Fall of Giants

Written by Ken Follett
Review by Ken Kreckel

This ambitious novel, the first of a projected trilogy covering most of the 20th century, tells the story of five interrelated families—American, German, Russian, English and Welsh—as they negotiate the tremendous events of the First World War and the Russian Revolution. Through the various characters—and there are quite a few—we witness the First World War in the trenches and in the halls of government, from each side of the conflict. Revolutions on the home front, from women’s suffrage to the rise of the workers, keep pace. It is a period of intense change, a time when giants, be they royalty, tradition, or whole nations, are destined to fall.

Follett’s story builds like the coming of far-off artillery fire. Barely rumbling at first, the tempo quickens until it breaks in a crescendo of world-changing events. With Follett’s considerable talents as a storyteller, one experiences a fast-paced, unforgettable journey with characters rich in emotion and intellect. These are people we care about. We feel the plight of an unwed mother trying to survive in a society that affords her few rights and little help. We’re with the workers of St Petersburg, oppressed by the brutal regime of the Tsar. Although personalized through the lives of these and others, the history is not trivialized. This period is described accurately – even one well versed in history may pick up something new – yet it manages to be superbly entertaining as well. This excellent work is destined to be a classic, and holds great promise for the following two novels.

A sweeping epic with the pace of a thriller, I could scarcely put it down. My only problem is waiting the two years for the release of the next volume.