into his larger story. Mostly, though, things like Gallieni’s “Taxis of the Marne” and the rise of Lenin and Trotsky come through in clunky dialogues. Historical fiction gives you the chance to breathe new life into actual people. Follett decides to ignore this opportunity completely. Despite walk-on roles by dozens of famous people, none of them is given even the hint of a spark. I'm not asking for something along the lines of Tolstoy's creative realization of Napoleon. But you have to do more than simply mention Sir Edward Grey's name and expect me to swoon at the verisimilitude. One of the odder things I’ve noticed about Follett is his inability to write a big set piece. His earlier work (Eye of the Needle, Night Over Water) showed him to be a precise plotter of containable dramas. Since he’s expanded his tableaus, however, he has lost his sure grip. I compare it to a movie director like Kevin Smith (director of small budget, dialogue-centric films) directing a big action movie. Follett just can’t do it. His battle scenes are silly and empty and fake. His big Russian Revolution moments are a confusing mess. And don’t even get me started on the bad sex scenes. There’s only one! I used to be able to count on Follett to prepare three or four euphemism-free adult encounters that would leave me searching for a bottle of wine. Not here. As Follett has reached his widest audiences yet, he seems to have toned down his erotic impulses. All we get is a handjob during an opera. That’s a shame. Perhaps the only interesting thing about this novel is its unusual political undercurrents. Generally, I think most people still hew to the Germans-were-the-aggressors-and-the-Allies-were-the-heroes line of World War I. (That casting is one of the consequences for Germany's actions in World War II). Follett takes a different tact, lingering on Great Britain's questionable decision to enter the war. His recollections of Unions and workers's revolutions is also generally favorable, though I doubt the masses realize they are reading their fake-history with a leftist slant. Even so… I am a slow reader. Since I do a lot of reading on the exercise bike, I have been able to track my pace. A sturdy hardcover history of the Civil War recently saw me at a 30 page per hour pace. Normally, I’m at around 40 hardcover pages in an hour. With Fall of Giants, though, it was 50 pages. His books go down easy. I think they are horrible in every objective way. (Though I give all credit to Follett for finding actual roles for his women. They are just as one-dimensional as everyone else, but they're never window dressing). Despite the quality of his latter-day novels, they are also fun to read. To me, the horribleness is even a bit endearing. And there’s no way I’m missing the sequel.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dana Ilie

    A sweeping epic with the pace of a thriller, I could scarcely put it down. This ambitious novel, the first of a projected trilogy covering most of the 20th century, tells the story of five interrelated families—American, German, Russian, English and Welsh—as they negotiate the tremendous events of the First World War and the Russian Revolution. Through the various characters—and there are quite a few—we witness the First World War in the trenches and in the halls of government, from each s A sweeping epic with the pace of a thriller, I could scarcely put it down. This ambitious novel, the first of a projected trilogy covering most of the 20th century, tells the story of five interrelated families—American, German, Russian, English and Welsh—as they negotiate the tremendous events of the First World War and the Russian Revolution. Through the various characters—and there are quite a few—we witness the First World War in the trenches and in the halls of government, from each side of the conflict. Revolutions on the home front, from women’s suffrage to the rise of the workers, keep pace. It is a period of intense change, a time when giants, be they royalty, tradition, or whole nations, are destined to fall. Follett’s story builds like the coming of far-off artillery fire. Barely rumbling at first, the tempo quickens until it breaks in a crescendo of world-changing events. With Follett’s considerable talents as a storyteller, one experiences a fast-paced, unforgettable journey with characters rich in emotion and intellect. These are people we care about. We feel the plight of an unwed mother trying to survive in a society that affords her few rights and little help. We’re with the workers of St Petersburg, oppressed by the brutal regime of the Tsar. Although personalized through the lives of these and others, the history is not trivialized. This period is described accurately – even one well versed in history may pick up something new – yet it manages to be superbly entertaining as well. This excellent work is destined to be a classic, and holds great promise for the following two novels.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Genia Lukin

    Do not say that I don't like historical fiction - because I do. Do not even say I don't like Follett - because I rather do. In fact, this highly praised - and very thick - volume I'd been anticipating eagerly, both because I had pleasant memories from The Pillars of the Earth and because currently I am rather WWI mad; I read Tuchman's classic works, Maddox Ford, not to mention Hemingway and Remarque, because I am fascinated by the subject. So what in the world went wrong with this book?

  6. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    After being highly impressed with the Pillars series created by Follett, I hoped to find as much depth and development in the Century Trilogy.The premise, following the fates of five interrelated families against a backdrop of world events is brilliant in its imagining and stellar in its delivery. The reader is introduced to Billy Williams early in the novel, as he enters the Welsh mining pits. His family acts as a wonderful bridge as Billy's sister, Ethel, a housekeeper for the aristocratic Fit After being highly impressed with the Pillars series created by Follett, I hoped to find as much depth and development in the Century Trilogy.The premise, following the fates of five interrelated families against a backdrop of world events is brilliant in its imagining and stellar in its delivery. The reader is introduced to Billy Williams early in the novel, as he enters the Welsh mining pits. His family acts as a wonderful bridge as Billy's sister, Ethel, a housekeeper for the aristocratic Fitzherberts, takes a fateful step outside her accepted caste. Lady Maud Fitzherbert herself crosses deep into forbidden territory, bridging the story into another family, when she falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a German living in London while tensions mount and the Great War is imminent. Filling out the cast of characters is Gus Dewar, an American law student who begins new career in Woodrow Wilson's White House, and two Russian brothers, Grigori and Lev Peshkov, who seek the freedoms that America alone can offer them. Follett lays the early foundations of a very powerful and deeply intertwined novel sure to grow as history progresses, putting families, nationalities, and alliances to the test throughout. The historical arc of the novel, 1911-1924, covers a great deal and touches on some very important events. With the rise of the Great War developing throughout the early part of the novel, the reader is pulled in to view things from all sides. Additionally, the snapshot of Russia shows the discontent seen in the streets and the eventual rise of revolutionary sentiment. Underlying these political changes, discussion about universal suffrage cannot be ignored or discounted as important both within Europe and North America. Follett captures these threads and spins them inside the larger character development seen throughout the novel. It only adds to the greatness and intricate detail of this novel. This was my second reading of this novel, the first coming soon after its release. I felt that once the trilogy was done, I ought to take the time to read all three and see, with no interruptions, how the series grows and its characters develop. Fans of the Edward Rutherfurd multi-generational sagas will surely fall in love with this book, as will those who loved the nuanced character development of Jeffrey Archer (who is currently penning his own multi-generational series). Follett has bitten off much in this trilogy, but has shown his ability to keep all his characters under control and following a decisive path. He captures the reader's attention and allows them to choose a favourite storyline, knowing full well that it may merge with another before the novel is done. I cannot wait to see how things develop as families intermingle and offspring hold alliances that may and will clash. Stellar work and I am so glad I came back to this for its full effect. Kudos, Mr. Follett for this wonderful opening novel in the series. You have my rapt attention. Like/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/

