Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Fall of Giants is the type of novel I love to read. It takes the reader on a long, winding trip through a period of time that presents the characters with unusual and dramatic obstacles. It is set in England, Russia, Germany, France, and America during World War I and the years prior to and following that war. It follows the lives of a handful of characters who fight, fall in love, and react in different ways to the situations around them.
The plot depends on an incredible amount of coincidences, in particular characters encountering each other repeatedly in remote sections of the world. Readers who can't get beyond that type of manipulation should skip the book, but for me the strengths of the story outweighed that problem. I even found myself anticipating the encounters in a way I enjoyed.
I loved the history that was woven into the plot. I learned a great deal about the Battle of the Somme and the incompetence of the British officers during that conflict. I was also fascinated with the novel's portrayal of the rise of the Bolsheviks in Russia and the battles between the red and white forces. I went straight to Wikipedia after reading those sections to confirm their accuracy. Ken Follett has a reputation for researching his historical novels well. He deserves that reputation.
The novel has multiple love stories in it, all unique. There is the story of an English woman from a wealthy, titled family who falls in love with a German, equally well connected in his homeland. They are both loyal to their two countries, but also loyal to each other. There are two Russian brothers who grew up in poverty to become men who treat women in very different ways, one using women in any way he can while the other attempts to treat the woman he loves with honor and respect. My favorite of the romantic relationships involves the interests of a welsh woman, Ethel Williams, who is the daughter of a union leader in a coal mining region. She has to decide many times whether to follow her heart or her head.
I recommend this book to anyone who likes long stories with strong characters and interesting historical settings. It is the first part of a trilogy, but Fall of Giants stands on its own well.
Steve Lindahl - Author of Motherless Soul
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