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Having read both the Pillars of the Earth and A World without End by Ken Follett I knew I was in for a hefty detail packed epic and Fall of Giants did not dissapoint.
Five families are bought together through the world shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution and the struggle for votes for women.
It is 1911, and the coronation day of King George V. Thirteen-year-old Billy Williams begins his first day at work in a coal mine.
The Williams family is connected by romance and enmity to the Fitzherberts, aristocratic coal-mine owners. Lady Maud Fitzherbert falls in love with Walter Von Urich, a spy at the German Embassy in London. Their destiny is entangled with that of Gus Dewar, ambitious young aide to the U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Two orphaned Russian brothers soon become involved, but Grigori and Lev Peshkov's plan to emigrate to America falls foul of war, conscription and revolution.
Make no mistake this is a massive body of work and after I had worked my way through the 850 pages I was exhausted. This book really travels, be it the horrific conditions or pre-revolutionary Russia, St. Petersberg, to the front lines on both the English and German sides across Europe, or the lush extravagance of London Society placed along side working class life in London and the coal mines of Wales or the relative calm and stability of America.
This book spans the period of time from 1911 to the end of the first world war and the beginning of the 1920's. So much happened in the world during this time and Follett has tried to cram as much of it as he could into his story. The characters here are circumstantial. Some are obviously true situations, others have been created to suit and highlight the factual story at hand. I wouldn't say that the characters are empty, as I certainly followed all of their trials and tribulations with keen interest, more that they aren't as deeply explored as possible.
I'm no history scholar but I did study at A'Level and History was part of my degree, however, I learnt more in a few days of avid reading than I had done in all of my prior studies. I did study the Russian revolution many years ago and was bored bored bored, yet in this book I found the Russian plight possibly the most interesting aspect. I think when history was taught to me I was so caught up with facts and dates that I didn't live the experience, I couldn't relate to the first world war or Russia and I knew a little of the suffragetes but it didn't have any persepective. For me Follett successfully manages to place situations and circumstances in order in my mind. His book is an intensive lesson in politics, history, suffering and law. It wasn't a romp of a read, it was harrowing and worrying.
Read this....do read it. Give yourself plenty of time to read, but to think and reflect too. I am still reeling from the effects that so few people can have on so many. I know that's a common statement but when it comes to war it's devastating. I can foresee that this tale will eventually be televised (like Pillars of the Earth has been) and done well it will make amazing viewing.
There are two more books to follow making this into a trilogy and comprehensive it is too. I eagerly await the next tome.
I did not get the prequel, Pillars of the Earth but saw the Mini TV series. That was very well made and I got this book. I am more than happy that I did. Very interesting from start to finish. I am not really aware if as in the prequel the characters are from real life history but the book is so well written and ties in with other events I know to be factual that I believe they may be real. It starts well and gets better. There is a lot of reference to characters in that first book. The characters are entertaining but as with so many of the books I read it is the descriptions of life and conditions of the era that captivate me. The medical treatments, the hunting for a witch. All engrossing. The power of the monastry over the common people and the abuse, there is no other word for it, of authority by the religious leaders. The rich, landed and titled basically doing what they want as and when they want so far as rape without consequence. Very interesting, also the manner in the way power corrupts down through each layer of position. I hope will be made for the screen to the same standard as it's prequel. All in all, a great book, especially for any semi history buff
I have first heard of Ken Follett when I borrowed World Without End from a friend. I enjoyed so much reading that book that I bought the first book in that series, Pillars of the Earth as well. These books tell the story of a comunity that lived around the years 1200 which was very interesting for me, as I am not English and these books gave me an insight of that period in English history.
So I was very happy when my Mother in Law gave me the Fall of Giants as a Christmas present.
The book tells the story of WW1 in a very intersting way. It describes people from different classess of society and different countries. In the end some of these characters come to know each other.
It's a very good way of getting a taste of history and wishing to know more about this period. While I was reading this book I often found myself wanting to know more about that period and why things happen in that way.
It is very interesting how he manages to give the reader a taste of different cultures. It is very easy, when you read the book to imagine yourself being in the place that Ken Follett describes. He mainly describes societies from Germany, England, Wales and Russia.
I look forward to the other 2 books from the series. I presume one of them will describe the World War 2 which I cannot wait to read.
