BookBrowse Reviews Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Fall of Giants

Book One of the Century Trilogy

by Ken Follett

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett X
Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2010, 985 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2011, 1008 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


The first in an epic historical trilogy from the author of The Pillars of the Earth

In the epic tradition of Leon Uris's Trinity and James Clavell's Shogun comes Ken Follett's Fall of Giants, the first of a planned trilogy that will follow five families through the major historical moments of the 20th century. This is not a small book by any measure. Nearly 1,000 pages long, it explores World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the women's suffrage movement from the perspective of five different families from five different countries. Despite its length and complexity, Fall of Giants is a remarkably quick, absorbing, and thought provoking read.

The novel opens with young Billy and his first days "down the pit" in a Welsh coal mine. Billy is from poor Welsh stock, but his father, a union man, has kept the family dignified and respectable in their small community of Aberowen. Billy's older sister, Ethel, works in the great house belonging to the Fitzherberts, the landed gentry who own the land and mill in and around the town. What appears to be a soft opening to a massive novel is actually a blueprint for its plot and an introduction to a class system that will corrode to combustion by the story's end. Billy, Ethel, and their father represent the bottom rung of a society that is clamoring for respect and change, while the Fitzherberts represent an upper class that is blind to the needs of their workers and intent to preserve a lifestyle that is advantageous only to themselves. Follett takes this pattern and imprints it onto the other countries and families in the novel, giving the reader a full view of the social mechanisms at work during these turbulent times. This technique also presents a need for a grand cast of characters, which Follett creates with keen insight and intensity.

Follett's characters come alive as they interact with the epic events of their time, reminding the reader that the the best way to know history is to understand the people it impacted. Rather than puppets in front of a moving screen, his characters emerge as real people shaping and being shaped by the social and political movements that made history. Character dialogue and narrative explanation of historical events is seamlessly interwoven into the text, enabling Follett to progress the private lives of the characters and the advancement of history without falling into didacticism. By the end, the reader will have a working knowledge of World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the woman's suffrage movement, but Fall of Giants is not just about history.

Some of the most memorable parts of the novel happen in between historical events when the characters fall in love, meet after years of separation, or snub each other on the stair. Follett is ever aware that this is a novel, and though he gives history its due, he also tells a great story. What seems from the book jacket to be an unwieldy number of characters feels at the end to be just right. The characters are all connected, but the connections are smart, subtle, and do not stress the reader's suspension of disbelief.

Fall of Giants is enormously satisfying. With its sweeping plot, larger than life characters, and accurately presented history, it is a perfect example of great historical fiction. The only downside is that it is the first of a trilogy, and the second installment is not set to hit bookstores for a few more years. In the meantime, you may want to read this one a few times. It's just that good.

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in October 2010, and has been updated for the September 2011 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join & Save $10!

Discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten. One-year membership: $29

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Blue Sky Kingdom
    Blue Sky Kingdom
    by Bruce Kirkby
    Who hasn't dreamed of escaping all of the trappings of today's modern life and finding a secluded, ...
  • Book Jacket: My Heart Underwater
    My Heart Underwater
    by Laurel Fantauzzo
    Corazon — Cory — Tagubio is a Filipina-American teenager living with her family in ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Sun
    Black Sun
    by Rebecca Roanhorse
    Reading the first book in a series is always difficult because readers know that, by definition, it ...
  • Book Jacket: Somewhere in the Unknown World
    Somewhere in the Unknown World
    by Kao Kalia Yang
    Resettled refugees are mostly invisible. Their needs are rarely publicized and their struggles are ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Smallest Lights in the Universe
    by Sara Seager

    A luminous memoir by an MIT astrophysicist who must reinvent herself in the wake of tragedy.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Exiles
by Christina Baker Kline

The author of Orphan Train returns with an ambitious, emotionally resonant historical novel.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win This Book!
Win Jack

Return to Gilead with Jack, the instant New York Times bestseller

Enter to win Marilynne Robinson's latest novel in her classic series.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

I G I O Ear A O T O

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.