  7. 4 out of 5

    Graeme

    The story was enjoyable enough and certainly kept me entertained for a couple of days. The recreation of the early 20th Century was very vivid, and I was impressed by how well Follett applied his considerable skills in this respect to a variety of nations and social classes. To cover so many years in any decent amount of depth was a great challenge, to which Follett rises well. The story was fast-paced and the build-up to the War was particularly well managed. The particularly notable aspect of The story was enjoyable enough and certainly kept me entertained for a couple of days. The recreation of the early 20th Century was very vivid, and I was impressed by how well Follett applied his considerable skills in this respect to a variety of nations and social classes. To cover so many years in any decent amount of depth was a great challenge, to which Follett rises well. The story was fast-paced and the build-up to the War was particularly well managed. The particularly notable aspect of Follett's storytelling is that he manages to weave together a great many themes in one fluid story: the First World War; political reform in Britain; social upheaval in Russia and the development of the United States as a significant world power. This was well executed and allowed a free-floing narrative to become established. Given that long periods of time could elapse between two appearances of each character, anticipation builds significantly over the course of the story and it is interesting to see how each character's situation has developed over days, months or even years. Nevertheless, there are some problems with the book, mainly in characterisation and in the relations between the characters in the story. Rather than allow the characters to be merely players on a bigger stage, Follett insists on engineering direct connections between them, no matter how unlikely the circumstances. Many of the meetings and sightings between characters, particularly during the War, are highly contrived. For instance not once, but twice, two characters, one German, one English, are posted directly opposite each other in the trenches: convenient, given that they are old school friends. While this did allow a reunion over the Truce of Christmas 1914, enabling Follett to detail this interesting occurrence and add some emotional depth to the section, the second time it happens seems rather less well considered and seems to stretch the boundaries of belief. In another instance, the same German is noticed by an American soldier who believes he 'may have known him before the War'. Again, the sighting seems somewhat heavily contrived and does not add much in the way of emotion or character development. There are many occurrences like this within the book, and the more there are, the less easy they are to accept. It is a shame, as this does somewhat derail the narrative and as a result I could never quite find myself immersed in the story. One can't help but feel that the narrative my have been served better if Follett had not deliberately created links between so many characters, rather allowing more to progress through the story unnoticed by the others. Characterisation did also become a problem. For example, Earl Fitzherbert begins the story as very much a product of his time: a Conservative peer with a revulsion towards reform. However, he is not an unplesant person and, despite his infidelities, generally comes across reasonably well. When he reaches the War his natural gallantry and sense of honour come to the fore when he is forced to battle against the wills of stubborn senior officers in order to persuade the BEF to put up stauncher resistance against the Germans. Unfortunately, after this he becomes rather more of a charicature, almost becoming a pantomime villain towards the end. He becomes the typical 'donkey' officer, so beloved of mainstream history and so clear in the modern public imagination. Indeed, this is a problem with the recreation of the War throughout the book. Follett's is a modern, mainstream interpretation, mainly based on the thoughts of anti-war poets from the trenches and is firmly rooted modern perceptions. Much recent history on the period has demonstrated the gallantry of officers, as well as the numerous new tactics implemented by British high command in order to win the War: Follett prefers to rely on the popular imagining of waves of brave privates and NCOs being thrown repeatedly against barbed wire and machine guns while the officers sat safe in the dugouts. Such interpretations are not true. By the end of the War, the same officers, notably the much-maligned Douglas Haig, had turned a loose bunch of several million conscripts and volunteers into an extremely efficient military machine: no mean feat when one considers that the pre-War British army was only around 100,000 men at its height. Even during the peak of the Peninsular War and Waterloo campaign the army only reached the dizzying heights of 150,000 men. Moreover, Follett seems to create an anti-war feeling throughout the lower classes, with only the upper classes in all the countries in the book showing support for the War. This is certainly untrue and there is plenty of poetry from front-line troops who enjoyed their War and believed wholeheartedly in their purpose. I don't deny that there was anti-war feeling, but I do feel that Follett's interpretation is somewhat misleading in suggesting how widespread it was. The novel also seems to suggest that German support for the War extended no further than the upper classes and the diplomatic service: this is, again, disingenuous. I am no expert on the matter, but for a very convincing argument, Gordon Corrigan's 'Mud, Blood and Poppycock' is an essential counterpoint to many modern assumptions. Finally, the rapidity and ease with which the characters seemed to fall in love with each other became tedious. Every time it led to some rather stilted love scenes which broke the flow of the narrative. Furthermore, the relationships seemed reasonably unimportant and did not deserve as prominent a place in the overall story as they seemed to receive. The numerous times when characters declared their undying love for each other, or fell in love after the briefest of associations became irritating rather than engendering any emotional response to the situation. That said, I would recommend the book as it was an entertaining story and Follett's attention to historical detail is highly admirable, making it an enjoyable story. I look forward to the rest of the trilogy and my only hope is that the later characters might be more deserving of a response from the reader. EDIT: On reflection I'm not sure I would recommend this book. Since I wrote the review the sequel has come out and I haven't even thought about picking it up. It's a shame, because I had heard good things of him, and will probably still try Pillars of the Earth (which has sat on my shelf for far too long).

