Fall of Giants: Book One of the Century Trilogy

by Ken Follett

Hardcover, 2010



Follows the fates of five interrelated families--American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh--as they move through the dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women's suffrage.


(1991 ratings; 4)

Media reviews

Trotz peinlicher Sexszenen auf Groschenromanniveau und wie Untertassen dahinfliegender Dialoge: Ken Folletts neuer Roman ist gut recherchiert und freundlich-sozialdemokratisch - einer Verfilmung im Öffentlich-Rechtlichen steht nichts im Weg.
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Die Aufteilung von erfundenen Schicksalen und weltgeschichtlich verbürgten Ereignissen löst Follett perfekt.
Overall, Follett is ­masterly in conveying so much drama and historical information so vividly. He puts to good use the professional skills he has honed over the years — giving his characters a conversational style neither pseudo-quaint nor jarringly contemporary. That works well. And for all
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his belief in the redemptive quality of liberal humanism, he makes sure not to endow his characters with excessively modern sensibilities. As for the occasional cliché — well, unless you’re Tolstoy, you’re not going to have the time or the ability to be original throughout your 1,000-page blockbuster. Ken Follett is no Tolstoy, but he is a tireless storyteller, and although his tale has flaws, it’s grippingly told, and readable to the end.
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Despite all this, "Fall of Giants" offers pleasures that more than compensate for its lack of literary finesse. Follett may not be Tolstoy, but he knows how to tell a compelling, well-constructed story. Once its basic elements are in place, the narrative acquires a cumulative, deceptively
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effortless momentum.
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La caída de los gigantes sumerge al lector en una historia cargada de épica. Ésta primera novela, que forma parte de una trilogía, sigue los destinos de cinco familias diferentes a lo largo y ancho del mundo. Desde América a Alemania, Rusia, Inglaterra y Gales, Follet sigue la evolución de
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sus personajes a través de la Primera Guerra Mundial, la Revolución Rusa y las primeras luchas por los derechos de la mujer. Como siempre, Follet pone un especial interés por su tierra natal, Gales, al comenzar con la historia de Billy Williams, un sencillo minero; en América encontramos a Gus Dewar, un estudiante de derecho con el corazón partido por un desengaño amoroso. En Rusia, dos hermanos huérfanos, Grigori y Lev se ven en medio de una revolución que trastoca sus vidas y acaba por separar sus caminos. Como nudo entre las historias encontramos a la hermana de Williams, quien trabaja en Inglaterra como ama de llaves de Lady Fitzherbert, enamorada de un espía alemán, Walter von Ulrich. Poco a poco estos personajes irán encontrándose a medida que la inmensa maquinaria creada por Follet avance, tan deprisa y violenta como el principio del siglo XX en el que se ven inmersos.
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A lot happens on the first page of Ken Follett’s “Fall of Giants.” King George V is crowned at Westminster Abbey. A Welsh boy named Billy Williams turns 13 and begins his wretched life as a coal miner. And Mr. Follett, who was once a Welsh boy himself but grew up to become his generation’s
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most vaunted writer of colorless historical epics, kicks off a whopping new trilogy. His apparent ambition: to span the whole 20th century in blandly adequate novels so fat that they’re hard to hoist.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member karieh
I’ve read and enjoyed many of Ken Follett’s books – and “Fall of Giants” was the same type of book for me. While the sheer heft of the thing (my copy is 985 pages) makes it more difficult to read on a plane, a beach or by a pool – it’s that type of book. The type that keeps you
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turning the pages even when the quality of the writing would not.

This book is the first of a new “Century Trilogy” – dealing with the WWI era. The sense of major change in the world pervades the book – new social norms and systems of government form the backbone of the happenings in the characters lives. And, I did learn a few interesting things – that Woodrow Wilson was the first American president to visit Europe during his term in office, for instance.

As much as I understand the waves of change that were happening at this time, I did find it interesting that every man (save a couple) seemed to desire a “new” sort of woman – one unafraid to speak her mind/break the rules. And all the women (save a couple) depicted seemed to be just that type. Again, I know it was time period relevant, but sometimes the only seemed that the only thing that differentiated the main female characters was their hair color.

And yet - the reader is drawn back to that time. A time of such turmoil and bloodshed…and innocence. So much is yet to come, the reader and the writer know, and the characters are hapless to avoid the first World War.

