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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fall of Giants: FANTASTIC!
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...
Published on Nov. 23 2011 by Deborah Serravalle

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Tad Disappointing!
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...
Published on Dec 29 2010 by Louise Jolly


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fall of Giants: FANTASTIC!, Nov. 23 2011
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!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb re-telling of the history of World War I, Nov. 6 2010
By 
Paul Weiss (Dundas, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Fall of Giants: Book One of The Century Trilogy (Hardcover)
When Ken Follett was asked why he chose to write FALL OF GIANTS, the first novel in his planned CENTURY trilogy, the intersecting history of five families beginning in the early years of the twentieth century, he responded:

"The 20th century is the most dramatic and violent period in the history of the human race. We killed more people in the 20th century than in any previous century, in the trenches of World War I, in the Soviet Union under Stalin, in Germany under the Nazis, Spain under Franco. There was World War II and the bombing of Dresden by the British and Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was a horrible century and yet it is also the century of liberty."

"Very few countries were democratic before the First World War. In Britain in 1900, fewer than a quarter of the adult population had the vote. None of the women had the vote in any of these countries, so that's 50 per cent of the people who weren't allowed to take part in democracy. And the franchise was gradually extended to working class men, so democracy really only had a toehold in the world in 1900. Now we take it for granted, certainly in all the countries we think are "civilized." And that's a big contrast with what we did in terms of killing each other."

FALL OF GIANTS, by telling the engaging stories of the lives of these five families, also tells the story of Europe and its politics as so many nations stumbled foolishly into World War I; as many countries extended the franchise to a small fraction of women and working class men; as Russia toppled their monarchy and moved towards an equally repressive Communist dictatorship after the Bolshevik Revolution; as the USA unilaterally assumed the role of the world's policeman and spearheaded the development of The League of Nations; and as a minor German radical, in the teeth of a crippling imposed peace settlement, implemented the National Socialist party beginning the steady march to a second global conflagration even as many European nations swore, "Never again"!

Some reviewers have criticized Follett's characters as being flat stereotypes. For my money, I saw them as exceptionally well-developed metaphors for broad classes of people that, for one reason or another, would have experienced World War I differently and would have seen the politics and the results of the war from dramatically different perspectives.

Billy Williams, to draw only one example from Follett's heavily populated dramatis personae, was an apt representative of England's working class man who, prior to the war, was a coal miner subject to the brutal and self-centered whims of capitalist mine owners. Despite a quick mind and keen wit, he was once again subject during the war to the orders of officers who frequently seemed to lack even a modicum of common sense as to the prosecution of an offensive against Germany. Finally, as the franchise was at long last extended to working men, he served as the illustrative example of the rise of the Labour Party as it came to power in England immediately after the war.

It is through this type of metaphorical character that Follett has achieved nothing less than a compelling re-telling of the history of Europe through the first 25 years of the twentieth century! It is not often that I can say that a 1000 page monster has managed to keep me glued to the pages from first to last but FALL OF GIANTS certainly managed it. The depth of understanding of the progress of world history that Follett conveys by looking at events through the eyes of such an enormously varied spectrum of characters can hardly be overstated. English speaking secondary schools around the world might do themselves and their students a favour by considering this as mandatory reading for their history curricula.

Highly recommended ... and now I sit and wait for the second instalment in the trilogy! Sigh!

Paul Weiss
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129 of 140 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A BIG book!, Aug. 15 2010
By 
Jill Meyer (United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fall of Giants: Book One of The Century Trilogy (Hardcover)
Ken Follett's new novel, "Fall of Giants", is a big boy. It's so big that it could be used as a door stop for a steel door. But I have a feeling that most people reading this review already know it's a big book and don't expect anything less from Ken Follett.

"Giants" is the first in a trilogy about the 20th century. At least I assume it is, because this book is about the run-up to the "Great War" (WW1) and the four years of war. Follett, as usual, has many characters from Europe and the United States. Most are fictional but some are real. He has the talent to draw these many fictional characters with a deft brush, nuanced-enough to be distinguishable from each other. That's no mean feat, actually; how many novels have you read whose characters just blend into each other and you're never sure about who's who? To help out, though, Follett puts a "character page" in the front of the book.

I can't decide if the reader has to have fundamental knowledge of WW1 to appreciate this book. Follett is a pretty good amateur historian and he's written an excellent "historical novel". So, I guess it would appeal to, and help teach, readers of any kind. I thought the same thing about his novels about medieval England.

