444 of 463 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Enjoyable, Well-Researched, Memorable Trip Back In Time!
Fall Of Giants is another mammoth-size work of historical fiction from Ken Follett that you won't want to put down once you start reading it. I got so caught up in this 985 page advance reader copy that I finished it in about a week, which is super fast for me. Fall Of Giants, the first book in The Century Trilogy, follows the lives of five interrelated families as they...
Published on 28 Sep 2010 by Bobbewig
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bit Corny
I don't often give negative reviews. There were elements of this book which were excellent and emotional. There are parts with heroism, areas of realism too. The problem I found was that the characters had little depth and often there were lengthy descriptions of people who are of no great consequence to the plot. There is also a lot of inconsequencial action. You could...
Published on 5 April 2012 by F. P. Nath
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars laughable,
I am a fan of Ken Follett but found this book a real disappointment. The characters were unbelievable and the plot? unconvincing.He managed to incorporate all the usual WW1 detail, railway wagons with the legend 8 horses or 40 men, Christmas truce, underaged soldiers, shot at dawn for cowardice,July 1st somme battle, Pals Battalions,upper class officers (lions led by donkeys)u-boat war, Russian revolution plus in 1918 British positions protected by minefields(this is a first). The main characters all appear to have had some influence on aspects of the war which is truly unbelievable, the Labour party can do no wrong, the Tories and Liberals can do nothing right, the lady in the English family knows all the details of government plans before they are announced to the public through her contacts and the sexual encounters are beyond belief, Mr.Follett must be on some form of medication which hopefully will soon end. There are many,many implausible situations throughout this book and a number of laughable interludes but for me the all time classic lines are delivered by the leading American character to his mother when he is describing his prospective wife."There are two things you will notice about her mother,the first is that she is very pretty and the second is she only has one eye" I laughed until I cried!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Terrific History Lesson,
What struck me mostly about this book was the historical detail that is included. I learnt more about the First World War in this book then anything my 1970's secondary modern education taught me. The way Ken Follett links fictional characters to real people and events of the time just brings everything to life. You cannot help but to get sucked into this book. Another page-turner by Ken.
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent read at first, but.....,
The century trilogy is a brilliant idea, and the first book `Fall of Giants' is a good read, the second (Winter of the World) is also pretty good but when it comes to the third, (Edge of Eternity) it is wearing very thin, with a pretty formulaic approach to the story. Dealing with world events through the experiences of ordinary people is one thing but by the time you get to the third volume one gets the impression of reading the artificially constructed lives of minor but active players in the big geopolitical events of the second half of the 20th century. Descriptions of the sexual interactions between characters becomes quite frankly boring halfway through volume 2, and by the time you get to volume 3 their only value is to enable `speed-reading', i.e. skipping through them to get to the next interesting bit! (one Amazon reviewer complained that the whole trilogy was `smut'). The whole trilogy was a decent `holiday read' but not a patch on the author's `Pillars of the Earth' /'World Without End' mediaeval stories. Whilst it follows a similar formula unfortunately some events (particularly in the third volume) are sufficiently in living memory of potential readers for it not to work as convincingly. Good exposition of the struggle against all kinds of oppression in the first half of the 20th Century, and after WW2 on both sides of the iron curtain, but the credibility of the whole thing collapsed in volume 3 due to the complete absence of any reference to Thatcher's Britain (ironic, given the first volume's dependence on the exposition of the conflicts between mineowners and miners in the years before and after WW1) and the collapse of the narrative into a clumsy 'West Wing' storyline which is quite pedestrian and even facile in its presentation of the black American Civil Rights movement, the Cuban missile crisis, and the events in Europe leading to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Decent `holiday' reading, and I will check out his other works, but I am sorry cannot be enthusiastic about this trilogy either as a literary work or as an interpretation of history. Decent holiday read, but disappointing form Ken Follet!