“All his life he would cherish the memory of an endless caravan of camels alongside the railway line, the laden beasts plodding patiently through the snow, ignoring the twentieth century as it hurtled past them in a clash of iron and a shriek of steam.”

For Follett fans – this book is just what it they are looking for – another sweeping epic full of characters and details. For other readers – the story may prove interesting as a way to while away many hours.
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LibraryThing member picardyrose
Oh, dear.
LibraryThing member Schmerguls
This is the fifth novel by Follett I've read and it is certainly the worst of the ones I've read. .The events of World War One referred to are dumbed down as if author assumed the reader was learning of the events for the first time.. The characters are unbelievably stick-;like.. Even when
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interesting things are discussed I found the language boring and inane. There is no danger I will read volume II of the trilogy. .
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LibraryThing member john257hopper
First in a new immense and sweeping historical saga covering much of the twentieth century, this was brilliant. I thought it was better than Pillars of the Earth (much though I loved that). The run up to the outbreak of WWI was very gripping and dramatic: the sense of incomprehension that the great
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powers of Europe can really be headed towards conflict, the desperation of the efforts of those striving for peace, then the horrors of war itself. The chapter on the first day of the Battle of the Somme is immensely moving. There is a rich cast of characters from English and Russian aristocrats, Welsh miners, Russian revolutionaries, American and German diplomats, Russian and American gangsters and thugs. The characters were generally more rounded and believable than in Pillars, though the author's sympathies are pretty clear. By the end it was 1923 and the scene was well set for the sequel, with the first (minority) Labour Government elected in Britain, disillusion settling in among some Russian revolutionaries as the Bolshevik Government's tyranny becomes more evident, and the failure of the Munich beer hall putsch and the trial and imprisonment of the demagogue Adolf Hitler. I look forward to the second volume, The Winter of the World. 5/5
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LibraryThing member a-shelf-apart
Dear self: Stop giving Ken Follett more chances to disappoint you. He is a Bad Writer. Just stop.

(I'm not even going to put any spoilers into this review because I only made it 150 pages in.)

The main problem is that he writes like his readers are stupid. Stupid about history, stupid about politics,
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stupid about basic human interaction. He has no grasp of the concept of show-not-tell, and his writing is flat and soulless. There's about fifty characters in this novel, and I care about none of them.

A few examples:

- King George V attends a house party with a few young men of different nationalities, and the dinner discussion establishes that Germany and Britain are economic, military, and colonial rivals, and also that there are disputes over various territories in Europe. The King finds this conversation "fascinating" and "very illuminating". How on earth? This is 1914 geopolitics 101. None of this conversation should have been news to King George V . This conversation took place entirely for the benefit of Follett's readers, who he assumes are idiots.

- We are told that an American character we've met briefly has been having an affair with a married woman (including a cringeworthy sentence about her "shuddering orgasms". Four Follett books and I've yet to read a sex scene by him that doesn't turn my vagina into the Sahara). Two pages later she dumps him. He is distraught. I felt nothing, because Follett's inability to do anything other than blankly list what is occurring gave me no emotional connection to this man.

- The same man, who works in the White House and is "fascinated" by "the relationships between nations" is "knocked off his feet" by the fact that an American invasion of a Mexican port could lead to fighting and the deaths of American soldiers. Equally, President Wilson is "baffled" that the Mexicans have fought back. Again, a the main character and an actual historical figure have been turned into imbeciles so Follett can hammer home a message to his readers.

- A character we've barely met gives another character we've barely met a handjob in a crowded theatre. The lack of connection to the characters and emotionless writing makes it feel like needless pornography.

- A German aristocrat has the magical ability to identify a Jew on sight.

I was torn about giving up on this book because it's not a difficult read, there's just a lot of it. But I've got a whole shelf full of books that I'm actually eager to read, and I'm 100% certain I'm not going to read the rest of this trilogy, so I'm going to put it in the donation box, walk away and live my life.
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LibraryThing member gypsysmom
I listened to this book which was narrated by John Lee. As with all of Follett's books, or at least the ones I have read, this book is epic in scope. It spans about 15 years from before World War I until some time after that tragic war. But it also tells the stories of people caught up in the
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events of that time and so it makes the time very personal.

