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on 16 February 2005
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan began on Christmas Eve 1979. The inhabitants of this geographically isolated land, rose up to defend their country. They armed themselves with whatever was on hand, gathered into loose formations and began to attack and sabotage the Soviet Union's personnel, installations, depots and transports with any available weapons. Scattered guerrilla bands, with fierce pride, and a tremendous ability to endure, fought against the far superior and more numerous Soviet forces and sophisticated weaponry.
"Lie Down With Lions" opens in Paris in 1981. John Ellis, an American CIA agent, is working undercover and living with a politically active Englishwoman, the sensual, lovely Jane Lambert, who he plans on proposing marriage to as soon as he completes his assignment. Jean-Pierre Debout, a French doctor and member of the Communist Party, is going to Afghanistan, ostensibly to provide medical assistance to the rebel forces fighting against the Soviets. He has, however, another agenda. Jean-Pierre also loves Jane and wants her to accompany him to Afghanistan as his nurse-assistant. Ellis, after capturing an important KGB agent, is exposed as CIA. Jane leaves him in disgust, not only because of his job, but because he lied to her.
The Valley of Five Lions, a place of ancient legend, lies deep in the Afghan mountains, far removed from civilization. Jane and her husband, Jean Pierre have been working here, in a rebel village, for a year. They minister to the local inhabitants, who have never seen a doctor before, and patch together and stitch-up the wounded warriors. An American visits the valley with an important message for Masud, a famous and effective guerrilla leader, from the White House. The messenger is John Ellis. A terrible treachery is discovered, shortly after he arrives. A nightmare flight with the Soviets in pursuit occurs, across the Hindu Kush, leading to an extraordinarily suspenseful confrontation. The action here is unbelievable with Ken Follett, the master of the suspense-thriller, at his best.
As usual, Follett's narrative is riveting and the action intense. His characters are well drawn and believable, with all their complexities and conflicts. There are so few novels written about Afghanistan, especially during this important period in history, and that makes "Lie Down With Lions" all the more worthwhile a read.
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on 6 November 2004
Ken Follett is a great, romantic top thriller writer, an artist of compelling talents. And as always, he has written another blockbuster with a fast-paced story line. Even though, I've read many of his novels, after just a few, I realised that most of them have a pattern and they're similar to one another in their technique of writing. I think this one, will be forever one of his finest masterpieces.
As soon I flipped the cover, it pulled me into a vivid and exciting time of an obstinate war between the Soviet Union and the United States. Even though, I'm not very pro-American and the way of solving problems and keeping the peace by the U.S.A for me is controversial, I got shot by the plot (I'm a poet and I didn't know it)and interesting intrigue created by the C.I.A
Everything starts in France, Paris where a C.I.A agent, under the nickname Ellis, and his partners, make a trap for a very dangerous and well known Arab terrorist. As you read, you become the main character - Ellis. You start to feel and react as he does. Happiness for being with your girlfriend Jane in her apartment, after an intoxicating night spent with her; fear, uncertainty before the climax of a mission and victory, all of this follows you like a shadow in the first part.
The plot is tight, starts off and never slows down until the hair-raising finale. This could be compared to a wild river with many tributaries; main characters, other people like Jean-Pierre, Anatoli, Masud or Mohammed who have a big affect on the story; descriptions of a land and weather, sounds, people's feelings and their reactions; finally sex and action, which is more in one chapter, than you can imagine, all of this makes the story vivid and the river flow smoothly. Moreover, the details used by the author, the way how he hammered out words created an unbelievably authentic story. The scenes of sorrow and of Afghans dying due to sustained injuries after the cruel raid of soviet helicopters, or on the other hand, the suffering, dismay and fear in the eyes of the Russian officer captured by Masud; he is alive yet, his body is in contempt and torn to pieces by Afghans who play with him in a brutal and barbarian game similar to polo. It is called buzkhasi; players on horses' backs, scramble for the object of a game until it crumbles.
Also the important thing about this book is, that it even touches the sense of hearing. For example, even though, when you read that place is silent, the noise and drone of soviet helicopters, or the sound of shootings from AK-74, will interrupt you. The sough of a river, which crosses the Afghanistan and is as cold as icy little blades, stabbing your flesh as you step inside, all play a symphony in your mind.
If you don't want to miss all of this experience and fun , which this book offers, the solution is to just read it!
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on 11 March 2004
Not the most intellectual book in the world, but who cares? What a page turner? This is a gripping book with great action, steamy sex scenes and likeable hero/heroine, all set in a well researched and thoroughly believable Afghanistan. One of my two favourite Follett books. Go read and enjoy!
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on 23 March 2015
I thoroughly enjoy Ken Follett's novels. The story lines are beautifully interwoven against a background of historical facts, often new to me, or presenting insights to a period in history, in this case relatively recent history. However, as I drink in this new knowledge I begin to be uneasy about the facts presented when I come across a statement that is so obviously wrong. I have experienced this in previous novels I have read, but in this one it hit me between the eyes. Water, Mr. Follett, is not more difficult to boil at altitude. At 4,000 ft water comes to the boil at 85 C
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VINE VOICEon 6 November 2010
Good page turning thriller, albeit not one of Follett's best. The descriptions of Afghanistan as a war torn and very primitive country are very evocative and the inhabitants are well depicted as individuals with differing drives and views of Russia and the West.
