Review: Fall of Giants

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Goodreads Summary:

This is an epic of love, hatred, war and revolution. This is a huge novel that follows five families through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for votes for women.

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.

Historical Fiction was my genre until I college, where I really didn’t read much because of studying and reading for class and having a social life. Grad school didn’t help either because I was so tired of reading history for class that I didn’t want to use my unwind/relax time to read more history – it’s pretty much impossible for me not to analyze things and find connections to later issues and/or present day situations. Also, I read The Hunger Games in the few months between undergrad and grad school, which kicked off my obsession with dystopians, sic-fi, and fantasy.

Anyway! I have recently been starting to read more HF and non-fiction. Well, my mom has been telling me to read The Pillars of the Earth forever, so I decided to go ahead and start my Ken Follett experiance with The Century series since when I was doing my degrees I focused on 20th Century history. Well, I really enjoyed FoG, it was so interesting and so well done! I can’t wait to read tPotE because everyone says it’s even better.

I don’t know all that much about WWI, and I feel like a lot of people are in the same boat. In school we always focused on WWII, and glanced over WWI. I knew it started with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and that everyone got pulled into it because of the system of alliances, and that Germany was the main “bad guy.” Well like most historical events, it was so much more complicated! Follett did an amazing job at representing the different class, social, and political perspectives of the nations at war. Especially through Walter, our German intelligence agent, we are able to see all the little pieces that pulled all of these nations into The Great War, and how hard social forces fought against the aristocracy and monarchical bodies in entering the conflict.

Also, the historian in me, can’t help but point out that the treaty of Versailles totally went against the 14 points Wilson laid out in the league of nations and the harsh reparations and need for a scapegoat acted as a catalyst to WWII. Follett outlines all this as well, but when I read it I was just like “Yeah! They were all so stupid! How did they not see this coming?”

Ultimately, the various dynamics between the diverse characters was incredibly done and so interesting. I thought the tapestry of the war and the various social upheavals was done smoothly and was intriguing without getting weighed down by too much political or military talk. I can’t wait to continue the series, though I am going to take a break between books as these are long and take some brain power.

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