  8. 5 out of 5

    R.K. Gold

    So addictive! I am posting a review on YouTube. My review is entirely character-based, because the plot is just World War I. If you enjoy multi generational family sagas this trilogy is a must read. It has a healthy batch of heroes and assholes that make your skin crawl. I don’t want to give away any spoilers so I’ll just end this with Eff you Earl Fitzherbert you’re a selfish prick 😂

  9. 4 out of 5

    Choko

    *** 3.33 *** "...“Men were the only animals that slaughtered their own kind by the million, and turned the landscape into a waste of shell craters and barbed wire. Perhaps the human race would wipe itself out completely, and leave the world to the birds and trees, Walter thought apocalyptically. Perhaps that would be for the best.”..." Here we are again, reading another tome by Ken Follett and trying to pinpoint my feelings about it. Not an easy task, I tell you that. As always, he is being hailed bot/> *** 3.33 *** "...“Men were the only animals that slaughtered their own kind by the million, and turned the landscape into a waste of shell craters and barbed wire. Perhaps the human race would wipe itself out completely, and leave the world to the birds and trees, Walter thought apocalyptically. Perhaps that would be for the best.”..." Here we are again, reading another tome by Ken Follett and trying to pinpoint my feelings about it. Not an easy task, I tell you that. As always, he is being hailed both as a genius and a complete failure as a writer, but I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. I also think it depends on your expectations of his work. Do you expect perfect historical account seen from multiple POV's, or do you read him for the human drama and interpersonal relationships? Either way, I doubt you will be fully satisfied. "...“A baby was like a revolution, Grigori thought: you could start one, but you could not control how it would turn out.” ..." For those who look for character development and interpersonal human relationships, let's be honest, Follett is not the man to turn to. The way he writes how people communicate with each-other is stiff, cold, unnatural and very robotic. There are no gradations, no nuances, no color to any of it. It is like a overly-dramatic Mexican soap-opera, where all the evil folks are only evil and all the good ones are pure as snow. Yes, they supposedly always go through some ethical or moral dilemma, supposedly they are tempted toward the darkness or light, and very predictably they go with their initial inclinations. If this type of drama works for you, you get plenty of it:) "...“His talent was to express his readers’ most stupid and ignorant prejudices as if they made sense, so that the shameful seemed respectable. That was why they bought the paper.” ..." There is something to that, I think:) If you are in it for a sweeping Historical Fiction, you are in the right place. The novel takes place predominantly in England, France, America and Germany in the years before WWI and all the way to several of years after it finishes. It gives a very good overall look at the class, political, and international tensions which led the world to the first really major war in the 20th century. However, once again Follett is very ambitious at attempting to cover most of the war and the conditions of the people of the different sides under them, thus falling short in truly expressing the horrors of that time. Don't get me wrong, I think he does great in a "WWI History Review Class 101" kind of way, but when you take on this type of scope, it is difficult to make a real point of the different struggles, since everything becomes more of a lesson and less of a human condition portrait... His prose does not help the matter. It is stiff and emotionless, despite being informative and succinct. At times I felt like I was reading telegrams from the front lines of the war. I can see how it would be very interesting and illuminating for people new to the subject or those who have learned only from one side of the conflict and this is why I think it has its place in contemporary historical fiction, but just as always, I wish there was more!!!! So much more! Funny to say that about a book of close to a 1000 pages. "...“Tommy stood on a chair and made a speech of welcome; then Billy had to respond. “The war has changed us all,” he said. “I remember when people used to say the rich were put on this earth by God to rule over us lesser people.” That was greeted by scornful laughs. “Many men were cured of that delusion by fighting under the command of upper-class officers who should not have been put in charge of a Sunday school outing.” The other veterans nodded knowingly.” ..." The other big issue I have with his attempt at staying neutral is not necessarily through historical facts omissions, although there are plenty of those because of the scope and all, nor the equally preachy takes on the core of aristocracy, peasantry, capitalism, socialism, communism, and so on. He takes sides by making the characters representing the ones he sympathies with the smart, likable, honorable and honest ones, the ones which by the positive slant of the story, the readers will gravitate to and root for. Thus we get the smart, independent and much more honorable than all others Billy, a Welsh miner with barely anything to his name, juxtaposed against the stick-in-the-mud conservative, oblivious of real life and emotions, unthinking, hating, callas and also a bit weak aristocrat Fitz, who has everything but wants more and the status-quo preserved as far as the class system is concerned. It is not the only example where we get to hate the aristocracy and think them incompetent and stupid, while the uneducated, simple, poor, and hard-working guys seem to always come up with the moral high ground. We are used to that though, since we got plenty of it in the Pillars of the Earth series. However, he changes that when it comes to Russia and goes another way with the wealthy in America and the uneducated classes there... Gus, the American wealthy class politician who works for the president comes off as a boy-scout in training, earnest, honest and honorable, while the immigrants in the country are all criminals and rubbish.... Obviously not everything is neutral... If I am being completely honest with myself, I do not think that any of us can write with complete neutrality, since everything goes through our perceptions and our personal ideologies and prejudices do end up on the page, no matter how much we try not to, so I am not really complaining, just pointing it out... "...“How exciting to be at the center of power.” “It is exciting, but strangely enough it doesn’t feel like the center of power. In a democracy the president is subject to the voters.” “But surely he doesn’t just do what the public wants.” “Not exactly, no. President Wilson says a leader must treat public opinion the way a sailor deals with the wind, using it to blow the ship in one direction or another, but never trying to go directly against it.” ..." So, trying to summarize my feelings, I have to say that Follett sucks at writing about relationships and he only uses them to hang the lesson-review of History on the characters' backs, so he has a way to make it more personal. As long as you look at it this way and forgive omissions due to impossibility to cover everything in this format, I think this is a good book to give you the feel for the World during WWI. Don't expect something too deeply emotional, he does tend to point and tell, not so much stop and look for the hows or whys of human sensibilities. I know I will read the rest of the books in the series and will try to keep my expectations to the limits of those conditions:):):) "...“The ability to listen to smart people who disagree with you is a rare talent” ..." Now I wish you all Happy Reading and may you always find what you Need in the pages of a Good Book!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sean Barrs the Bookdragon

