“An epic of love, hatred, war and revolution“
Covering the period 1911-1924 Ken Follett’s 2010 novel ‘Fall of Giants‘ follows 5 families in Wales, England, Germany, Russia & the USA as they navigate their lives before, during and after the First World War…
Follett does a fantastic job of weaving these very different families together, in a way that doesn’t feel too forced or unrealistic. By having families placed in these 5 very different countries, we see the war from different perspectives. In the past I’ve gotten a bit bored of reading the war from just the British point of view, with all Germans painted as villains which I feel is a bit reductionist. This novel is more nuanced, and the book’s leading German character Walter Von Ulrich is a wonderfully crafted by Follett. Kind and intelligent, Von Ulrich is a sensible voice throughout the novel.
What’s so great about this book is that there is such a variety of characters that there are some you naturally love (looking at you Ethel Williams!) and some you don’t like at all. Although there are a ton of characters, it doesn’t take more than a few chapters to quickly figure out who is who, and follow these intertwined stories. Follett states on his website that “my aim in constructing sentences is to make the sentence utterly easy to understand, writing what I call transparent prose. I’ve failed dreadfully if you have to read a sentence twice to figure out what I meant.” He certainly hasn’t failed in that respect, as the novel is easy to follow and understand, leaving you hooked and speedily going through it’s 850 pages.
The novel starts in 1911, so 3 years before war breaks out. It builds in suspense as you the reader knows the war is coming. Once the war arrive, the characters lives change forever, we see other historical events playing out as well like the Russian Revolution and creation of the League of Nations. From what I can see the novel is pretty historically accurate as Follett, although not a historian, does his own background research and utilises professional researchers. His main aim though is the story, and this particular story had me gripped from beginning to end.
I cannot recommend it highly enough, and in further good news it’s actually the first of Follett’s Century Trilogy – meaning we get to follow these families stories on with the next generation! I haven’t read the second and third novel just yet, but have them sitting in a pile waiting for me to start. I cannot wait to see how this story continues! Also if that wasn’t enough, ABC and Sony Pictures are in the process of creating a ten-house TV mini-series based on the novel.
Have you read this novel before? If so what did you think of it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
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You can order ‘Fall of Giants’ on Waterstones here.