Follett follows the fortunes and fates of roughly 10 main characters. All intersect to a certain extent - thwarted lovers, Welsh miners-from-Russia, and diplomats-trying-to-prevent-war - in Follett's pages. I'm looking forward to Follett's next two books in the trilogy to learn what happens to these people as the 20th century unfolds. He's a good writer, as most anyone reading this book would probably agree.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "You Are There" Vividly Recreated in Astonishingly Intertwined Families and Relationships, Oct. 12 2010
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(#1 HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Fall of Giants: Book One of The Century Trilogy (Hardcover)
"Like a cloak You will fold them up,
And they will be changed.
But You are the same,
And Your years will not fail." -- Hebrews 1:12 (NKJV)

Isn't it interesting that on the day I wrote this review, the hardcover book retailed for quite a bit less on Amazon than the Kindle version? Who would have thought that could be possible for a book that's almost 1,000 pages long?

As a youngster, I was fascinated by the CBS televised history series, "You Are There," which was narrated by Walter Cronkite. These re-enactments of critical moments made history interesting and understandable to me in a delightful way that helped turn me into a history major in college. I'm deeply grateful for the experience.

I was fascinated to see that Fall of Giants was designed to take a similar approach, while adding the desirable qualities of multiple narrators with different perspectives, much interaction among the characters, and a family saga element that provides even more depth of understanding. Even though I am quite familiar with the histories that are related here, I found myself wondering what historical lessons would be added to the comments made by the "future-looking" characters who often serve as quasi-prophets in the stories. A lot of historians must have worked very hard to be sure that so many historical insights made it into this novel. Fall of Giants has a surface accuracy that's quite impressive. I suspect that a lot of people will learn more about 1911 through 1923 in the UK, Russia, Germany, and the United States from this book than from any history courses that have taken or might take in the future.

When I saw the list of characters, I couldn't for the life of me imagine how they might relate to one another across cultures. The nicest surprises in the book came from the many unexpected little events that Mr. Follett used to bring his characters together and to draw them apart. I couldn't wait to get to the end to see what inventions he would use.

The book emphasizes the story lines of:

aristocracy losing to meritocracy
integrity being better than popularity and wealth
new ideas replacing tradition
duty versus responsibility
women seeking more equal opportunities
male egos being harmful to everyone else

Watch out that you don't read any detailed descriptions of how the characters' stories develop. You will lose a lot of the joy of the book should that occur.

I like books where the main characters have many chances to make decisions, to express themselves, and to deal with adversity. From the combination, I can get to know and understand them much better. Fall of Giants really delivers in that way for characters such as Gus Dewar, Earl Fitzherbert, Lady Maud Fitzherbert, Walter von Ulrich, Grigori Peshkov, Ethel Williams, and Billy Williams.

I am excited that there are two more books in the trilogy to come. I'm ready!

Bravo, Mr. Follett!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fall of Giants, Jan. 13 2011
This review is from: Fall of Giants: Book One of The Century Trilogy (Hardcover)
Typical Follett. He is one of my favorite authors and one of the most versatile popular writers. I have a degree in history and have read about WW1 extensively. Follett provides a good story while providing excellent insight into the war, the causes of the war and the beginnings of the Bolshevik revolution. If you are not familiar with these topics this book wiill provide much insight into the stupidity of the war and the necessity of the Bolshevik revolution. Follett provides insight into some of the major historical characters of the time and provides fictional characters strong enough to keep the narrative going. On the negative he relies too much on coincidence - characters running into each other in diverse locations at critical times - for my liking, but I guess that's fiction. I also find Follett's view to be eurocentric. He virtually ignores the contributions made by Canada and other British Empire nations. I've read all of Follett's books and look forward to the rest of the trilogy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Giants: a little short, Oct. 23 2010
By 
Dave and Joe (Toronto, Ontario) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Fall of Giants: Book One of The Century Trilogy (Hardcover)
This is a huge book but it has a big story to tell. Follett creates characters that readers care about and want to know. When the book ended, I wanted more. Even though I was past the 900 page mark. History informs Folletts writing but never overwhelms it. Often history is so strong that fictional stories stretch thin over the realities of the time. That never happens with Follett. His stories are so complexly woven that they drape easily over the historical topography of the first world war. In the end you understand the time better though fiction than you ever did through education. That's a feat!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A compelling historical fiction, Sept. 18 2014
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This historical fiction tells the story of 5 families in different parts of the world: Wales, England, Russia, America and Germany. It takes place before, during and right after World War I. Ethel and Billy Williams are siblings in the poor mining town of Aberowen, and they want to make a better life for themselves. Earl and Maud Fitzherbert are brother and sister in the English aristocracy but they don’t agree on politics. Grigori and Lev Peshkov are brothers in Russia who have been traumatized by their parents’ death at the hands of the regime of the tsar. Gus Dewar works for the US President Woodrow Wilson, and he travels extensively to Europe and Russia. Walter von Ulrich is a German intelligence officer who is against the war. In spite of their disparities, the characters’ lives are all interconnected. However, they will each experience the war differently, and it will change all of them.

