I must confess before I begin that I was not really aware of Ken Follett’s books until recently. A friend of mine told me about them during a discussion we were having recently. We were talking about the way history can be very cleverly incorporated into fiction in a way that makes the reader feel like they are learning something and yet not being lectured too about history. That is when Fall of Giants came up in conversation. She advised me to read this book and I am very glad I did. Ken Follett has previously written very successful books such as Eye of the Needle, Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. Fall of Giants is the first in a series of books called the Century Trilogy. Fall of Giants begins in 1911 with the coronation of King George the V in England. From then on it follows the lives of five families from different cultures, countries and socio-economic back grounds through the most tumultuous events of the 20th Century up.
The book reaches its conclusion in 1924. Some of these most significant events are WW1, the Russian Revolution and the fight for women’s suffrage. This book is an epic piece of writing that is nearly a thousand pages long. I will admit at first I was a little intimidated by the size as well as the scale of what Follett was trying to cover in this book. However I quickly became absorbed in the narrative. Follett crafts such interesting, well rounded characters. He also disperses them around the world, placing them at the heart of the action. The first family the reader meets is the Williams a coal mining family from a fictional small town in Wales. The story then moves onto Earl Fitsherbert and his English aristocratic family. Follett also manages, without using force or falseness to incorporate a German spy, Two orphaned Russian brothers and an American adviser to President Woodrow Wilson. These stories interact with each other seamlessly and really depict the chaotic effect of War, not only on the countries involved but also on the families and their relationships.
The historical events are cleverly woven into the story telling. Follett has been widely praised for his historical accuracy. I was impressed by how much I learned while reading this book. I considered myself pretty well informed when it came to this period but having read Follet’s book I must admit I had a lot to learn. I was also taken by his extraordinary ability to balance so many individual stories and yet maintain the level of historical content needed in order to keep the story moving forward. It hasn’t been all praise for Follett’s attempt at historical fiction
He has come in for some criticism when it comes to his style of writing. Some people have found it a bit clunky and awkward in places. However I think the reader can forgive Follett for his lack of beautiful prose or stylistic creativity because the book does offer such a compelling and engaging story with interesting plot twists while also staying faithful to this interesting period of history. All in all I really enjoyed this book and I am looking forward to picking up the next instalment Winter of the World that just recently came out. This book follows on from where Follett left off in Fall of Giants and chronicles an equally fascinating and fraught period in history. I look forward to the adventure!
Follett, Ken. Eye of the Needle. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2010. Print. Follett, Ken. Fall of Giants. New York: Penguin Group, 2010. Print. Follett, Ken. Pillars of the Earth. New York: Penguin Group, 1989. Print. Follett, Ken. Winter of the World. New York: Penguin Group, 2013. Print. Follett, Ken. World Without End. New York: Penguin Group, 2007. Print.