    Ken Follet’s style quickly engrossed me into the characters and their lives. The book follows the lives of several families in the events that led up to the First World War and the crisis afterwards. We see it from the perspective of an English Noblemen, an English working class family, a pair of Russian brothers, a German with strong prospects in government and an undersecretary working for the Wilson administration. Through this we get a multi-dimensional view of the war. A complete picture of majorwar.A Ken Follet’s style quickly engrossed me into the characters and their lives. The book follows the lives of several families in the events that led up to the First World War and the crisis afterwards. We see it from the perspective of an English Noblemen, an English working class family, a pair of Russian brothers, a German with strong prospects in government and an undersecretary working for the Wilson administration. Through this we get a multi-dimensional view of the war. A complete picture of major powers This allows the reader to understand the turmoil these events caused on everyday people from both sides of the fence. We see the effects the war had on ordinary people, and how political events that did not really concern them changed their lives. I think this does wonders to evoke the time period this was set in; it captures the opinion of nations and their fears towards a world that is quickly becoming enveloped in War. In addition to this, we see the nobility, and the gentry, respond to the crisis in ways that reflects their station. I think through combining these perspectives we get a strong admission for what the world was like during world war one. Moreover, the characters themselves are incredibly interesting people. Their lives are not exactly remarkable, but I think the way Follet writes captures something that many authors fail to do. It may be because they are realistic; thus, they can be related to very easily. They feel like the kind of person that would have existed at the time, and the problems they face reflect the age in which they lived. Indeed, the book covers social issues such as inequality of women and racism, mostly toward Jews. This again enhances a reading experience that is true to the age. It’s very rare that in a book with as many points of view as this one that none of the characters stands out in particular, to me, because they are all equally well written. A neutral judgement of the war I especially like the way the book is told from a neutral sense. The Germans are not blamed for the war, by the author, as they were at the time by other nations. Follet hints at what could have happened during the war if the Germans made different decisions. Through his narration he suggests that if the Germans were less concerned with their country’s honour, and the appearance of power, then perhaps the war would have had a different resolution. I think this is an interesting social comment because the Germans, at the time, were blamed for a war they didn’t really start. The English too, and the French, could have quite easily made some war avoiding decisions. “In every country, those who were against war had been overruled. The Austrians had attacked Serbia when they might have held back; the Russians had mobilized instead of negotiating; the Germans had refused to attend an international conference to settle the issue; the French had been offered the chance to remain neutral and had spurned it; and now the British were about to join in when they might easily have remained on the sidelines.” This is a very long book, but it does not feel like one. Follett’s prose writing is fantastic as this book only felt as long as it needed to be. The only reason I gave this book four stars, and not five, was that I personally prefer reading novels based upon ancient or medieval history. I really liked this book, but I would have preferred to see Follet spend his time writing more books like The Pillars of the Earth and The World Without End. Follet is one of my favourite authors and because of this I read a book that isn’t my personal taste. I’m glad I read it, but I could only ever give it four stars because the history is too recent for my liking. A strong four stars

  11. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating epic tale!, August 5, 2010 This review is from: Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy) (Hardcover) Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?) This is a fantastic epic, the first in a planned trilogy by the author of The Pillars of the Earth (now a miniseries) and World Without End. I simply raced through the pages, unable to put this book down even though it was a hefty nearly 1000 pages. The story moves seamlessly and logically, starting in 1911 and e 5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating epic tale!, August 5, 2010 This review is from: Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy) (Hardcover) Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?) This is a fantastic epic, the first in a planned trilogy by the author of The Pillars of the Earth (now a miniseries) and World Without End. I simply raced through the pages, unable to put this book down even though it was a hefty nearly 1000 pages. The story moves seamlessly and logically, starting in 1911 and ending in 1925, and has a large cast of characters -- all so beautifully developed that the reader comes to care about each one -- the good and the bad. A helpful CAST OF CHARACTERS is provided at the beginning of the book that may be copied and used as reference, but it is really not needed as the reader is introduced to each and they are so memorable that it's easy to keep them straight. The families are American, English, Scottish, French, German and Austrian, Russian, and Welsh. There are Lords and Ladies, Dukes and Duchesses, Kings, Queens, Earls, Dukes -- even the servants, miners, and other assorted people populate this work of fiction. The author has also inserted real historical figures into the story, and their interaction with Follett's characters is very well done. Book one of the CENTURY TRILOGY is set in Europe before, during and after World War I. From a mining town in Aberowen, South Wales, to the drawing rooms of the privileged aristocracy in Russia, Britain, Germany, and to the War Room in the White House of Woodrow Wilson -- the narrative captivates as it tells the tale of the people involved in the conflict and their lives during this period of change in the world. The story is intriguing and complex, but eminently readable. The violence and gore that were present in Follett's previous works is absent here, and the action is fast and the storytelling fantastic. I have a fondness for historical fiction, and this work does not disappoint as the author has obviously thoroughly researched the era and has rendered it beautifully. I won't and can't provide a synopsis of this book other than to say that it's a drama about life and love during these fateful years and I promise you that this will go down as being one of the best books you've ever read. I cannot recommend it highly enough and can't wait for the sequel! Historical fiction at its best.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dem

    At 985 pages, Fall of the Giants is a massive tome and the first book in The Century Trilogy, 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. These characters find their lives inextricably entangled in a saga of unfolding drama and intriguing complexity, Fall of Giants moves seamlessly from Washington to St. Peter At 985 pages, Fall of the Giants is a massive tome and the first book in The Century Trilogy, 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. These characters find their lives inextricably entangled 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 the coal mines to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty. As with all Ken Follett novels the characters and historical events are extremely well researched. I love his attention to detail. I really enjoyed following the lives of all the families involved as well as reading the dramatic historical events at the beginning of the 20th Century. I think Follett’s prose flows and his storytelling is effortless which makes a novel of this volume so easy to read. I love books that can incorporate history with fiction and not make the reader feel bogged down with facts but yet you come away with a little more knowledge than you started with. Fall of Giants is a big read and I started the novel by listening to it as an audio book but switched in favour of a paperback. For me this was a great historical read and I am really looking forward to Part Two of this trilogy.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Hailey (Hailey in Bookland)

    Definitely my favourite WWI history novel I have read thus far. Beautifully captures the troubles of WWI on all spectrums, not just politically or on the battlefield.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lavonne