At the beginning of the book, Earl Fitzherbert’s estate in Wales reminded me of the TV series Downtown Abbey, all the more so because the story was taking place in the same time period. Since I am a big fan of the series, and I have been waiting impatiently for season 5 to start, it completely drew me to the story. Fall of Giants is a compelling and well-constructed saga covering World War I, the Russian Revolution and the fight for women’s suffrage in Great Britain. Ken Follett has conducted an impressive amount of research for this book, and I learned a lot about the history of WWI. There was a bit too much politics for my taste though but I understand that this was necessary to explain how the Great War came about. However, the book was thought-provoking and suspenseful, and the multiple story lines allowed the reader to see the war from different points of view. I especially liked the strong female characters who were trying to change their lot amid all this turmoil. The size of the book may seem a bit daunting to some readers but the 922-page volume is so gripping that they will be surprised at how fast they read it.

Fall of Giants is the first book in the Century Trilogy, and I can’t wait to read the other two volumes in the series.

Please go to my blog, Cecile Sune - Bookobsessed, if you would like to read more reviews or discover fun facts about books and authors.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Tad Disappointing!, Dec 29 2010
By 
Louise Jolly "Bookaholic" (Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Fall of Giants: Book One of The Century Trilogy (Hardcover)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Epic, Dec 2 2010
By 
Alexander Gluskin (Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fall of Giants: Book One of The Century Trilogy (Hardcover)
I was very happy to see that Ken Follett had applied his talent for research and spinning a yarn to the events of the 20th century. The book starts in 1914 and presents the events in Europe that paved the way to WWI. It covers the war, the revolutions in Russia, and their aftermath. The scope of the book is immense, and it leads to its main weakness - too many characters telling their stories. As a result, Follett doesn't spend as much time with each character at the beginning of the book as would be necessary for the reader to connect with them emotionally. So unless you are very interested in the European politics of the early 20th century, the beginning of the book may turn out to be less than exciting. Fortunately, the characters become well familiar as the story develops, and offer the reader a close look at different social classes in the main countries involved in the war and revolution. Another small flaw, in my opinion, is that one of the central characters, Gus, starts as a strong man, who will fight for his views, but then suddenly turns into a wimp. Yet all-in-all, this 900+ word book reads very well and paints a detailed picture of the world torn apart by the universal ineptness of the ruling classes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars `On the day King George V was crowned at Westminster Abbey in London,.., Nov. 5 2010
By 
Jennifer Cameron-Smith "Expect the Unexpected" (ACT, Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Fall of Giants: Book One of The Century Trilogy (Hardcover)
Billy Williams went down the pit in Aberowen, South Wales.'

The day was 22 June 1911, and Billy was 13 years old.

Spanning the years from 1911 to 1924, this novel touches on events during this period in Europe, Russia and the USA as they impact on members of five families from very different backgrounds. These years encompass many of the tumultuous events of the early 20th century: the events leading to the Great War; the war itself; the fight for women's suffrage; and the Bolshevik Revolution; as well as the opportunities seized by some as Prohibition takes hold in the USA.
Mr Follett brings this story to life through a multitude of characters interacting with each other, as well as with historical figures and events. There are over 120 characters in this novel, with the central characters coming from Wales, England, Germany, Russia and the USA. The central characters include an English earl, a Welsh coal mining family, some German aristocrats and a Russian émigré to the USA.

This is the first novel in `The Century Trilogy'. While the completed trilogy will follow the lives of characters through the twentieth century, this first novel establishes the key characters and follows their changes in fortune (for good and bad) until ending in the halls of the British Parliament in January 1924, after an attempted revolution in Munich is quashed.
I enjoyed this novel. At first I found the list of characters (at the front of the novel) quite daunting, but as the story unfolded I found that the characters and events complemented each other in a way which made the story easy to read and difficult to put down. My main criticism is that some of the characters were more representative stereotypes than fully fledged characters but this did not impede the flow of events.

I am looking forward to the second book in the trilogy.

`We are the future.'

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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Fall of Giants: Book One of The Century Trilogy
Fall of Giants: Book One of The Century Trilogy by Ken Follett (Hardcover - Sept. 28 2010)
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