Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

 From Barnes and Noble:

Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date: 9/4/2012
Series: Century Trilogy , #1

Ken Follett’s magnificent new historical epic begins, as five interrelated families move through the momentous dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women’s suffrage.
A thirteen-year-old Welsh boy enters a man’s world in the mining pits.…An American law student rejected in love finds a surprising new career in Woodrow Wilson’s White House.… A housekeeper for the aristocratic Fitzherberts takes a fateful step above her station, while Lady Maud Fitzherbert herself crosses deep into forbidden territory when she falls in love with a German spy.…And two orphaned Russian brothers embark on radically different paths when their plan to emigrate to America falls afoul of war, conscription, and revolution.
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, Fall of Giants takes us into the inextricably entangled fates of five families—and into a century that we thought we knew, but that now will never seem the same again.…

I just finished this novel a couple days ago. It took me forever to get through it. Normally, the set of criteria I use to rate a book includes length of time it takes me to read it. I'm a fast reader, especially when I love a book. Still this book is 960 pages long and that should take anybody more than a day to read. But the reason why it took me so long is because I had to put it down at times. You know when you're watching the movie Titanic and you know it inevitably ends in tragedy but you still wish that they'd just make that stinking course correction a little sooner and a little faster? Well, that's how I felt reading this book. I know the course of events surrounding World War I and I hoped that they would find an alternative to war clear up until the fighting began. I stressed myself out reading this book and therefore, I had to give myself a break from it from time to time.

Follett is a strong story teller. He clearly cares about his subject matter and writes accurate history. I know because I looked up quite a few events in the book to see if they were actually true or not. I don't have a strong grasp of World War I, sadly enough. I know even less about the Russian Revolution and the various economies and politics of other countries. Where Follett lacks, in my opinion, is character development. It's obvious that telling the story, the actual events, is his focus and the characters are secondary. This is the only reason why I would not rate this book a five out of five. I also thought that when he was wrapping up the ending, he did it a little too neatly and he also did it quickly like it was a task to get through, something on a checklist. Overall, I found it to be a good read and would recommend it to history buff and Follett's fans, but Follett will never be one of my favorite authors.

I'm ambivalent about reading the rest of the series. I love the time period in which Fall of Giants takes place (Thank you Downton Abbey) but I'm not all that interested in modern history after 1930. If I cared more about Follett's characters and what happens to them and their future generations, I'd have Winter of the World lined up on my Nook app but instead, I'm rereading another series. I'll probably read the second and third book in this series eventually, when I'm stumped for something to read.

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