Years ago I read a few of Ken Follett's thrillers: Lie Down With Lions
comes to mind. I think I also read Key To Rebecca
and Man From St Petersburg
. Honestly, they were fun reads but none of them got under my skin like Pillars of the Earth
released in 1989. Or eighteen long years later, World Without End
I suppose Follett is best known for his thrillers. Goodness knows he's written twenty-odd. But it's his historical fiction I love. As far as I'm concerned the guy is a genius of the genre.
I don't know where Follett falls in literary circles. My guess is his work wouldn't be considered 'Literature' with a capital "L". Who cares? When it comes to storytelling, the man is pure gold.
His most recent work is Fall of Giants, Book One of the Century Trilogy. And the only negative thing I can say about it is I have to wait until the Fall of 2012 for the next installment, Winter of the World
Fall of Giants is a giant of a book. Just shy of 1000 pages, it's a veritable door stopper. Despite its length, I read it faster than books a third of its size for the simple reason I couldn't put it down. It is the kind of read that you happily lug around so you can snag a few extra pages here and there. By the same token, I was sad when it ended. Now that's a good book!
A Brief Synopsis
The story begins just prior to the commencement of WWI. It follows the lives of several families from various areas of the globe: America, England & Scotland, Wales, France, Germany & Austria and Russia. Follett's characters, fictional as well as real, were so vivid I was invested in all of them, their families and their communities. So when WWI unfolds I was right there, experiencing that monumental war with them. That's the thing about historical fiction, it brings the event,as well as the people, to life.
Of course a novel like Fall of Giants doesn't replace scholarly study of WWI but it is an overview. And as such, it offers examples of how people from the various areas were affected and how the war was a catalyst for other events and political movements. And for this purpose, Follett's facts are well-researched.
Within the first pages of Fall of Giants, there's a map of Europe, circa 1914 and a Cast of Characters that went on for several pages. This did cause me pause. Don't let it put you off. I never once had to refer to the characters' names or relationship to one another. That's because Follett is also a master of logic. At his hand, the entwined stories make perfect sense.
The story ends after the Great War, leaving Follett's pen perfectly poised to take flight with Winter of the World.
My Final Word
If you appreciate historical fiction and books you can get lost in, you'll love Fall of Giants!