Source: Personal purchase from Audible
It is 1911. The Coronation Day of King George V. The Williams, a Welsh coal-mining family, is linked by romance and enmity to the Fitzherberts, aristocratic coal-mine owners. Lady Maud Fitzherbert falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a spy at the German Embassy in London. Their destiny is entangled with that of an ambitious young aide to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and to two orphaned Russian brothers, whose plans to emigrate to America fall foul of war, conscription and revolution. In a plot of unfolding drama and intriguing complexity, "Fall Of Giants" moves seamlessly from Washington to St Petersburg, from the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty.Wow, this is quite a hefty novel, even reading it took quite some time! The First World War and the events surrounding it can be confusing to break down and unpack – all of the alliances, behind the scenes conversations, and upheaval. In The Fall of Giants, Follet takes us back and forth across the globe and behind the front lines to the depth of the action. We go from inside the lives of the powerful to the virtual nobody. And somehow, it is easier to digest this way.
Throughout the novel, we follow the lives of interconnected families from a variety of backgrounds and belligerent nations. This gives a relatively well rounded world view of the events as they unfold. Sometimes we are privy to more information than others as we have some characters that are in political power positions and others who are just surviving the results of everyday life. Sometimes, I admit, it feels a little contrived that our characters happen to be in the same place to interact with one another, but I was able to put that aside as I dove into the sheer breadth of the novel.
I think the most interesting sections for me were those set in Russia especially during the revolution. This is a country that I have always said doesn’t get the treatment it deserves in historical fiction, but it gets ample time here. I felt that the events here were the most desperate and high-stakes, whereas all the other choices that characters had to make were about personal choices, not world changing decisions. Additionally, we are seeing the events from those who are right in the thick of leading the revolution, not from the perspective of the powerful as is typical. As a matter of fact, we don’t even see the Russian royal family once.
One part that did begin to feel a bit wearing was all the “baby-mama-drama” occurring across the globe! I get that the purpose of this was to set up characters to take over the storytelling reins in the next installment, Winter of the World, but it got a tad bit crazy at times. However, I will say that it did break up the political drama.
Overall, I would highly recommend this book if you have some reading time on your hands. You don’t have to be a war buff to enjoy it as there are so many different elements to this story.
I have to say, John Lee knocked it out of the park here. Not only did he have A LOT to narrate (I can’t even begin to imagine how long it took to record all of this book) but he had a lot of different types of action and people to contend with. He admirably voiced the characters so that each was distinctive and you had a very clear idea of who was speaking lending even more to the development of characters. His reading pace was fantastic and allowed me to digest what I was reading. Even though it took me quite a while to complete this book that wasn’t due to not being interested in the story being told or the way it was told – I just get the opportunity to listen in small chunks and with a book this long that took a while.
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Also by Ken Follet:
The Century Trilogy includes the following:
Winter of the World (Book 2)