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Fall of Giants

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I have just finished reading Fall of Giants and found it absolutely riveting. Never thought I would be able to enjoy a novel set against War so much. Though I did read War and Peace and had also liked it, but Tolstoy's philosophical monologues were quite hard to read. Whereas in here I found Ken Follett expounding upon War theories in an easily comprehensible conversational style. Easily, my best read on World War I.

Has anyone else read it? What's your take on the book?

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This book is on my shelf but I haven't read it yet. I'm glad to hear you like it :)! It's book one in the Century Trilogy, does it have an ending / can be it read seperately or do I need to get the other books first (once out in paperback)? (I prefer to read series close together rather than waiting a year or longer for the next book to be out).

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Athena, the book can be enjoyed as a stand alone. The ending is definite. like you I also shy away from reading series books as I am too impulsive to concentrate on one genre for too long. Though, this time I am making an exception and planning to buy the second in series The Winter of the World, where the story continues through Second World War. The only thing that slightly irritated me was a bit too detailed intimate scenes, just hope Follett would constrain himself somewhat in the second book.

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I've just finished this and moved straight onto the second part of the trilogy, titled The Winter of the World.

 

Fans of Follett's much loved The Pillars of the Earth and its successor World Without End will be on familiar historical saga territory here, although this series is set some 600 years later. Where the earlier novels had the canvas of an entire medieval town, here Follett's landscape is nothing less than the whole of Europe and North America.

 

Beginning in the coalfields of south Wales, Follett expands to cover the suffragette movement, and the Russian revolutions as well as, centrally, the First World War. The plot is engineered to have characters at major events, whether they are aristocrats like Lord Fitzherbert, his rebellious sister Maud and the German/Austrian von Ulrichs, or those making their way from humble beginnings like the Peshkov brothers or Ethel and Billy Williams.

 

This is a huge (852 pages) and hugely readable novel; I've got through it in a couple of months with a newborn baby in the house, and I found myself drawn into the intertwining stories. Ultimately, though, unlike the earlier medieval novels I found this rather soulless. Perhaps the best word to describe this novel is "efficient". Its one of those novels that acts as a showcase for some impressively extensive research, although this book wears that knowledge more lightly than some. I learned some stuff; I wasn't aware just how extensive British support for counter-revolutionary activities in the fledgling Soviet Union were, for example.

 

The story of history keeps things moving swiftly along; the upheavals of the 15 year time span of the book more or less guarantee that. The history is recent enough that I could see what was coming and the destinies of some of the characters, the result being that many of the characters felt to me to be archetypes meant to represent certain aspects of the early 20th century world rather than fully fleshed out. 

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The second volume of the trilogy, The Winter of the World, provided more of the same epic soap, this time focused around World War II.

 

Maud Fitzherbert, who married her secret German sweetheart in the first novel, now lives in Berlin, so she and her children provided the German strand of the novel charting the rise and fall of Nazism and then the segregation of the country from thew viewpoint of ordinary Germans. The next generation of Peshkovs are now either Soviet spymasters (Volodya) or in the US working on the atom bomb (Greg).

 

Greg's half sister Daisy marries Earl Fitzherbert's son, an arrogant chip off the old block who supports British fascist leader Oswald Moseley but becomes attracted to Ethel's son (and the Earl's secret love child) Lloyd Williams, who serves first in the Spanish Civil War, then in the French resistance and then fights at D-day before following in his mother's footsteps and becoming a Labour MP. Daisy herself becomes an ambulance driver during the Blitz.  

 

In America, Senator Gus Dewar's sons help him found the UN and happen to be at Pearl Harbor and other significant Pacific battles.

 

The final part of the trilogy is published in September and will no doubt feature Dewars and Peshkovs opposing each other in the Cold War, von Ulrichs divided by the Berlin Wall and Fitzherberts lamenting the decline of the aristocracy and Empire whilst the Williamses rise to ever greater heights. These books are entirely predictable, slick, shallow and yet mindlessly enjoyable. At those times in your life when that is what you need from a book, in my experience Ken Follett will deliver.   

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I've now completed the trilogy, all on audio and found these books perfect to listen to. The stories aren't deep but the characters are strong and he deftly moves us through the years and changing seasons of the twentieth century. He also has a habit of given mini reprises when he returns to a character which when you're reading a large book on audio is great because it's not easy to look back and remind yourself of a character or part of the plot, so the little reprises are very helpful. Though I think I might have found them annoying if I had been physically reading the books. I know this will be unfashionable but Follett's style of writing reminds me of Jeffrey Archer (I'm thinking of Kane & Able here), in that as Gram said in his review these books are predictable but still good story telling.  But it is many, many years since I read K&A so perhaps I'm remembering it wrong!!

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    • By Just RY
      I love this book!
       
      I have just finished reading it - second time around, and it was just as enjoyable as the first time a few years ago.
       
      The story is set in 12th century England, and is mainly focused on a builder and his family, friends, and enemies. Tom Builder's ambition is to be the master craftsman in charge of constructing a Cathedral, and basically, the story is centred around the Village of Kingsbridge, where the buiding is taking place. It's got the lot, violence, love, politics and vengence. Oh, and medieval architecture and a hanging or two.
       
      Follett has a simple easy going style, and I have found most of his books to be good "page-turners". If you have read his works before, Eye of the Needle etc, and perhaps they weren't to your liking, you may want to give this a whirl, it is most certainly not an "any-old-adventure" type book, and the story is fascinating and compelling.
       
      Thumbs up from me!
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