    I have loved just about everything Ken Follett has written, but I think this one fell short of his usual standard. Most of his novels grab you from the beginning, with fully-drawn characters and gripping plot lines. I wasn't even done with the second chapter before I began to wonder if I was even going to like this. I think he may have tried to accomplish too much with this story. There were so many characters with so much going on in their lives. There was not enough time to give more than a gl I have loved just about everything Ken Follett has written, but I think this one fell short of his usual standard. Most of his novels grab you from the beginning, with fully-drawn characters and gripping plot lines. I wasn't even done with the second chapter before I began to wonder if I was even going to like this. I think he may have tried to accomplish too much with this story. There were so many characters with so much going on in their lives. There was not enough time to give more than a glimpse of each character's personality and motives, even though the novel was almost a 1,000 pages long. I will grant that quite a lot of research had to have gone into it before the writing. However, the political details read more like a history book and made it very hard to dredge though. One part that did make me chuckle was when one of the characters had a chance to view a chapel that was built around 1000 AD. He couldn't figure out why other people were so enchanted with old churches. Remembering "Pillars of the Earth", which might be argued as Follett's greatest novel, I think that was a little "tongue-in-cheek". This is the first book of a planned triology and I probably will read the others. I will wait until they come out in paperback, though. This novel didn't leave me breathlessly waiting for the next.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    Fall of Giants is a door stopper, one of those books that makes me glad I have an e-reader for the sake of my wrists. At close to 1000 pages, it's long, and at times it feels like it. The first time I tried to read it, I didn't have the patience, but this time, I settled in for the long haul, determined to give it some time. That patience made all the difference. This is an astounding historical epic. It takes the events leading up to World War I and the Russian Revolution and fills them with characte Fall of Giants is a door stopper, one of those books that makes me glad I have an e-reader for the sake of my wrists. At close to 1000 pages, it's long, and at times it feels like it. The first time I tried to read it, I didn't have the patience, but this time, I settled in for the long haul, determined to give it some time. That patience made all the difference. This is an astounding historical epic. It takes the events leading up to World War I and the Russian Revolution and fills them with characters on all sides that you can relate to and feel for. I didn't like all of the characters, but I understood them and their motivations, and they were so real. Follett paints them in neat brushstrokes - just a few lines here and there for each character that bring them to life. And then he proceeds to take you through the war and its aftermath through their eyes, through dashed hopes and picking up the pieces of lives. It is surprisingly not bleak, and surprisingly spends little time on the actual battles of the war. Those are only the focus when they move something forward, when they are pivotal for a character or for the direction of the war. Even then, the focus is more on strategy or what is happening to the character than on the violence. (Not that you don't get a sense of that, too, but it's not a battle slog.) I really appreciated that it didn't get bogged down in the trenches, dwelling on the horror and slaughter. Instead, it stepped back and looked at the reasons why people did what they did, and how the world got into such a mess and then couldn't get back out. It's been a while since I learned about the Great War in school, so this was a fantastic way to refresh my memory - and to realize with my more adult understanding that there was good and bad on all sides, humans exploiting others and grasping for power, and other humans just trying to find a way to live in peace. If anyone was bad in this take on history, it was the upper classes, not restricted to any nation - although Russia got the worst of it. It was the elite who dragged the poor working people into the war, who oppressed them and allowed them to starve while they continued living in style. It was the elite men who didn't want working women to have the right to vote, etc. So this addresses social issues such as class and women's rights, and just briefly, race. And it does it in such a readable way. There were only a couple of times that I felt it was slow, and that was when the focus was on characters that I wasn't so interested in. I'm amazed at how easy it seems for Follett to bring all of these strings of sweeping historical and social change together in real people that you fear for, and make it understandable as well as engrossing. It is magnificent and deeply personal at the same time. Highly recommended to anyone who reads historical fiction and is in the mood for a rewarding epic. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Initial DNF Review, September 19, 2012: I gave this a decent try, but just couldn't get into it. I really enjoyed the The Pillars of the Earth - it was one of the first historical fiction novels that I discovered and loved - but I felt more connected to the characters and their challenges, not to mention the epic cathedral project, from the beginning. This one is more 'sweeping' as it has been described. For me, that's not necessarily a good thing. The difference of time period may also be a factor - I enjoy reading about the Medieval Era, but have never really been able to get into books about the 20th Century wars. Pillars was centered around a priory town with lots of political intrigue and the building of a cathedral (cool architectural stuff!) and how ordinary people were affected by these things. Since that initial experience, I've discovered by trial and error that not all historical fiction is for me (it turns out I'm picky), and I think this is simply another mismatch for me. Whatever the reason, I put it on hold when I was tired of trying so hard to like it, and never felt compelled to come back to it. I suppose that could still change, but for now I'm happy to leave it where it is.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jo (The Bookish pianist)

