Ken Follett

Fall Of Giants

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Fall Of Giants Summary

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Fall of Giants by Ken Follett, published in 2010, is a historical novel and the first installment of the Century Trilogy. The trilogy takes place during the twentieth century and is told through the points of view of five families that are all connected in some way. Fall of Giants spans World War I, the Russian Revolution, and finally the women’s suffrage movement. Winter of the World, the second book in the trilogy, takes place against the backdrop of World War II. The third and final book, Edge of Eternity, is set during the Cold War.

Fall of Giants opens with Billy Williams. This thirteen-year-old is known by his nickname, Billy With Jesus. Billy lives in Aberowen, a fictional town in Follett’s home nation of Wales, in the year 1911. Billy works in a coal mine there, and the story begins with his going to work. The main plot of Fall of Giants starts three years after the reader is introduced to Billy, in 1914, with a party.

The host is Edward “Fitz” Fitzherbert, an earl in Aberowen. The guests at the party are illustrious to the highest degree: King George V and his wife, Mary of Teck; Bea Fitzherbert—a Russian princess and the earl’s wife; Gus Dewar; Count Robert Von Ulrich and Walter von Ulrich; and Lady Maud Fitzherbert. Gus is an American who works as an advisor to the president, Woodrow Wilson. He’s well educated. Walter von Ulrich is not only a member of the German nobility, but also an old school friend of the earl’s, and Robert von Ulrich, a count or graf, is Walter’s cousin from Austria. Lady Maud is the earl’s sister.

As the party gets underway, Lady Maud and Walter display an attraction toward one another. The reader also learns that Robert is homosexual, and Maud is as liberal as the earl is conservative. Meanwhile, Princess Bea has some conflict of her own. A pair of orphans from Russia harbor ill will toward the Russian royal family. Their names are Grigori and Lev Peshkov. Grigori and Lev both work at a locomotive family. Bea’s family executed their father because he supposedly brought his cows to graze on their land.

As World War I rages and concludes, Germany is thrust into an economic decline which will create a vacuum of power. In that space, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party will take power, though Follett doesn’t write about the fallout from this until the second book in the trilogy. In Fall of Giants, Follett does cover the fall of Imperial Russia. This allows him to focus on one of the major themes of this novel, which is to break the bonds the aristocracy imposes on the common people.

Specifically, in Russia, Follett writes of Lenin’s part in the rise of the Bolsheviks. This was perpetrated by the Germans, with the goal to divide resistance in Russia and free up their eastern front. Stalin’s rise to power after Lenin’s death isn’t covered in Fall of Giants, but Follett does address this shift in Winter of the World.

International politics aren’t the only focus of Fall of Giants. Follett also devotes significant space to the suffrage movement and added measures of worker safety. The latter is prompted by a mining accident that occurs in Wales. Follett’s treatment of these two movements demonstrate the difference in quality of life between the miners and the aristocrats, and wealthy members of society with financial stakes in the mines. The latter have more opportunity, better health, and more education than the former. But the miners aren’t the only ones suffering—the soldiers fighting in World War I suffer too. Follett spares no detail in his descriptions of the horrors of the war, including the use of machine guns and poison gas. One of the main points of these sections is to drive home how, though thousands may suffer and die, the rich and privileged can still claim victory and success. The main characters of the story have mixed endings—some are positively affected by the war and their interrelationships, whereas others are negatively affected.

Follett is originally from Cardiff, Wales. His thrillers and historical novels have sold upwards of 160 million copies. Fall of Giants joined many of his other works on the New York Times Best Seller List. Many of his works have also been adapted into films and television mini-series. Follett has been a fellow of: University College in London, Yr Academi Gymreig at the Welsh Academy, and the Royal Society of Arts. Some of the awards he’s won for his works since 1979 include the Edgar Best Novel Award (Eye of the Needle) and the Libri Golden Book Award for Best Fiction Title in Hungary in 2010 (Fall of Giants). He’s received Honorary Doctorates of Literature from Saginaw Valley State University, the University of Glamorgan, and the University of Exeter.