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A GREAT DISAPPOINTMENT
on September 6, 2013
With some interest, I downloaded Ken Follet’s Fall of Giants to my Kindle, and added Winter of the World to my Wish List. Having read Herman Wouk’s masterwork on the Second World War (The Winds of War, and War and Remembrance) several times, I was looking forward to Follet’s perspective. But I was disappointed.
On the positive side, the writer manages the tricky business attending historical fiction quite well. He drops fictional characters down into historical events and has them interact with actual historical individuals, without manipulating history, or creating cardboard characters that merely seem part of the scenery. The plotting of the various strands of his story is fine–though at certain points I found the long stretches of grisly battle scenes tiresome.
There was also a monotonous sameness to the sentence structure, a tendency to give us subject...verb, subject...verb, without variation. Starting a sentence with a participle (as here) was rare. I expected that level of expertise when I used to mark college papers, but it was a surprise coming from an experienced author.
Also Mr. Follet seems to have a prurient obsession with sex. I guess it sells books, but it was a turn-off for me. Every few pages (it seemed) we had a coupling, or reference to some kind of sexual activity. His men act at times like a teen-aged males with raging hormones and little sense of morality. And I noticed something. His description of illicit acts of fornication tended to be much more vivid and exciting than when he was describing sexual intimacy within marriage.
As far as I’m concerned, we’re given much more physical detail in these scenes than is necessary. Mr. Follet should take a look at Herman Wouk’s depiction of the love-making of Byron and Natalie Henry at the end of chapter 37 in The Winds of War. Two paragraphs of sheer poetry, without telling us too much. It conveys a sense of the sacredness of the moment that is lacking, over and over, in Fall of Giants.
I don’t know how many times the author uses the “F” word, but it must amount to dozens and dozens. Do some people talk that way? Yes, sure they do. But it’s unnecessary to quote them in sentence after sentence. A sense of what’s happening can be conveyed without that. “He responded with a blood-curdling oath” says it, without saying it!
I plodded on through the book, hoping things might improve, but I finally gave up three-quarters of the way through. I also removed the second book of the trilogy from my wish list. Disappointing.