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on 22 February 2012
I have just recently downloaded the above Ken Follett title on Kindle. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. The book was full of spelling errors, incorrect words and paragraphs where there shouldn't be ones. I don't know who transferred this story from the original book, whoever he/she is needs to be sacked. The proof reader needs to go as well. Am I the only one who has noticed this on the Kindle edition?
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on 22 February 2011
I only 'discovered' Ken Follett recently and am now making my way through all of his books. Also, just got a kindle and they are available in that format too which is fab.
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on 7 September 2015
The book has the usual Ken Follett virtue of being a real page turner. It is, as always with him, plot rather than character driven. The pace is fast with sufficient detail to keep the reader interested. The changes in location from France to the U.S. to Afganistan are well done, as is the final pursuit.
There are two major defects. First, the characters fail to come to life. I don't think real people respond the way the three main characters do. Babies, in my experience, do not travel for that number of days or over such difficult terrain without lots of upset and distress. The love story was straight out of Mills and Boon.
Second is the central issue of the impact of foreign invaders in Afganistan. My recollection is there was one brief discussion about this between Ellis and Kate. The character Ellis is demanded more introspection into what he was doing and its consequences. It would have been useful to have more discussion among the native Afgans, but sadly they appear to dispensable.
If you're looking for a good yarn, this fits the bill. The "Kite Flyer" it isn't, but it doesn't pretend to be.
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on 23 December 2015
I've read most of Ken Follets novels and most are pretty good if not excellent. This one left me a bit cold however. A predictable plot....a threesome caught in a terrible was between Russia and Afghans in some very inhospitable mountains. I have to ask if helicopters can fly at over 15,000 feet and a woman with a new born baby could cross such passes etc. That said some of it was quite exciting. Follet has always had a few quick sex scenes to liven up the story and good luck to him....why not? But this one is totally out of context as if his editor has told him to stick in an extra chapter of sexy bits to liven the story up....and which ends up seemingly written by a 15 year old schoolboy with rushing hormones writing feverishly about all his fantasies. Was this written by the same author I ask....and why? I'm no prude but failed to see the point of this at all. Certainly not one of his best books.
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on 8 May 2013
When I spotted a Ken Follett book in the cut price stationers on a two for £3 offer, I could hardly believe my luck. Follett? the man who wrote the Eye of the Needle and The Pillars of the Earth? Yes, the very same.
Oh my goodness, what a let down. If books were flowers, this one would be garage flowers. When I start siding with the bad guy, I know something has gone sadly wrong.
Follett often involves a heroine with two men, usually both flawed, one irredeemable and misguided whereas the other is waiting for her to save him from himself. He has used this theme again here. He is undoubtedly an accomplished writer and whilst this novel is not badly written, I got the impression that it was hastily researched and rushed off using a formulaic pattern. Regarding mistakes, as another reviewer mentioned, he made mistakes with medical details.
The plot involves the Afghan/Russian conflict of the 80's. A naive but intelligent young English woman becomes involved with a C.I.A. man in Paris where she works as a translator. She is also friendly with a French doctor who, by coincidence is recruited by the Communists. He outs the American which puts an end to the affair and marries the girl.
Doctor Jean-Pierre and Jane go to Afghanistan, ostensibly to give medical aid to the guerrillas in the mountain villages, but Jane is blissfully unaware that her husband is having clandestine trysts with Colonel Anatoly of the Red Army. It was quite amazing how quickly Jane learned to become a nurse, by the way, I believe it said six weeks. (It took me three years in university) Jane then has a baby. And oh what a textbook, model baby this is! It's like one those dolls that wets its nappy. It sleeps all the time, is never sick, never keeps them up all night and is always glued to Jane's ample breast - which turns the American on when he eventually arrives. By the time Ellis, the C.I.A. man, has turned up with the idea of uniting all the tribesmen under one leader, J-P has been discovered by Jane and is horribly, but unconvincingly, violent towards her. Somehow, it doesn't gel. He is a cautious, slightly timid individual whose mission in life is to live up to the Communist ideals of his harsh, now deceased father. Punching anyone at all would seem out of character, let alone the wife he adores.
J-P runs off to the Russians and Jane and Ellis, who is really John, escape into the treacherous, 17,000 foot high, snow covered mountains with Mohammed, (guide) for whom Jane has 'forbidden sexual thoughts' and the dolly baby.
Throughout the whole story, no one has eaten more than yoghurt and a little fruit washed down with tea. How Follett imagined malnourished people with virtual rags for clothes and no equipment, would stand a Edmund Hilary type expedition in freezing conditions, astounds me.
I won't divulge the end but it's all fairly predictable. No twists or turns, no surprises. Mohammed and Jane do not work for MI5 and the baby isn't really a radio transmitter.
Follett seems torn between chick lit here and a gritty war novel and it hasn't worked. I know this is quite an old one of his so he must have improved as time went on. All I can say about this is that I'm glad I didn't pay full price.
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