Book Review: Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

Fall of Giants: Book One of the Century Trilogy, by Ken Follett, Dutton, 985 pages, $40I love savouring sagas: those stories that seem to go on forever; stories that encourage you to believe that you know the characters intimately; stories that you find difficult to put down. I enjoy reading of the characters’ experiences as they span decades; and I anxiously turn the page to see if they will overcome the obstacles that they face.

Fall of Giants is one such saga. From the first page when I was introduced to Billy, a 13 year old Welsh boy preparing for his first day of work in the coal mines, I was drawn into a tale that begins before the First World War. Billy is one of the characters the reader follows through his experiences in the mine, to his experiences as a soldier during the “war to end all wars”, to his experiences in the post war society of England. Not only is the reader shown Billy’s world, but also that of his sister, Ethel, and his parents.

The Williams family from Wales are not the only family that drive this saga. We read of an upper class family, the Fitzherberts, who come into contact with both Ethel and her brother Billy. We learn of how the war affects the Earl and the priviledged society he was brought up in. We read too of his wife’s family and how the Bolsheveik Revolution affected their wealth and status in Russia. A reading of the Bolshevik Revolution would be bare if we were not intrigued by the involvement of the Russian worker – and the experiences that led to the worker to stand against the traditional rule of Russia. We are shown this through the eyes of the Peshov family, in particular Grigori. When he is disappointed, we understand his disappointment; when he is angry, we empathise and give our support to him.

A foray into World War 1 would not be the same without the viewpoint of the Germans. The German experience is shown to us mainly through the character of Walter von Ulrich, a young man who falls in love with an English woman – a relationship which is rife with complications once the War begins. We read of his hopes and dreams; as well as the lifestyle he experiences once the war is over. And while we read of his troubles, we feel empathy for him and for the one he loves.

And just as the Americans made an appearance in the Great War, so does an American make an appearance in Follett’s work. Gus Dewar is first introduced to us in England; but we see him too in Russia, and in his hometown in America. We read of his patriotism, and his desire to serve his president. We read of his disappointments, and his realisation of what he loves at home. When he fights in the war, we turn the pages quickly to see whether he survives or not.

The Fall of Giants was a page turner – and I made use of every spare minute I had to read about the characters’ lives. The novel encompasses 985 pages and describes the disappearance of a way of life. Yet I did not feel that the story was long. The action that takes place is absorbing; and the lives of all the characters are intertwined in an interesting and believable fashion. I recommend reading this saga. I know that I am looking forward to the next volume in Century Trilogy, Winter of the World.

Some background posts I have written:

Do you enjoy reading sagas? Which saga have you recently read?

19 thoughts on “Book Review: Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

  1. Sounds like you enjoy reading hon! I enjoy Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Robin Cook. Yeah, I am a sucker for horror and fiction. LOL!


    1. I enjoy those authors too. The last Stephen King I read, Under the Dome, was exciting and yet thought-provoking at the same time. Must say I was disappointed with Koontz’ latest – seemed like a repition of something he had done before and I was a bit bored (so bored I did not finish reading the novel!).


  2. Now you probably won’t believe it..but I’ve seen Stephen King, THREE TIMES, down in Florida!
    Once getting “take-out” food…sitting and having a beer while he waited,,once, dining at the table next to ours.. and third..back at the same place he picked up “take-out” having dinner with friends.
    This restaurant is just a little bitty place on the edge of the intra-coastal “highway”…He’s not scary looking at all 🙂


    1. Wow! Hard to think of such an imaginative guy doing the mundane things we do everyday. What I feel about Stephen King is that he has developed as a storyteller and does not now focus on horror as scary, but horror as horrific acts perpetrated by individuals in extreme situations.


    1. That is what I loved about it too. I would often google an historical aspect of the book to check up on tidbits such as trench warefare, causes of the war, America’s entry into the war, etc.


  3. What an amazing review. The words simply burst with excitement. Perhaps one day, I get to read it myself and journey into a world where action and suspense never ends. Thanks…have a great day.


  4. No saga reading for me lately, but I have been following news feeds and was introduced recently to the Zambia Daily Mail, which has just gone online in November of 2011. It is interesting to see the differences in journalism and how the Zambian news reminds me of the news of long ago – more fact oriented, rather than entertainment based. I have subscribed to the feed to continue to watch how this small African paper of a mere 20,000 circulation does online and to follow their news.

    There are two books I plan to read next week, well, start to read! One of them is ‘Captivity’ by James Loney, a peacemaker captured in Iraq and held for 118 days – his personal experience and the other is ‘Politics of Judicial Diversity and Transformation’ by Munyonzwe Hamalengwa, a lawyer educated in Zambia and has now been practising law in Canada for the past 30 years, his experiences as an African lawyer here in Canada. I have made contact with both authors and have asked that I may speak with them once finished their books. Both agreed and they both write on human rights activism – so will devote a post on my blog to their books once I’ve read and spoken with both authors.

    Those are my saga reading for the next in between blogging, activism…and well..working for a living too!


  5. I enjoyed reading your review. Would you say that it is in the historical fiction category? Sounds like that would be how it classifies. I do not think that I have ever read Follet but perhaps it is high time. I do enjoy sagas. Most recent one that I listened to that comes to mind is Charlestown…great listen! Story carried over a century or so. Very interesting story line and great character development. I also listened to a book titled Gardens of Water. It was a surprisingly good saga about a Turkish family and their trials post earthquake.
    Thanks for the post.


  6. Hi Colline, I haven’t come accross Ken Follet before, but this book sounds very interesting. Thank you for this review. I loved the 5-book saga of The Earth’s Children by Jean M Auel. Absolutely wonderful!


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