We are introduced to the Williams family in Wale as thirteen-year-old Billy starts work in the coal mine. His sister, Ethel, works for the local gentry, the Fitzherberts, as a maid but is raised to housekeeper when the incumbent fell ill just before a royal visit. Earl Fitzherbert invited a number of bright young men to meet the king including Germans Walter and Robert von Ulrich and the American lawyer Gus Dewar. The earl is married to a Russian princess whom he met when he was a diplomat in St. Petersburg. The earl's sister, Lady Maude Fitzherbert who is a suffragette much to her brother's dismay, is also in attendance. The earl's wife's family in Russia hung the father of Grigori and Lev Peshkov because he was trying to organize the local peasants. Grigori and Lev moved to St. Petersburg with their mother who was soon killed by the Tsar's militia. Grigori looked after the younger Lev but dreamed of moving to the USA. Gus Dewar, who had a tour of the factory where Grigori and Lev worked when he was in Russia, was able to answer some questions Grigori had. All these people interact to some degree even through the war. It's a bit of a job to keep all the threads separate but it is a compelling tale. I particularly liked the last scene of the book.
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LibraryThing member mojomomma
I love Follett's historical fiction. This series will cover the twentieth century and this volume begins the saga during the build-up to World War I. We meet several different families who all in some way have a ringside seat to the events that shape our current world. The Williams of Wales, the
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Fitzherberts of Wales and London, the von Ulrich's of Germany, the Dewars of New York, and Lev and Grigori represent our Russian peasants. Of course, the families all get tangled up and come into play with each other, but suspend your disbelief at these wild coincidences and go with it. This is a fabulous plot, based on the history and politics of the early 20th century. I understand the build-up to the WWI as never before--it goes a lot deeper than the assassination of one Archduke.
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LibraryThing member lit_chick
2010, Penguin Audio, Read by John Lee

Follett endeared himself to me with Pillars of the Earth, followed by World Without End. This one is another sweeping historical saga set in Europe and North America in the twentieth century, encompassing World War I and the Russian Revolutions. Characters serve
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the plot, as I’ve come to expect from Follett, and appear in a myriad of interesting roles: aristocrats, coal miners, fallen women, soldiers, diplomats, and politicians. Among them: miner Billy Williams and his sister, Ethel, a woman’s suffragist; German officer Walter von Ulrich; Lord Fitzherbert and his rebellious sister, Maude; and the Peshkov brothers. This is the second of Follett’s epic tales I’ve heard narrated by John Lee, who is excellent.
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LibraryThing member santhony
After reading and enjoying Follett's two medieval novels, I read a couple of his other books and found them to be far less satisfying. I took a chance on this one, because it seemed more in the mold of the sweeping historical fiction I'd found in the earlier work. Much as with Pillars of the Earth
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and World Without End (which I found to be essentially the same novel), I found this book to be relatively entertaining, and even in some cases educational.

Some have complained about the formulaic and stereotypical portrayals in the novel, and there certainly is some basis for those complaints. However, stereotypes develop for a reason, and I can't say that most of the characters contained in the book strained credibility. As for being formulaic, it is historical fiction and for the most part, faithfully follows the course of the war and the events that preceeded it.

That having been said, is this a literary tour de force? Certainly not. Is it an entertaining bit of historical fiction? I found it so. Not up to the standards of Michener or Edward Rutherfurd, but not a one or two star effort by any means. Anyone that thinks so has certainly either been very fortunate in their reading selections or led a very sheltered literary life.

My biggest criticism of this book would probably be the numerous sexual encounters vividly described therein; not because I’m a prude, or dislike erotic reading, but because they are so sophomoric and silly. Many have no purpose other than to simply introduce sex into the storyline. Had they been well written, believable and perhaps more integral to the story, they might have been enjoyable. As they are, they simply cause one to roll one’s eyes in amusement.

A second irritating feature of the novel is the ridiculous coincidences that occur at several points in the story. There are billions of people in the world, yet the same people have a remarkable way of traveling throughout the world and mysteriously running into each other, despite having no reason to do so. As with the gratuitous sex, it doesn’t destroy the novel, but detracts from it nevertheless.