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressively sustained storytelling,
You have to hand it to Ken Follett - few writers could attempt an 800+ page novel and keep the interest going for the reader, let alone attempt a trilogy of books of such length. Fall of Giants is seriously impressive, not just for the sustained entertainment it offers, but for the way in which Follett weaves in historical events and characters across a huge canvas. From Welsh mining communities to the rich and powerful dynasties of the USA, the grim realities of life in pre-revolutionary Russia to the changes that were sweeping western Europe, the book knits seemingly unrelated stories together through the unifying power of world-changing events, but told on a personal level.
Just occasionally it does feel a tiny bit contrived, and some of the historical content feels like it's been culled from basic GCSE material, but overall it works a treat, and there is rarely, if ever, a dull moment, or something so implausable that you fail to be swept along by events unfolding. It perhaps goes a bit too long, but Follett ratchets up the level of drama towards the conclusion (as if major chunks of the novel centred around the FIrst World War weren't dramatic enough) - thus teeing things up nicely for a continuation of the saga in book two; Winter of The World.
For anyone wanting an engrossing tale with strong historical context (and the political aspect is particularly well done indeed) - then this not to be missed. With Amazon offering this blockbuster at a ridiculously low price, many of us are surely going to be swept up in wanting to download and read the entire trilogy. Impressive and entertaining on several levels; recommended without reservation.
3.0 out of 5 stars A curate's egg - historically adept, but the dialogue is dire,
I'll start with an embarrassing admission. I was recently seduced by the irresistibly low price of just 20p into purchasing the Kindle edition of the second instalment of 'The Fall of Giants' series entitled 'Winter of the World', which naturally led me to seek out this first book in the trilogy. Although I've been aware of Ken Follett for many years, 'Fall of Giants' is the first Follett book I've read.
At 850 pages it's a door-stopper of a tome - but fear not, anyone who tends to be intimidated by such epics, for you'll find yourself rattling through the bite-sized chapters in real, page turner fashion to reach the end much more quickly than you, perhaps, anticipated.
I came to this book with an open mind. I'm not familiar with Follett, I don't know anyone who is and was therefore given neither positive or negative feedback as to what to expect. And although there's a mild sense of satisfaction from having read it, there's a deeper, unavoidable disappointment in a few vital aspects of the book which left me feeling frustrated that it could have been so much better had the author been as adept at dealing with characterisation and dialogue as he is with providing an erudite and well researched backdrop to the narrative. In short, it's a bit of curate's egg - good in parts but seriously let down by blatantly substandard aspects which are just too serious to be overlooked.
For someone looking for a narrative in fictional form which will give them a palatable insight into the background and progression of the First World War right up until the Treaty of Versailles at its conclusion, conveying an essence of the sheer madness and horrendous loss of life, and the ultimate futility of a conflict, the genesis of which demonstrated the frightening ease with which such catastrophic destruction could spread throughout the globe, this novel will be both informative and rewarding.
But what a shame it is that against such an assured historical background choc full of so much assured, cultural, architectural, and artistic detail which speaks of an author who has not only done his research but who writes with confidence about his subject, the book falls down badly in three vital, storytelling areas.
Firstly, though the myriad of characters are competently enough described as to provide us with a realistically vivid image of their physical countenance, dress, and demeanour, they often interact with one another in such a clumsy, contrived, unnatural fashion that the reader continually struggles to imagine the progression of the scene in anything approaching a realistic way. So much so that the characters invariably come across as cardboard cut-outs who never quite manage - sometimes not even coming close - to convince us that they're living, breathing, people. For me, this was a relentlessly dissatisfying aspect of the book and one which ultimately failed to give it that essential vibrancy and authenticity that a novel which is essentially character driven, should have.
