Summary and book reviews of Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

Fall of Giants

Book One of the Century Trilogy

by Ken Follett

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

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Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker

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Book Summary

The first novel in The Century Trilogy, Fall of Giants follows the fates of five interrelated families - American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh - as they move through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women's suffrage.

Ken Follett's World Without End was a global phenomenon, a work of grand historical sweep, beloved by millions of readers and acclaimed by critics. Fall of Giants is his magnificent new historical epic. The first novel in The Century Trilogy, it follows the fates of five interrelated families—American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh—as they move through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women's suffrage.

Thirteen-year-old Billy Williams enters a man's world in the Welsh mining pits...Gus Dewar, an American law student rejected in love, finds a surprising new career in Woodrow Wilson's White House...two orphaned Russian brothers, Grigori and Lev Peshkov, embark on radically different paths half a world apart when their plan to emigrate to America falls afoul of war, conscription, and revolution...Billy's sister, Ethel, a housekeeper for the aristocratic Fitzherberts, takes a fateful step above her station, while Lady Maud Fitzherbert herself crosses deep into forbidden territory when she falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a spy at the German embassy in London...

These characters and many others find their lives inextricably entangled as, in a saga of unfolding drama and intriguing complexity, Fall of Giants moves seamlessly from Washington to St. Petersburg, from the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty. As always with Ken Follett, the historical background is brilliantly researched and rendered, the action fast-moving, the characters rich in nuance and emotion. It is destined to be a new classic.

In future volumes of The Century Trilogy, subsequent generations of the same families will travel through the great events of the rest of the twentieth century, changing themselves-and the century itself. With passion and the hand of a master, Follett brings us into a world we thought we knew, but now will never seem the same again.

Chapter One
June 22, 1911

On the day King George V was crowned at Westminster Abbey in London, Billy Williams went down the pit in Aberowen, South Wales.

The twenty-second of June, 1911, was Billy's thirteenth birthday. He was woken by his father. Da's technique for waking people was more effective than it was kind. He patted Billy's cheek, in a regular rhythm, firmly and insistently. Billy was in a deep sleep, and for a second he tried to ignore it, but the patting went on relentlessly. Momentarily he felt angry; but then he remembered that he had to get up, he even wanted to get up, and he opened his eyes and sat upright with a jerk.

"Four o'clock," Da said, then he left the room, his boots banging on the wooden staircase as he went down.

Today Billy would begin his working life by becoming an apprentice collier, as most of the men in town had done at his age. He wished he felt more like a miner. But he was determined not to make a fool of himself. David Crampton had cried on ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
INTRODUCTION
Fall of Giants is his magnificent new historical epic. The first novel in The Century Trilogy, it follows the fates of five interrelated families—American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh—as they move through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women's suffrage.

Thirteen-year-old Billy Williams enters a man's world in the Welsh mining pits… Gus Dewar, an American law student rejected in love, finds a surprising new career in Woodrow Wilson's White House… two orphaned Russian brothers, Grigori and Lev Peshkov, embark on radically different paths half a world apart when their plan to emigrate to America falls afoul of war, conscription, and ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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... 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.   (Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).

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Media Reviews

The Washington Post - William Sheehan

Once its basic elements are in place, the narrative acquires a cumulative, deceptively effortless momentum…Perhaps the major reasons for the novel's ultimate success are Follett's comprehensive grasp of the historical record and his ability to integrate research into a colorful, engaging narrative.

Publishers Weekly

While this tome doesn't achieve the emotional depth of the best historicals, it is a remarkable and wonderfully readable synthesis of fact and fiction.

Reader Reviews

Joan

Fall of Giants
Great review of history. I have read all three of this series and they are so readable you don't want them to end. It is easy to follow all of the families from the five countries through the whole series. I especially liked the last book because I ...   Read More

MaryK

Fall of giants
Thoroughly enjoyable...downloaded Winters of World

MaribethK

Fall of Giants
Ken Follet is one of my favorite authors - unfortunately I do not think this is one of his best books. I truly enjoy historical novels but I got a bit bogged down with the sometimes tedious sidebars on World War II. The Russian history part was ...   Read More

Gail L.

Follett Never Disappoints
Ken Follett is my all-time favorite author because of the detailed research and style in which he writes. Fall of Giants was a great book, although not one of my favorites. The characters were interesting and I will definitely be waiting to see how ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The British Women's Suffrage Movement

Ethel and Maud's agitation for women's suffrage is a critical element in Fall of Giants. According to Follett: "of all the massive changes that took place in the 20th century, the biggest was equality for women."

Though there were instances of agitation for a woman's right to vote in Britain prior to the formation of the National Society for Women's Suffrage (NSWS), women's suffrage as a national movement did not ...

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