    Normally I can rate a book pretty quickly, without giving much thought to it, but this one, was difficult. I'm fairly neutral with how I feel about this book. I've definitely read worse, but then I've read better as well. This has been hailed as a masterpiece. This is no masterpiece and in my experience, it quickly became a headache. There are some aspects of the book that I did like, though. I liked the fact that the characters Maud and Ethel were from very different backgrounds but were both c Normally I can rate a book pretty quickly, without giving much thought to it, but this one, was difficult. I'm fairly neutral with how I feel about this book. I've definitely read worse, but then I've read better as well. This has been hailed as a masterpiece. This is no masterpiece and in my experience, it quickly became a headache. There are some aspects of the book that I did like, though. I liked the fact that the characters Maud and Ethel were from very different backgrounds but were both confidently fighting for women's rights. I'm going to say that though, as I'm a feminist. I feel their characters themselves were not as developed as I would have liked though. I appreciate the amount of research that has gone into the writing of this book, especially when one is talking about the war itself. My problem is, that the majority of the second half of the book was eaten away by these battle scenes, and that quickly became tedious for me. I usually enjoy historical fiction based on war but this was too much and the main plot kind of got lost in it. Despite this book being nearly 900 pages long I do think Ken Follett tried to accomplish way too much in this book. We are introduced to a vast array of characters with stories to tell but we only get half of these stories and glimpses of their lives, which made me feel so much less for those characters, as I felt I couldn't relate to them. I feel that the writing was simple and phrases were definitely overused. If I read the term "After they made love" once more, I'll scream! Seriously, throwing that phrase in there in every chapter major things dreadfully cumbersome. This book was certainly readable but it dragged too much for me to really enjoy it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    Meh. I love Ken Follett. Seriously, has a better epic period novel been written than Pillars of the Earth? I even like his other more basic stuff like Whiteout and A Dangerous Fortune. Sure they are simple beach novels but they are good reads. Fall of Giants seems like it can't decide if it wants to be the beach novel or the epic period novel. So the result is flat characters, a listless storyline, and rocket paced love affairs. This is Grey's Anatomy meets World War I, without the hospital. Just the romantic interests...o Meh. I love Ken Follett. Seriously, has a better epic period novel been written than Pillars of the Earth? I even like his other more basic stuff like Whiteout and A Dangerous Fortune. Sure they are simple beach novels but they are good reads. Fall of Giants seems like it can't decide if it wants to be the beach novel or the epic period novel. So the result is flat characters, a listless storyline, and rocket paced love affairs. This is Grey's Anatomy meets World War I, without the hospital. Just the romantic interests...oh and more marriages. It is strange to say, but the backdrop of World War I is so trivialized that it is almost casual. Follett managed to bring significantly more pathos and emotion to the building of a Cathedral than the battles of Russia, Germany, England, Austria, and the US combined. Don't get me wrong, his effort here is no less sweeping and dramatic than Pillars, it just falls woefully short of making me care about any of the characters. I'm still surprised he managed to say so little in 985 pages.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    The first of a promised trilogy. Focus is on the early 1900s detailing a vast array of characters affected by the coming Great War (WWI) which helps along the process of women's suffrage, trade unions, topples nobility and the rise of the Bolsheviks in Mother Russia. WWI focus is less on the battles and more on the suffering. The very end of this 1000 page tale shows the aftermath of the war and the ominous foreboding of another World War to come. TRIVIA: Woodrow Wilson was the first president t The first of a promised trilogy. Focus is on the early 1900s detailing a vast array of characters affected by the coming Great War (WWI) which helps along the process of women's suffrage, trade unions, topples nobility and the rise of the Bolsheviks in Mother Russia. WWI focus is less on the battles and more on the suffering. The very end of this 1000 page tale shows the aftermath of the war and the ominous foreboding of another World War to come. TRIVIA: Woodrow Wilson was the first president to leave the U.S. on official business according to the book but Wiki claims it was Theodore Roosevelt. CHARACTERS/DIALOGUE: B to B plus; STORY/PLOT POINTS: B; SETTING: B plus to A minus; OVERALL GRADE: B to B plus; WHEN READ: September to November 2010.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Srividya

    My teens was when I first and I think last read Ken Follett. I wasn't really impressed then with his books, despite those books being touted as some of his best works ever. Well, goes to show how different individual liking can be. So, when I chose to read this book, it was more for the subject than the author, although I had heard a lot of good things about the way the author had written the book etc. Nevertheless, I was sceptical and wasn't really expecting anything better than an average read My teens was when I first and I think last read Ken Follett. I wasn't really impressed then with his books, despite those books being touted as some of his best works ever. Well, goes to show how different individual liking can be. So, when I chose to read this book, it was more for the subject than the author, although I had heard a lot of good things about the way the author had written the book etc. Nevertheless, I was sceptical and wasn't really expecting anything better than an average read, which I thought would take me a long time to finish, given that I a naturally disposed towards other shinier books all the time! However, I was in for a surprise. Not only did I finish the book quickly (at least according to me it was quick) but it was a page turner and non put-downable book (okay that phrase is mine and not correct English but believe me, it is worth that tag)! Ken Follett, through the lives of five families, recounts some of the world's most important historic moments and what's more is that he does it with a certain panache and pace that is definitely worth praises. In the beginning when I started the book, I wondered how he will link and manage to keep the families right along with their successes/defeats/growths/setbacks etc. but he doesn't fail one bit in the handling of the characters or their lives or their stories. Nowhere are you left wondering what happened to X character or Y character. What is even better is that he incorporates real life historical figures into the storyline with aplomb and it never feels artificial or contrived. I loved the plot building and character building in this book. What I loved most was the fact that the two were intertwined with each other and supported each other really beautifully. The events led to the casual growth of the characters and the characters growth led to the events and the two did meet beautifully. Another aspect that I loved of this author in this book is his presentation of his characters. Each of them have shades that are unique and nowhere does the author force you to think of them as good or bad. In fact, he leaves all the judging to you and allows himself the freedom to develop them in a way that perhaps speaks to him whilst also speaking to us. I loved and hated and then loved all the characters through their journey, such was their impact on me. Nowhere did I continue to feel the same way for any character, except perhaps Billy and Grigori, both of whom I was rooting for throughout the book. The beauty of the characters created by Ken Follett is such that even when they are doing something wrong, they do it with such a style that you end up admiring them for that rather than hating them. One such character is Lev who I feel is the best and the worst character (one you love and hate and hate that you love) in this book. A few discussions regarding the book in the past brought to my notice that some of the historical facts stated here in the book were either wrong or somewhat exaggerated. While it did bother me a little in the beginning, given the fact that the author has done more than 20 years of research and consulting experts in all fields before penning this book; I would like to say that it didn't take away from me the enjoyment given by this book while I read it. I think it was fun and while moving along with the characters in their lives, I was more caught up in their fictional tales rather than the historical aspect. This meant that I enjoyed it so much that I was reluctant to take away even a single star from my rating. However, if you are a history buff and are well versed in the World War scenarios, some of it might irritate you, I am not sure. In such cases, I guess you need to read it as a fictional tale set in that historical period and just let go of the historical accuracies or inaccuracies, if any. For myself, I am not well learned or read in the matters of that period, so I took everything that came my way as the truth or as much truth as it can be and enjoyed the story. If you are willing to enjoy a good tale, with some real and imagined characters, set in the backdrop of one of the world's most important times, please go ahead and read it. I assure you, you won't be disappointed. Finishing the book last night, I felt akin to losing a part of myself and that to me is the best thing a book can do. I was so engrossed in it that I forgot everything else, except maybe periodically updating my progress here in GR. LOL! Once I put it down after it ended, I wanted to rush and start the next book in the series and believe me I almost did that. However, sanity prevailed and I stopped myself...the reason being that I largely wanted to dwell and drift in the thoughts and feelings created by the first book in my mind. While I do that and also look forward to reading the next book, why don't you give this one a try? Rest assured that you will be entertained! :) Happy reading! :)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Renata