Secondly, the narrative is often clunky, with issues often resolved with such remarkable haste that they border on the farcical. A couple of examples which spring to mind (without providing spoilers) is the reconciliation between Ethel Williams and her 'Da' after his total and seemingly irresolvable disowning of her which leads to her leaving the village in disgrace. It's not so much that 'Da' Williams forgives his daughter but the carelessly handled way in which their coming together happens in such a brief and crudely handled fashion. Another example is when Lev Peshkov returns home within a day after absconding north from his Buffalo home into Canada following a particularly nasty crime against a member of his wife's family, for which she would surely struggle ever to forgive him. But within moments of his return she (Olga) softens towards Lev after the briefest of conversations has passed between them and agrees to accompany him to the police station in order to change her incriminating statement concerning his violent act. I was also disappointed by the complete absence of a much anticipated seismic fall out involving Earl Fitzherbert who would surely have been apoplectic with rage to discover the full scale of his sister, Lady Maud's relationship with the German military attaché, Walter von Ulrich. But, alas, we merely learn of the Earl having cut Maud off without a penny (or should that be Deutschmark?) almost as an afterthought later in the story. An author comfortable with dialogue would have relished the dramatic potential such a revelation provided and taken full advantage of it.
But these are just three examples of many instances in a story which simply lack authenticity and/or impact. When dealing with descriptive narrative, no doubt faithfully describing with unerring accuracy the finer detail, adornments and artistic decorations of the interior of state buildings throughout Europe, filling in undeniably interesting historical fact about motive and counter-motive of the main players during the build up to, and progression of, the war, the reader feels in safe hands and enjoys the ride. But once we enter characterisation and dialogue - and this is so important because there is so much of it - Mr Follett doesn't come close to instilling the same degree of confidence in his ability and finesse.
And it's this third aspect of the novel - dialogue - which is the most damning of the book and leaves the reader (or, at least, this one) with a sense of disappointment and dissatisfaction. Examples are just too numerous to specify but I'm confident that most readers who have read enough to be familiar with authors who handle dialogue even passably well will gradually realise the deep flaw in this area of the narrative. Conversations which simply don't 'flow', which are stilted, unauthentic, and fail to create anything approaching a natural and believable scenario in the mind of the reader.
If I wasn't already in possession of the latest, second instalment of the trilogy, this would be my first and only foray into the fictional world of Ken Follett. On this evidence I'm certainly not moved to seek out 'Eye of the Needle', or any other of his past works and there's no way I'd consider shelling out the full price for anything else he may write. As it is, I'll take a deep breath at some point and tackle the second book in this series, but with a much reduced sense of expectation and an increased scepticism than that with which I approached this novel.
And I just can't help feeling that, far from 'Winter of the World' being a bargain, I might just have wasted my 20p!
My review of the second book in the series is in the 3 Star section of Winter of the World
4.0 out of 5 stars Even a champagne socialist can be a good storyteller!,
No one will ever accuse Ken Follett of being a great novelist. He creates caricatures rather than characters - the worthy, honest pit-worker Billy, the aristocrat Fitz who sees it as his class's right to rule (and sleep freely with lower class females), the good German, Walter, etc, etc, etc. He is a didact who lectures the reader about the details of history. He is also a champagne socialist who has an idealistic vision of the working classes and a jaundiced view of the upper classes.
So why have I given him 4 stars (and would have given him 4.5 if I had been allowed? First and most importantly he is a supreme storyteller. The book is over 800 pages long but they whizz by - I read it in two days. He is also a remarkably good historian. His description of the weeks leading up to the outbreak of the First World War explain better than most history books how the war started, and I think he is closer to the truth than the orthodox position of the last fifty years that Germany caused it. Caricatures or not, the people he creates are ones you become interested in. And he is honest in his re-creations - he writes nothing that is unrealistic just to carry the story along.
If you are looking for a well-written book to while away the time and you don't like the kind of fluff that is on sale at airports, give this a try.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When's the next one coming out?,
I took this on holiday and devoured it in three days. Masterful story telling that just sucks you in and won't let you go until you reluctantly finish it. I felt quite bereft when I reached the end and can't wait for the next book in the trilogy to be published. Buy it and read it today if you love a good read that completely consumes you.
