Review: Fall of Giants

7315573Title: Fall of Giants
Author: Ken Follett
Genre: Historical fiction

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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.

I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected! I have read a lot of historical fiction novels set during world war II, but not so many that take place during the first world war. This book covers a lot of ground, from the years leading up to the war to a few years after and the Russian Revolution. It follows many different families and people from all walks of life: a Welsh brother and sister from a poor mining town, a rich English aristocrat and his family, a German aristocrat, an American politician, and Russian peasants. I really liked how there were so many diverse perspectives, and how all these stories were interwoven in unexpected ways.

For such a grand, sweeping story, it was one of the most intensely personal books I've read. Nearly every character is flawed and makes mistakes, but they all also demonstrate strength, resilience, and love. There are some characters who remain infuriating throughout the book, but others grow and develop into remarkable people. I was slightly annoyed at the beginning with the number of illicit love affairs and unrequited romances towards the beginning of the book; it seemed like every single character was defined by their romantic adventures. That quickly changed once the war began to loom larger in the story, and I enjoyed seeing how the strain of war brought out many of the character's true colors.

I also appreciated how well-researched this book was. It was like a much more entertaining and engaging version of my 10th grade world history textbook! We get glimpses of many important historical figures, including Winston Churchill and Lenin. Follett effortlessly blends fact and fiction, and he mentions in the afterword that he only included specific historical figures and events in his story when and where it was plausible that they really could have interacted with his fictional characters.

I very much enjoyed this book, but the grand scale of it makes it a little daunting to read the whole trilogy (it's called the Century trilogy, after all!). Although I probably won't continue the series, I highly recommend this book for historical fiction lovers.
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