On the plus side, the historical backdrop is one not commonly found, World War I, the Russian Revolution and the years leading to those monumental events, from the British, Russian, German and American perspectives (after all, who really cares about the French?). Despite being a big fan of historical fiction and non-fiction history, I can honestly say that this novel taught me quite a few things of which I was not aware. That, and the fact that I found it moderately entertaining, easily overcame the minor drawbacks cited above.
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LibraryThing member NatalieAlanna
Great book. As a history lover I really enjoy how historically accurent Ken Follet is in his stories. The narrative was rich and exciting and I loved this book as well as the 2nd book in the trilogy, Winter of the World. I cant wait until the last book comes out this year!
LibraryThing member cwlongshot
I haven't read a bad book by Ken Follett, and this book is no exception. I was drawn into the story immediately by the characters that Follett is so good at developing. The book was a nice segue from the PBS Masterpiece drama "Downton Abbey," which ends just as WWI is beginning whereas Fall of
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Giants starts just as WWI begins. If you like historical drama, this is a fun read. I look forward to reading the second book in the series.
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LibraryThing member kmajort
A favorite author, he does such a good job with the research.
LibraryThing member tvordj
This is the first of a trilogy. As such, it doesn't really "end". It feels more like the end of another chapter and you could easily turn the page for more. Having said that, it doesn't end on a "cliffhanger" either so you aren't going to sit in suspense waiting for the next of the three books.
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Fall of Giants follows the ups and downs of a number of characters from various classes and countries and will, I expect, follow them and the subsquent generations through the next 100 years since this is the "Century Trilogy". It opens in the years before World War I and most of the book covers the war, it's events and it's politics as seen by officers, regular soldiers, women and traces the rise of the Soviets and the Russian Revolution.

We see life from the viewpoints of the poor in Russia and a mining village in Wales where an Earl and his family also live. We see the lives of the upper class British, a middle class man from the USA and another from Germany. All of the people that start the book off as struggling working poor work themselves up a bit by the end in various ways, mainly through politics, some by luck and the seat of their pants.

The book is heavy on politics from the "inside" (Britain, Germany, Russia and military) which might be a bit dull for some people who aren't into history, and light on romance though there is a bit of that, too. The characters seem very well thought out and drawn out and you get a very good feel for life in the various locations at that time. I have to admit that i skimmed through some of the war and battle scenes but thought that my father would have enjoyed it all. I did find the politics behind the Russian Revolution quite interesting and learned a few things about how WWI really started.

I did like the book, but it won't be to everyone's taste. If you like politics and/or history, you will enjoy it. If you like historical romance with a little bit of the above, you probably won't.
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LibraryThing member elsyd
Big Book! Big Story! I really enjoyed this book for many reasons. It's a good history of the first world war. I really had not ever read anything about it. I found it interesting how much the second world war paralelled the first. I'm looking forward to following these families in the 2nd book of
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the trilogy.
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LibraryThing member M0vingon
Enjoyed it immensely! It's a hefty one, but the story kept me engaged.

Fall of Giants is an intricate tale about 5 families from different countries and socio-economic positions and their individual experiences of WWI. The book has been criticized for historical inaccuracies, but if you can take it
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for what it is (a novel- fiction), it is a pleasure to follow the characters (and there are a lot of them) through the war.