82 of 99 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars So disappointed. What's happened Ken?,
I am a massive Follett fan and have read every single one of his books, some of them several times, my favourites being Lie Down With Lions, Pillars and World Without End. So it is with great surprise and disappointment to admit that I have limped, struggled, puffed and panted to page 500 (of 850) of this book and have come on here to see if anyone else is feeling the same as I am about it. Only a few reviews so far, but I'm not the only one to be feeling this way by the looks of things. (Though I'm uncertain as to whether that makes me feel better or not!)
Firstly, there are so many protagonists that it takes sometimes nearly 200 pages to revisit some of them. This does little to add to my empathy for any of them. The long, drawn-out detailing of the letters between the European Leaders in the days leading up to WW1 was, for me, so incredibly boring that I scanned more than 150 pages - something I have never before done in a Follett story. Whilst he often includes a lot of historical fact interwoven with his characters he also, normally, cleverly includes a lot of other stuff going on alongside. This isn't really the case here. It's just tedious.
And the dialogue? It really lacks the usual Follett flow - in places it's so clunky it resembles a child's writing. In fact, I can't believe I'm saying this, but yes, I'm bored! I honestly have to force myself to pick this book up every evening as I have no interest in what happens to any of the people inside it. (And there's no real baddy to shake your fist at (William Hamleigh *cough*) or hero(ine)to cheer on.
I'm determined to finish it out of loyalty to Follett but, after looking forward to it for ages, feel a little like the child who opened The Big Present at Christmas only to discover 98 layers of wrapping before uncovering the supermarket own-brand box of chocolates inside. However, unlike the child who murmurs a polite 'Thank-you' to Granny, I've been brave enough to say what I think and await to be dragged off to The Tower!
Oh, and definitely one for the Kindle for those who so indulge - it's absolutely gigantic and definitely not for carrying around!
Still, Pillars of the Earth starting on the telly next weekend to look forward to! Ken at his best.
Edited on 16/10/10 to add that I finally gave up on page 641 during the Russian Revolution, after several attempts steadfastly determined to slog it out until the end. I then started to scan in order to discover what happened to a couple of the characters but eventually even gave up with that as, quite frankly, I just couldn't care less. I feel bad at writing a review slating the work of one of my favourite authors, so am determined to re-read another of his books shortly, with the intention of leaving more favourable comments as a way of making amends. However, anyone expecting a repeat of Pillars of the Earth may well be disappointed with this. Sorry.
4.0 out of 5 stars A history lesson wrapped in a family saga,
Fall of Giants follows the fortunes of a series of families before, during and in the aftermath of the Great War. Spanning Europe and the US the characters include: the Williams family of South Wales, miners and political activists; Earl Fitzpatrick, an English aristocrat, his wife Princess Bea, a Russian nobel, and his sister Maud, a feminist radical; the Von Ulrichs, a landed German family; the Peshkovs from Petrograd, Lev who emigrates to the US and Grigori, who is involved in the Bolshevik revolution; and Gus Dewar, a US senator's son who works for Woodrow Wilson.
Having thoroughly enjoyed Follett's earlier works set in the Middle Ages I picked this up as much of the same. So it proved. Follett is a skilled writer who does not aim for high literary art but certainly knows how to entertain. More importantly he links genuine portrayal of character with excellent research into the history. Instead of focusing at length on trench warfare this book looks at other areas such as the home front politics, the intelligence service and in most depth the Russian revolution, the counter revolution and Britain's role in the final defeat of the White Army.
Follett is about to publish the third part of this trilogy so I'd better get on and read the next instalment soon!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and lots of twists,
well written and whilst fictional there are a lot of unbiased facts which I found very interesting particularly the build up to unions and the first world war. Love stories too which intermingled . A long book but found it gripped me most of the way through. Explains how dreadful the class system was and why there was such a waste of life during the first world war, interesting facts as to how and why different countries reacted in the way they did. loved it
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