Tuesday, January 18, 2011

REVIEW: Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

Wales June 22, 1911: 13 year old Billy Williams prepares to go down into the mines for the first time to help his family bring in money to alleviate their poverty.

January 1914: The Earl Fitzherbert, 9th richest man in Britian, his wife Russian Princess Bea, and his sister Maud sit down to a dinner party and discuss the possibilities of war between England and Germany with guests American Gus Dewar, and German Walter von Ulrich.

February 1914: American Gus Dewar, aide to President Woodrow Wilson, accompanies a party to Russia to tour their factories and gauge the political climate due the upheaval caused by the growing anger of the Russian population living under the Tsar's brutal regime. There he meets Grigori and Lev Peshkov, men who were orphaned at a young age and are now trying to grind out an existence working at the factory during this turbulent time.

All of these occurrences may seem mundane but they set the stage for the intertwined stories of these 5 families for the next decade. We follow the Williams family of Wales, the Fitzherberts of England, the American Gus Dewar, the German von Ulrich family and the Russian Peshkov brothers through the events that lead up to WW1, through the war, and to what remains of each of their lives at the conclusion of the conflict. Fall of Giants is one monstrous history lesson, clocking in at 985 pages and wrapped in the compelling stories of each of these people. For someone who picked up this novel knowing just the basics of why World War I was fought I felt I learned an incredible amount from this book by being able to see the build up to the war and the war itself from all sides of the issue. In addition to WW1 the book also covers characters dealing with women's suffrage in the UK, the Russian Revolution, and Prohibition. Follett does an incredible job of giving each of these families their own story and managing to tie them all together at different points in the story.

If you're looking for a book full of action or a specific plot, perhaps you should steer clear of this book. The best way I can describe how it reads is if you were walking into the lives of these five families at different times observing what was going on. The plot is the war itself and how it impacts each of the characters. If you are looking for a well researched snapshot of this period of time in the world, this is the book for you and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

borrowed from the Fruitport Library


  1. Great review! This book is on my 2011 to read list, and I can't wait to get to it.

  2. Definitely a book that I can't wait to pick up (I'll be downloading this one because of its size) - I loved Pillars of the Earth, so can't wait to read more of Ken Follett.

  3. I haven't read POTE yet. I know, I'm probably the last person on the planet who hasn't. This was actually my first Follett book. Can't wait to see what he does with the other 2 books in the trilogy.