The ending was a surprise for me- it felt abrupt, but it is setting up for the next book in the series which will- I am assuming- focus on these families as they move into WWII.
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LibraryThing member plb1934
While I did not like Pillers of the Earth or World Without End I thought this book was a great read-plb
LibraryThing member janewh
A fascinating human picture of life affected by WWI told by a master storyteller
LibraryThing member Joanne53
Just move the Pillars of the Earth and World Without End to Edwardian Britian, Russia before and during the Revolution and America of the early 20th century and you get an amazing story. Well researched and informative...pulls you into the story and doesn't let you go....
LibraryThing member kerinlo
This is another winning novel by Ken Follett. I have always enjoyed his storytelling and this is no exception. Fall of Giants follows various characters through the start of WWI to it's finale by effortlessly weaving their lives together. Follett does a master job at highlighting how each
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character's life is effected by the outbreak of war. There is the occasional dry point in the story as he explains some of the war history, but overall the story is a triumph. His characters are complex, especially Billy Williams, Fitz, and Walter and his women characters, Maud, Rosa, and Eth, are strong and formidable. Bravo.
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LibraryThing member roselady1
Loved this book. Follett developed the characters so well (both good and bad) and you felt like you actually knew them. I didn't know much about that period of time and this book really brought history to life. I'm looking forward to the next in the series of the trilogy.
LibraryThing member angela.vaughn
I loved this book, and now sadly have to fill my time with other books until the next book comes out. This trilogy has just started and has already snagged me hook line and sinker. Who needs the Twilight series, when there are Ken Follett books around? They have so much more depth, history, and
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LibraryThing member MarkMeg
The story of the first world war as told through the eyes of an American, a German, an English and a Russian soldier and their families. Contains romance. Some basis in fact and more "romance." Fun reading.
LibraryThing member mmignano11
Historical fiction lovers, don't miss this one! Fans of Ken Follett, don't miss this one! Although I suspect you have already picked it up and it sits on your TBR pile or it has been read already. I enjoyed "World Without End" and "Pillars of the Earth" particularly because the premise of building
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a cathedral was unique and the time period he chose was not one often visited. I think what Follett manages to do is provide historical fact with occasional embroidering for dramatic effect, but without the dry, preachy tone I personally can do without. I felt that "Fall of Giants" was a history lesson, experienced through the eyes of the participants. In this way, the reader experiences not only the event but the emotional repercussions.
Follet's character's are, as always spot on. The story begins in a Welsh mining town, prior to a strike, where we meet Billy and Ethel, who figure later in the novel, as it moves into the various locations that the war takes Billy. Ethel becomes a politician in the suffragette movement and in the interests of her fellow-country men and women. The theme of "Fall..." is the superiority fo brand liberal thinking over narrow-minded thinking, over adherence to the old ways even if they prove again and again to be wrong or detrimental. Follett expresses this through his characters relationships. Two women, Maud and Ethel, have relationships with men that must be hidden for various reasons. Ethel was a servant in the home of her lover Earl Fitzherbert, and leaves to bear his child and lsupport herself, but ends up a politician.Maud,Fitzherbert's sister falls in love with Walter, a German, and once the war begins, no amount of explaining would convince people their relationship was allowable. But Maud is a strong, outspoken woman involved in the Suffragette movement. In addition there are several other relationships,for instance, between Walter and his father Otto, in which they constantly dipute the advantages and disadvantages of sticking to the old ways of thinking, or opening their minds to new and more liberal ways of solving issues. Walter blames men who think like his father for the continuation of the war.
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LibraryThing member birdsam0610
When you open a book to find a list of characters and who they all are in relation to each other, you know you’re in for a big read. Even just looking at this huge book (all 985 pages of it, which is rather difficult to lift casually with one hand) made me realise it wouldn’t be the type of
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book I could read in a few days. However, it was certainly worth it.

Fall of Giants is the first in the Century trilogy and the second and third books will be released in 2012 and 2014 respectively. Each book will deal with a war and the same set of characters and their descendants. So it is worth learning that list of characters after all!

This book deals with the First World War, but eases the reader in slowly to the events leading to the war from the English, German, American and Russian sides. I have never come across a better explanation of the events from the assassination of Franz Ferdinand (not just a band) to full blown war. It was written so well and in an interesting fashion that it didn’t seem like boring old history. The book then continues into through WWI, broken down into months or days when something significant happens. It covers all aspects of the war – soldiers on each side and family at home sensitively.

The characters are also memorable – from English Maud, who falls in love with German Walter, to Grigori, the Russian soldier trying to achieve his dream. Each character is drawn well and I found that I rarely needed to refer to the list of characters at the front of the book. Real historical characters, such as Woodrow Wilson and Winston Churchill, also appear and interact with the fictional ones.

If I had to find a fault in this book (apart from the weight), it would be that it is more slow moving than A Dangerous Fortune but it is unfair to make the comparison. The slow build really does set the scene and reinforces the characters in your mind.

I really enjoyed this book and I hope that the next one comes soon, although I think I’ll buy it as an ebook!
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LibraryThing member rmmohamm
I thought this was an excellent novel. The characters are very well developed and truly diversed, all coming together and intertwining in one way or another. Can't wait for the rest of the century to be told through Follet's eyes.



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