    Ken Follett is a spellbinding storyteller. You can count on him to create a complex plot around an almost dizzying array of characters with a vast range of character traits from scoundrels to nobly inspiring as well as throwing in real historical figures. I listened to his Century Trilogy last year and was thoroughly caught up in both the history and the often times soap opera of the many characters lives. I never really count listening to audio books as reading, but I probably need to revise m Ken Follett is a spellbinding storyteller. You can count on him to create a complex plot around an almost dizzying array of characters with a vast range of character traits from scoundrels to nobly inspiring as well as throwing in real historical figures. I listened to his Century Trilogy last year and was thoroughly caught up in both the history and the often times soap opera of the many characters lives. I never really count listening to audio books as reading, but I probably need to revise my perspective on that as I am listening to almost as many books as I read. The first book in the series is my favorite for several reasons. Most importantly I enjoyed it because Follett did an exceptionally fine job of portraying in some detail the political climate in England, Germany, Russia, and to a lesser extent the United States in the years leading up to WWII. He did this quite artfully by giving voice to an array of characters from different social levels as well as nationalities. I could feel my blood pressure rise during their debates and verbal exchanges. Prior to this my knowledge and understanding of the period leading up to WWII was a sketchy skeleton of key words: the Versailles Treaty, the Archduke of Sarajevo, the overall social unrest and economic hardships throughout Europe and in America. It has also remained my favorite in the series because I thoroughly enjoyed the various groups of characters he introduced - the Welsh coal mining family was one of my favorites. The stories were also enriched because Follett showed how different the thinking and perspectives were across generations. Later in on series I grew quite tired of some of the characters and some of the plot contrivances made me roll my eyes in exasperation. But now I laugh and think what an impressive job he did in creating a compelling pageant of those war years with a focus on the social as much as the political upheavals. He allowed us walk in the shoes of many men and women throughout Europe and America - he created a world perspective.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Michael Smith

    This first novel in the Century trilogy is truly excellent, and it lays a magnificent foundation for what I hope are equally impressive parts two and three. There is striking development in all the major characters as they move through two decades in the early twentieth century. Follett meshes his skills as a thriller writer with his even greater talents in historical fiction, so that this massive book, with its interrelating families from America, Britain, Germany, and Russia, is much like a pa This first novel in the Century trilogy is truly excellent, and it lays a magnificent foundation for what I hope are equally impressive parts two and three. There is striking development in all the major characters as they move through two decades in the early twentieth century. Follett meshes his skills as a thriller writer with his even greater talents in historical fiction, so that this massive book, with its interrelating families from America, Britain, Germany, and Russia, is much like a page-turning thriller in its own right. The book fleshed out a lot of history for me, including events leading to World War I and the Russian Revolution. While Follett has an afterword explaining his historical approach as building on either absolute fact, or what might have happened within the bounds of actual history, the level of trust Follett builds with the reader means that you instinctively know that you have real history in front of you as you move through the novel. You know for instance that there is not going to be a Lloyd George speech in Parliament that’s totally made up, or which changes history to drive some sub-plot. I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by John Lee, who magnificently brought out numerous accents, including different kinds of Welsh accents.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rohit Enghakat

    Simply stupendous and engaging ! This is a sweeping historical saga from 1911 to 1924 covering principally, the World War I. The myriad characters mingled with the historical events was so interesting that it keeps you hooked. The best part I enjoyed were the opposing views and reasons of both the Germans and the Allies for the occurrence of World War I. The author gives a dual perspective with awesome finesse. Will take some time off from the Peshkovs, von Ulrichs and Fitzherberts. W Simply stupendous and engaging ! This is a sweeping historical saga from 1911 to 1924 covering principally, the World War I. The myriad characters mingled with the historical events was so interesting that it keeps you hooked. The best part I enjoyed were the opposing views and reasons of both the Germans and the Allies for the occurrence of World War I. The author gives a dual perspective with awesome finesse. Will take some time off from the Peshkovs, von Ulrichs and Fitzherberts. Whew !!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot.... I can't really say what kept me from picking up this behemoth when it came out, but Ken Follett's Fall of Giants never demanded my immediate attention. I stumbled over it here and there, but it wasn't until I saw the audio edition available for check out through Overdrive that I really considered tackling the title. I wont lie, Fall of Giants is long, the story lines are unbalanced, the cast is unusually large, the characterizations are not com Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot.... I can't really say what kept me from picking up this behemoth when it came out, but Ken Follett's Fall of Giants never demanded my immediate attention. I stumbled over it here and there, but it wasn't until I saw the audio edition available for check out through Overdrive that I really considered tackling the title. I wont lie, Fall of Giants is long, the story lines are unbalanced, the cast is unusually large, the characterizations are not complex, and many of the individual arcs are not satisfactorily concluded by the final page. That said, the book is not about any one person, it is about an intense period of time, a few short years that changed the course of human history, and in that light I feel the novel an indisputable success. A fully comprehensive snapshot would be impossible to create, but Follett's representation is the next best thing. He captures the experiences of individuals from a variety of backgrounds and social standing and pairs it with the political, international, and social issues that dominated their lives. The end result is an intensely personal and multifaceted illustration of both WWI and the Russian Revolution. Follett's work is meticulously researched, but his ability to deftly weave together the stories and experiences of five families against such a massive and immersive backdrop sets Fall of Giants apart. It's intimidating as hell to look at, but if anyone ever asked if I would endorse it, my answer would be an immediate and enthusiastic yes.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jen from Quebec :0)

