Historical Fiction: Fall of Giants, by Ken Follett

Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy #1)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Prolific author Ken Follett takes on the history of the early 20th century with Fall of Giants, the first volume in his planned “The Century Trilogy.” Follett may not be the most literary writer, but he certainly is adept at inventing interesting characters, placing them on site at key events, then intertwining their lives as history unfolds. While the famous and influential do make appearances, FOG focuses primarily on WW I and its impact on the lives of ordinary people. During the decade from 1914 to 1924, 16 million of the world’s young men died, women in Europe and American struggled to obtain voting rights, the aristocracy in Europe became irrelevant, the Soviet Union was born, and the seeds of Nazism and WWII were sown.

FOG’s main characters are three pairs of siblings. Ethel and Billy Williams will leave their sooty Welsh mining town, ultimately becoming political activists. Two Russian brothers, impoverished by the policies of their czar, will go their separate ways, one to a life of organzied crime in America, and the other to the staff of Lenin. Earl Fitzherbert and his sister, Lady Maud, Prolific author Ken Follett takes on the history of the early 20th century with Fall of Giants, the first volume in his planned “The Century Trilogy.” Follett may not be the most literary writer, but he certainly is adept at inventing interesting characters, placing them on site at key events, then intertwining their lives as history unfolds. While the famous and influential do make appearances, FOG focuses primarily on WW I and its impact on the lives of ordinary people. During the decade from 1914 to 1924, 16 million of the world’s young men died, women in Europe and American struggled to obtain voting rights, the aristocracy in Europe became irrelevant, the Soviet Union was born, and the seeds of Nazism and WWII were sown.

FOG’s main characters are three pairs of siblings. Ethel and Billy Williams will leave their sooty Welsh mining town, ultimately becoming political activists. Two Russian brothers, impoverished by the policies of their czar, will go their separate ways, one to a life of organzied crime in America, and the other to the staff of Lenin. Earl Fitzherbert will attempt to retain his wealth and privileges, but his sister, Lady Maud, will emigrate and leave it all behind her.

The panorama is a sweeping one, and much of the appeal of this novel lies in the glimpses it provides into the lives of ordinary people from different places, backgrounds, and circumstances. It reminded me very much of Dr. Zhivago, which was set in the same time period and dealt with some of the same social issues, but with more than one major protagonist, Fall of Giants paints a broader picture. Lively, engaging, and sometimes horrifying, FOG is compelling historical fiction.

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