Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fall of Giants

Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy)
by Ken Follett
Dutton Adult
Sept 2010

Fall of Giants is an epic work of historical fiction by Ken Follett. It is the first installment of a planned three part trilogy. This book is set in Europe from 1911-1925. Follett follows the lives of five families in England, Germany, Russia, and the US. The story primarily focuses on three topics – the rise of socialism/bolshevism, the First World War, and women’s suffrage – that are chronicled through the actions of these families. I am not even going to attempt to summarize the plot (see publishers weekly summary here) but suffice to say that the major historical events in this time period are included.

Historical figures (George V, Wilson, WWI generals, Wilhelm II) interact with the fictional characters in realistic ways. This is a time period with which I have some familiarity and I was impressed with the depth and accuracy of the historical research included in this story. Follett provides a full review of the Russian Revolution providing detail that I think many readers will find new. His depiction of the Russian nobility particularly as it contrasts with the English nobility points out why the revolution in Russia was more extreme that the rise of socialism in Britain. The story resonated with me when Follett spent some time in developing the background. I thought the section on the Welsh coal miners was excellent, giving the reader a realistic view of the terror that was coal mining in the early 1900s. Also the parts on trench warfare in France told through several of the characters experience were very well done and will remain with the reader.

It really is a great retelling of early 20th century events, very readable and epic in scale. So why did I not love it. This is usually just my kind of book. I think my problem was in the character development or lack thereof. With few exceptions - Billy Williams, the Welsh coal miner, his sister Ethel and Lady Maud Fitzherbert - I just didn’t really care about what happened to them. Most of the characters were flat and clich├ęd. All of the characters acted in predictable ways and even though they experienced tumultuous events no character growth is seen. Compared to Follett’s work on medieval England (Pillars of the Earth and World Without End) this first book of the trilogy  left me a little disappointed. So in summary I’d rate this 3.5 , great story not so great characters.

Side note I read an advance reader copy that was huge – 4.5 inches thick, I am rethinking a kindle purchase!


Stephanie said...

I think I will probably read this one eventually. Maybe I will test it out on my husband first and see how he likes it!

Rebecca Glenn said...

Hi! I came to your review via Cym Lowell's site. Why don't you stop by The Book Frog and link it up there, too? I talk about it in my New Release Tuesday post as, well, it's Tuesday and it hit the streets today.

Just a thought...

Anyway, terrific review!

Anonymous said...

Not my type of book but thanks for sharing your review.

Cackleberry Homestead said...

I've been wondering about this one, DH loves Follett, but I'm still not sure he would enjoy this one. Thanks for your honest review.

Jessi E. said...

Thanks for letting me know about this book. I love me some Ken Follett! :)

Kathy said...

Thanks to all who stopped by from Cym Lowell's site. I appreciate the visit!
Rebecca, enjoyed your site and did link up with my review.
Elizabeth, I thought your site looked very cool!

Elizabeth said...

THANKS, Kathy.

Julie said...

Hmmm ... this is currently on my wishlist. I'm cool with not relating to many of the characters, as long as there are a few I can relate to (or sometimes even ONE, if he/she is written about enough)

Thanks for the review!

Julie @ Knitting and Sundries