Posted by: Jeanie F | November 1, 2010

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

As I noted in my last post, I am a Ken Follett fan, and Fall of Giants didn’t disappoint me. This is the first in what Follett plans will be The Century Trilogy, a sweeping history of the 20th Century.

Fall of Giants begins with the coronation of King George V in 1914 and continues through to the end of World War I. As he did in Pillars of the Earth and it’s sequel, World Without End, Follett places his fictional characters into real-world events to tell his story. And storytelling is what he does best. If you are looking for a literary novel, you have come to the wrong place. However, if you are looking for a way to understand historic events and their impact on real people in an entertaining way, Follett is your man.

In this book we follow a cast of characters that is spread out across the globe, giving us an international perspective on the momentous events of this time period. Through the Welsh mining family, the Williams, we read about the rise of labor unions, the reasons for them, and their impact. The aristocratic Earl “Fitz” Fitzherbert, his Russian wife, Princess Bea, and his sister, Maud, represent how the world changed for the British aristocracy during this time. Gus DeWar, an aide to President Woodrow Wilson, exemplifies the Americans. Grigori and Lev Peshkov are impoverished Russian brothers, orphaned as children, struggling to get by as young men. It is through Grigori that we follow the end of tsarist Russia and the uprising of the Bolsheviks. Don’t think for a minute that this is dry reading. Since it is Ken Follett, you can be certain that there will be plenty of love, sex, intrigue, and other drama. He truly makes the “medicine” of a history lesson go down easily.

We follow these characters from their lives just prior to the onset of The Great War through the years just following, as Russia begins to see the dark side of the Revolution as Joseph Stalin comes to power; Woodrow Wilson successfully initiates the League of Nations, hoping to prevent such a cataclysmic war from ever occurring again; a young Austrian named Adolph Hitler becomes active in the National Socialist Party.

While the various ways the lives of these characters come together is often implausible, you will find yourself so wrapped up in the events of the story that you won’t really care. The same is true of Follett’s use of clichés and stereotypes. I’ll repeat – if you’re looking for great literature, this book is not for you. However, if you’re interested in a detailed, well-researched and gripping story that explains, clarifies, and humanizes the world upheaval that occurred between 1914 and 1924, truly changing the Western world forever, you probably won’t find anything better.

Grade: A


  1. I’m glad you enjoyed this as I brought this the other day (although not on the kindle har har)

    I do love big epics

    • I was thankful to have it on the Kindle – MUCH lighter to hold. 🙂

  2. great summary

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