I've read several Ken Follet books and all of them are excellent. Pillars of the Earth and World Without End are just magnificent. He's a great story teller in every way.
This latest book from our Ken is no exception. It's a big 'un at over 800 pages long but that is necessary because you won't want the book down.
It starts before WW1 and finishes after the war has ended. There's lots of people involved, some working class, some in extreme poverty and others in extreme wealth, several of whom meet at certain times.
I'm not a fast reader but even I read this in under two weeks and then bought another copy for my sister for Christmas!!!
If you love books about people and their day to day lives with what's going on around them and how they can make mistakes, fall in love with the wrong people and learn from it then this book is for you.
A truly excellent work.
Fall of Giants is the latest novel by English author Ken Follett and is the first part of a trilogy. The fall of giants is a book set just before and just after the events of the First World War and gives views on the war from different perspectives.
Ken Follett is a bestselling author best known for his great epic novel The Pillars of the Earth which is a novel about the building of an English cathedral in the 12th century. He followed up this novel with the less success but no shorter in length World without End. Both Pillars and World without end come in at or around 900 pages and Follett has continued his love of the written word by writing this novel which is another 900 pages long.
Fall of Giants
The Fall of Giants is a set of intertwined stories in which some of the characters are known to the others and some are not. The characters all have important voices in terms of the public opinion over the First World War from the British, American, Russian, and German perspective.
The book starts with the story of Billy Williams or Billy Twice as he's known who at the age of 13 is starting his first day as a miner. We soon meet his sister Ethel who works for Earl Fitzherbert at the local manor house, the Earl also has a sister Maud. Billy, Ethel, Fitz and Maud are central characters in the novel and indeed are the books core components from them nearly all the other characters revolve. Maud is romantically linked to Walter a German diplomat, Walter is also friends with Fitz and Fitz is married to Bea a haughty Russian Duchess.
The final component of the tales are two Russian brothers Grigori and Levy, the brothers father was executed on the orders of the Duchess Bea and their mother shot for protesting against the Tsar. Grigori will stay in Russia and Levy will go to Cardiff then the states where he will meet a local Russian businessman and make his daughter pregnant. The daughter was promised to Guy Dewar, a political activist working for the American president who is friends with Fitz and Walter.
These are the staple characters and the novel begins in 1913 with Billy going to the mine, Fitz hosting a party of young diplomats for King George V in which Fitz, Walter, and Gus will talk to the King about the current situation in Europe. During the party, there will be a mining accident, Billy will aid in the saving of the miners trapped, the mine owners will seek to evict the families of the dead miners and Fitz will support the mine owners. This event will colour the rest of the novel and firmly set the rich conservative elements in England and Germany against the Socialist forces such as Billy, Ethel and Maud.
The book then leads into the First World War but surprising for such a novel actually spends a lot of time between the shooting of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo and the beginning of the war about 2 months later. This is explored through the travails of Walter and his machinations in stopping a world war, he of course fails but at least this establishes him in the novels as one of the heroes.
As with most of Ken Follett novel's there is a huge amount of social comment with the forces of conservatism being cast as the enemies in the book. There are characters in the novel with liberal views and their voices are emphasised rather than the reasons for the more conservative actions of Fitz and Walter's father. The blame for the war, and the Russian revolution is firmly placed at the door of the rich, upper class unbending, unthinking faction which though perceived belief in nation and religion drag their country through turmoil.
Even dodgy working class characters such as Levy is cast as an anti-hero rather than a gangster which in truth he is. The Russian storylines have as yet to fully interact with the other main characters in the books, other than the early loss of their father through the actions of Princess Bea. However, I'm sure that will change in the future novels, the depiction of the Russian revolution gives largesse for the author to bring in the socialist ideas and give them full and free airing.
Follett writes huge epic novels, they tend to explore the inequalities of wealth and privilege and are firmly left wing in view. However, the book is very readable, the characters believable but the constant left wing views is a bit unbelievable at times. Billy was my favourite character with his blend of Christian beliefs and Socialist views; Earl Fitz was a bit over the top as the unbending Conservative peer and Maud as his liberal suffragette sister was a bit of a stretch but just about worked.
This novel was a great read and I'm looking forward to the other two parts of the trilogy.