    Wowzers- this powerful novel was SO very wonderful that I do not yet have the proper words to explain. If you like history, especially the history surrounding the 1st World War, you should be reading this book at this very moment. I immediately sought out the 2nd book to continue this epic saga of families from 5 of the major countries involved in the battle, complete with familial character charts ala George RR Martin's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series. This book is every bit the same sort of ma Wowzers- this powerful novel was SO very wonderful that I do not yet have the proper words to explain. If you like history, especially the history surrounding the 1st World War, you should be reading this book at this very moment. I immediately sought out the 2nd book to continue this epic saga of families from 5 of the major countries involved in the battle, complete with familial character charts ala George RR Martin's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series. This book is every bit the same sort of magnificent magnum opus, only grand in scope on the real stage of Earth's history as opposed to a mythical setting. This book was all consuming. I have a degree in history and nothing new (historically) was revealed to me, but to have the chance to read incredibly well developed characters interacting in this real life war was fun, engaging, enlightening and I repeat- all consuming. I was captivated to the point of losing sleep and ignoring loved ones in order to continue reading towards what I KNEW would be a sequel, yet still could not stop...Yup. That's all I have for now, to try to explain this gem by Ken Follett. --Jen from Quebec :0) **UPDATE = Have since added the Audible versions o both #1 + #2, and 'twas a good choice! (PS) *Nerd Alert*

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chris Berko

    This was a great book. I very much enjoyed reading it and was impressed by the way it went from being personal and intimate to grand and sweeping seamlessly and sometimes over the period of only a couple of sentences. Very memorable characters and from page fifty on I was in love. BUT... My suspension of disbelief could only be put on hold for so much and I got really tired of the coincidences and the characters running into one another in the middle of a war multiple times got really old. This was a great book. I very much enjoyed reading it and was impressed by the way it went from being personal and intimate to grand and sweeping seamlessly and sometimes over the period of only a couple of sentences. Very memorable characters and from page fifty on I was in love. BUT... My suspension of disbelief could only be put on hold for so much and I got really tired of the coincidences and the characters running into one another in the middle of a war multiple times got really old. Talking to other people I know in real life that had read this said for them it made the story more real and believable but for me it took me out of the story and ended up being more of a distraction. Four stars for every once in a while being jolted back into the real world because of the "yeah right" moments.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Leila

    I didn't realize I'd end up finishing the book in less than a week but yeah, it's that readable and engrossing and entertaining that I couldn't put it down. So much of the events of WWI have become clearer to me now. (For the longest time, as far as I was concerned, World War I was just a collective term for that war in Europe, and even as I was aware of its impact, it never occurred to me that this was a major turning point in the history of most European countries and the United States, maybe I didn't realize I'd end up finishing the book in less than a week but yeah, it's that readable and engrossing and entertaining that I couldn't put it down. So much of the events of WWI have become clearer to me now. (For the longest time, as far as I was concerned, World War I was just a collective term for that war in Europe, and even as I was aware of its impact, it never occurred to me that this was a major turning point in the history of most European countries and the United States, maybe even more than WWII was.) Pillars of the Earth is still a much better read than Fall of Giants, and contains much more historical context, but Fall of Giants still follows the usual Ken Follett tradition.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters

    I liked it... I liked it... I liked it... When is the next one coming out?

  28. 5 out of 5

    Erato

    4,5/5 Review to come

  29. 5 out of 5

    Glee

    A disappointment. I was so taken with The Pillars of the Earth, I really looked forward to this book. However, this has a real paint-by-numbers feel and while reading it was a notch above reading my high school history tomes, it wasn't by much. It was sort of interesting to have characters inserted into World War I events (pre- and a tiny bit post-), but it still felt like plodding through a textbook. And the Russian Revolution. Sheesh. What a bunch of ideological/philosophical claptrap... it re A disappointment. I was so taken with The Pillars of the Earth, I really looked forward to this book. However, this has a real paint-by-numbers feel and while reading it was a notch above reading my high school history tomes, it wasn't by much. It was sort of interesting to have characters inserted into World War I events (pre- and a tiny bit post-), but it still felt like plodding through a textbook. And the Russian Revolution. Sheesh. What a bunch of ideological/philosophical claptrap... it reminded me of the worst of Kim Stanley Robinson's lecturing on not just forms of government but the actual forming of government in the Red/Green/Blue Mars trilogy. Whether or not you agree or disagree with Robinson's world view, I found it hard to appreciate 50 pages of dialog of actual floor debates. And now to my disappointment, Follett does the same thing with the Bolsheviks, the Mensheviks, the revolutionaries, the counter-revolutionaries, the Reds, the Whites.... I have a headache. Important issues of justice and civil liberties turned into an absolute bore. Nevertheless, I do feel I understand the whys and wherefores of WWI in much greater depth than I did before. And I can really appreciate the citation for bravery that my grandfather earned in France in 1917-1918 (signed by Pershing, no less). What a nightmare those never-ending battles were. So, while I can't recommend this book unless you are looking for a way to avoid reading an actual history text, I am glad I read it. And I'm really glad I'm done. As always, historical fiction is much easier to digest than straight history.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tom LA

    Listened to the audiobook. Realized with horror that i had bought the abridged version about half way through. Still, I enjoyed this book immensely. I might even read the hardcover now. I think many reviewers are completely missing the point when they say, arching their arrogant eyebrows, "this is not intellectual enough", or "it's not literature", or "it's not War and Peace". First, if Tolstoj was alive and writing today, no publisher would ever accept to publish his over-long and over-detailed Listened to the audiobook. Realized with horror that i had bought the abridged version about half way through. Still, I enjoyed this book immensely. I might even read the hardcover now. I think many reviewers are completely missing the point when they say, arching their arrogant eyebrows, "this is not intellectual enough", or "it's not literature", or "it's not War and Peace". First, if Tolstoj was alive and writing today, no publisher would ever accept to publish his over-long and over-detailed books. Times have changed. I love Hugo, but he wrote the right type of books to publish 200 years ago, not today. Second, Follett has never expressed any intention to emulate the grand masters of literature, or to write anything like Jonathan Franzen (good!). He is actually a great fan of Ian Fleming. He loves action, exciting plotting and drama. This novel is a wonderful work of fiction, that takes place within a very seriously researched historic background. There are a ton of historic novels out there today, and most of them are crap. It's not easy to write one, and to make it as readable as this one. In my opinion this is as good as a modern historic novel can get. Gripping plot, fascinating background. Follett even hired 8 history professors to review his material and make sure that there were no historic inaccuracies, and it shows. So what if it's a bit shallow and doesn't provide the deepest insights into the human soul? It's a terrific read that I would recommend to anyone. Just be warned: Follett is typically shallow, quick, exciting, and a bit cold. p.s. I thought it would be unfair to not even mention the actor reading this abridged version, Dan Stevens: he did a phenomenal job with accents, intonation and voices. Congratulations.

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