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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Ken Follett starts with a vast canvas for his historical novel set in the second decade of the 20th century. The action takes place in Wales, England, France, Germany, Russia, and the US, and as a historical novel encompasses many actual historical figures and events, with WWI of course central to the plot. Follett has clearly done his homework on the historical setting.

Follett also does an admirable job of reminding us of the true causes of The Great War, and its tremendous cost and folly. He reminds us how closely related are the monarchies and ruling classes of Britain, Russia and Germany, something made even clearer as he weaves the theme of empowerment and equality throughout the novel. Working class characters struggle in their dead-end jobs and in their relations with the ruling class; the British struggle for universal suffrage; the Russians' struggle and revolt against their tsar; and even in the US, with its egalitarian roots, the struggle is still evident, with divisions by class, position, new vs. old money, and even physical attributes.

With all this promise, it's unfortunate that Follett fails to deliver, unable to paint more than the broadest strokes on his canvas. Characters are poorly developed, and seem primarily a vehicle to stitch the plot together and to advance the themes - worthwhile roles, but they need to come to life, too, if we're to engage with the story. As it is, their shallowness makes the narrative mechanical and so much less enjoyable.

For example, characters often pop up half way around the world with the flimsiest of reasons, then appear back again to their home turf - apparently just so they can be present at some historical event. Descriptions of characters or their motives or backgrounds are repeated a few pages on, and often characters seem to fall in love after just a few minutes of conversation and then to quickly imagine themselves married and settled. Because of their lack of depth and Follett's direct, simplistic language, the characters' love lives and (frequent) intimate moments are clumsy and emotionless.

This is the first historical novel I've read in over twenty years, since reading James Clavell's excellent body of work, and unfortunately for both Follett and the reader, there are far better in this genre by authors with more refined skills and a richer grasp of the English language. For a long, light read it's passable, but few will remember this almost 1000 page tome in a few years. Let's hope the remaining two books in this trilogy deliver better.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon December 29, 2010
The cast of characters is long and the story is epic. Fall of Giants follows the lives of five interrelated families: American, Russian, English, German, and Welsh. We follow these families as they move through life during the times of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the hard struggle for women's right to vote.

Billy Williams is a thirteen-year-old boy who enters the mines on the day of this 13th birthday. He has now become a man like so many other 13-year-olds before him in the tiny Welsh town of Aberowen. Gus Dewar is an American law student who is rejected in love but finds a new career working for then President, Woodrow Wilson, in the White House.

Grigori and Lev Peshkov, two Russian brothers who were orphaned set out on very different paths half a world away from each other when their plan to emigrate to the United States falls apart because of the war, conscription, and the revolution.

Billy's sister, Ethel, is a housekeeper for the aristocratic Fitzherberts and takes a fateful step above her station as housekeeper just as Lady Maud Fitzherbert herself crosses deep into forbidden territory when she falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a spy at the German embassy in London.

Each of these characters and a raft of others find their lives entangled as, in a saga of unfolding drama and intriguing complexity. The story moves from Washington, D.C. to St. Petersburg, Russia, from the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the hallways of power to the bedrooms of the mighty and beyond.

Although the story was good, I was a tad disappointed as I did not find this story nearly as good as `Pillars of the Earth' or `World Without End'. I think we were spoiled with those two novels and anything less than that is going to be a disappointment. I'm hoping the second book in the trilogy coming out in the Fall of 2011 will be much better than Fall of Giants.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2014
Interesting book, nice introduction to interesting characters, but felt a bit bombarded by the historical events.
They seemed to play more of a starring role rather than a supporting one.

Ken Follett is a wonderful writer, and i am excited to read more of his work.
His characters and their descriptions makes you feel like you really know them.
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on July 16, 2013
I cannot deny that this book was incredibly historically detailed. But for me, too much detail and not enough story. I enjoy historical fiction, mainly the two world wars, but in this book there is so much information about WW1 that it becomes difficult to stay interested. There is too much story and info in this to fit one book. Needless to say, for someone to write a novel like this is amazing, but the story lost itself many many times in the four years of the facts of the war. It is about 1000 pages long and covers all four years of the Great War as well as some years following it and how it affects five different families. I believe I counted 135 characters, who all play a big part in the book. I would not recommend this if you do not like plenty of historical detail in a story.
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on November 11, 2010
This book took me less time to read than I had anticipated. It was simply because I speed read through most of the 'war sections'. The story line was most interesting and for that reason I stuck with it. Anyone who is a 'war buff' would likely get much more out of this book than I did. Pillars of the Earth was more enjoyable for me to read, than this one was.
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on April 30, 2015
I found it too detailed about war politics and war maneuvers.however I finished it and will read the next one.
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on December 11, 2014
Disappointed because it is a paperback, not hardcover.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2011
Fall of Giants was an interesting and entertaining read and supplied me with some valuable historical facts. As usual with Follett, the story is better than the actual writing, which is at times limited to simple declarative sentences. I have accepted this in previous Follett works because the story lines are engrossing.

However, I was a bit put off by the political views that crept up on me. The forces that led to WW I were depicted as black or white, good or bad, with the good almost exclusively the forces represented by lower socioeconomic classes. Those who had more money, power, or influence, always achieved their circumstances through luck, inheritance, or evil, never through their own hard work, while the downtrodden were noble, hard-working, and stepped on by the bosses. The business owners were all evil, making their livings on the backs of the workers, with no saving graces at all. I was halfway through the book before I realized I was reading a socialist tract.

Events in our world are rarely so well defined.
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