Fall of Giants is the first of a century trilogy that is historical fiction by Ken Follett and was one of our book club picks last year. Between 1911 and 1924, the characters in this book are interwoven through the events and timelines of World War I, the Russian Revolution, Women’s suffrage in Britian and worker safety in Wales, as Germany gradually rises to the surface.
It starts off with the Williams family story in the Welsh mines, which reminded me of the John Ford movie, How Green Was My Valley, that famously won Best Picture in 1941 over Citizen Kane. Around the time I read this book, I was also watching the PBS series, Downton Abbey, which follows the same historical timeline and includes World War I scenes of men in the trenches.
This is a big book of 985 pages and a lot of characters and places to keep straight. In the front of the book we’re given a 1914 map of the world and a list of characters by place that’s six pages long and I did reference these often while reading, so thank you Ken Follett for including them. It sounds scary, but it moved rather quickly for me. It’s not a plot-based book. It’s about the lives of these characters, their ties to each other and to history. My favorite character is Maud Fitzherbert and anything that came close to being about women’s rights and how the characters have to strategize in order to get to a better place. This book helped me understand what can happen to make good people fight to replace one bad leader with another. My least favorite parts are the fighting and combat scenes.
Fall of Giants is long, but it was an easy read for me because I cared about what would happen next to the characters and it rated high with our book club readers. It also got me excited to buy the rest of the trilogy and start reading the next book to get back to my favorite characters. But the next book, Winter of the World, is mainly about the next generation’s set of characters, and I found myself not into them, and I’ve stopped reading at page 303 out of 940 pages.
If you like historical fiction that is similar to Downton Abbey, then find a quiet place and read or listen to this one.