Published by Penguin Group on February 28, 2010
Genres/Lists: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Read synopsis on Goodreads
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When I finished Fall of Giants, the first in Ken Follett’s latest trilogy, I was filled with happiness. It was a stunning book filled with accurate historical accounts of the events surrounding World War 1 and the characters where rich and real to me. About five minutes later, I started to panic a little for the exact same reason – the book was over and I would never again get to experience the lives of Gus, the advisor to President Wilson who you want to protect from the world; or Grigori, the poor Russian whose sole wish was to move to America; or Lady Maud, the aristocrat who championed women’s rights and fell in love with the enemy; or Walter, the German spy who was the object of Lady Maud’s affection; or Ethel, the ambitious housemaid whose fall from grace took her to unlikely places. It was a bittersweet moment but it reminded me, once again, why Ken Follett is one of the best.
If asked to summarize Fall of Giants in one sentence, I would say it’s a story that follows several families through World War 1 and its impact on them. The problem is that the book is so much more than that. On a personal level, it’s about forbidden love, social duty, and the effects of war on individuals, families, and cities. On a political level, it’s about posturing for power, punishing dissenters, and what it takes to start a war. On a global level, it’s about national pride, the refusal to give in, and the horrors subjected on the people called to fight. Ultimately, it’s about politics, so as stunning of a novel this is, people with an aversion to this will probably not enjoy it as much those who do.Forget what you learned in #history class. Fall of Giants will teach you more about WWI then school ever did! Click To Tweet
I, however, love politics, especially the politics of the past, so this book was right up my alley. I’ve always been curious about the why’s and how’s of things and am fascinated by what leads countries and leaders to make the choices they do. Hindsight is, of course, 20/20, but it’s fascinating nonetheless. That said, this book taught me a lot of new things. I’ve always been aware of the fact that what I learned in history classes growing up was sanitized in a way that shows America in the best light possible, but reading this book made me realize that it also taught me virtually nothing about history. I learned more about the players in World War 1 from this book than I did in all of my years of formal education, and this both intrigues me and depresses me.
For example, I knew about the League of Nations, its purpose, and its ultimate demise. I did not, however, know about the repercussions of Wilson’s rejection of the Racial Equality Proposal, both at home and abroad. Somehow, my history teachers managed to leave out the resulting race riots and sentiments of Japanese towards Americans. I also learned about the role taxis played in The Battle of the Marne, the conditions in which coal miners in Wales lived, and a bit more about Russian life before the Bolshevik revolution. Basically, I learned that my previous knowledge was simply the outer layer of an onion and that I have a lot of peeling to do and a lot of tears ahead of me if I want to get to where I want to be.
Recommended for: Anyone who likes history, politics, or sagas. Whether you’re a history wonk who knows everything or a novice who knows nothing, Fall of Giants by Ken Follett is both a great learning tool and a stunning novel. The fictional characters are unforgettable, mostly lovable (even when you hate them), and historically accurate, giving it the best of both worlds.