Posts Tagged ‘fall of giants book review’

Why Did I Pick it Up?

I was looking for something that was a little more serious than the teeny bopper book series that I had just read and wanted to take my first try at a historically based fiction novel.

I had been hearing about “Pillars of the Earth” (by the same author) and decided to read this one first since it was based on WWI, which is a time period that I’ve had a hankerin’ to learn more about it anyways.

SIDE RANT: Isn’t that funny how in 13 years of eduction that our education system (for the most part) completely fails to teach us about WWI, WWII, and Vietnam?  To top it off, even in college the only place you learn about it is if you elect to take those specialized courses.  While I understand that the Spanish Revolution and George Washington are part of our history, is there really a need for us to learn about that same crap four different times in our curriculum and completely miss the last 100 years of history?  Well, who ever is writing the guidelines must think so….

About the Author

Ken Follett was born in Cardiff, Wales and did not “hit it big” until his11th novel, “Eye of the Needle”, in 1978.  After that Follett continued to write four more best selling thrillers.  But then in 1989 he decided to change course and wrote a novel entitled “Pillars of the Earth”, a novel about building a cathedral in the Middle Ages which you have either read or inevitably heard of if you are a book worm.

While a 1000+ page book about building a church might sounds super lame, I assure you that it can’t be. Oprah’s Book Club, the New York Times Bestsellers List, and millions of readers across Britain, USA, and Germany have told us so.  The sequel, “World Without End’ also hit the best sellers list and featured descendants of the original characters 200 years later in the same town.  They have even adapted the book series into a mini-series that I’ll have to check out after reading the novel.

After those critically acclaimed books Ken published a few more thrillers but eventually came back to historical fiction to being a new challenge, the Century Trilogy. 

This triology kicked off with “Fall of Giants”, focused on the First World War and the Russian Revolution.

About the Book

This books falls just short of 1000 pages packed with historical events with equal parts of secret romances, revenge, affairs, illegitimate children, spies, bootlegging, and anything else that you can think of that actually makes learning about history fun weaved throughout.

The novel begins in the year 1911 and brings us up to 1924 and includes a cast of 124, yes, 124 characters throughout the novel and apparently has six pages in the book that are solely dedicated to the list of characters.

 The Century Trilogy will eventually tell the entire history of the twentieth century, seen through the eyes of five linked families: one American, one English, one German, one Russian, and one Welsh.  Along with their varying origin, the group has all arrays of gender, background, political motivations, and class.  But for now, we start off with our 124 to start in “Fall of Giants”!

Some of key characters include:

  • Billy Williams: A Welsh miner with a union elected father
  • Ethel Williams: Billy’s sister, a housemaid at the Earl Fitzherbert’s country home
  • “Fitz” Earl Fitzherbet: English mine profiteer and part of the aristocratic English government
  • Lady Maud Fitzherbert: Socialite and suffragette sister to Fritz
  • Grigori and Lev Peshkov: Russian brothers, one a hard working and one a crook
  • Walter von Ulrich: Handsome and politically “middle” military figure
  • Gus Dewar: 20-something New York Senator’s son and aid President Woodrow Wilson
SIDE RANT: I heart Gus Dewar even though he started out as a real dummy.


I listened to this for over 30 hours on audio book and still can’t believe how the narrator was able to do American, German, Russian, English and Welsh accents throughout the novel.  Give that guy an Emmy or something already!  It was absolutely amazing how one moment he could be a tough German spy and the next he could be a 20 something Welsh suffragette.

I found the book extremely interesting and educational, with plenty of drama that helped to keep the pages turning.  After finishing the novel, I realized that I learned more about WWI, the Russian Revolution, English politics in the 20th century, the origin of the League of Nations,  communism, and Leninism than I had in the last 25 years, within a 30 hour novel.

So while it’s by no means a history book about WWI, it’s a book that takes fictional characters through the 20th century to real places, through real events, and they even have relationships with real characters.  Ken Follett’s comments on his historical accuracy is as follows, “I do not violate history. Where real people appear in my story, the things they do and say are usually things they really did do or say, or something very similar. For example, the fictional Fitz meets the real-life Lloyd George, and they argue about whether Zinoviev and Kamenev should be deported from Great Britain. In that scene Lloyd George uses words that are taken almost verbatim from a memo he wrote on the subject at the time.”.  

But since there are so many characters and backdrops, I would only recommend this book to anyone that is a committed enough reader to finish this within a month or so.  If you’re not…than I probably would stay away from this one since there are so many different story lines and characters.

****/5 stars

I can’t wait for the next book to come out in 2012 so that I can see what happened with all of my favorite characters next generation!

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