Let me begin by stating that previous to reading these books I had never heard of Ken Follett, insane I know, since he is quite possibly one of my favourite authors. Also he regularly writes books based in the Second World War era, which is an obsession of mine and further outlines my disbelief at myself for not discovering this world famous author long ago. It was my boyfriend who gifted me with the second book in the series, Winter of the World, as a Christmas present. My boyfriend created a monster. Since this excellent gift, I have read eight of Follett’s books. It is however this series I constantly return to to re-read. What makes this series ever so excellent, is that these books although arranged in a trilogy, can be read as stand alone books also. So without further ado I will begin my latest review.
Book One: Fall Of Giants
Five families, five countries and five political backgrounds set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution and the First World War during the years 1911-1925. I must admit I was originally intimidated at the prospect of trying to follow the story of five separate families during this turbulent era of history, but this is where the talent of Ken Follett emerges as an author, his ability to provide you with these five point of view families, and yet manage to intertwine them so they effectively portray the realities faced by the people at the time and all connect all the stories together as a whole.
Follett always lists out the various characters and their families at the beginning of the book so one has a means of revising which character belonged to which family. The five main families dealt with in this novel are: The Fitzherberts, the Von Ulrichs, The Peshcovs, The Williams, and the Dewars. The characters come from a wide range of backgrounds, from the working class to the elite royalty, so the reader is witness to the problems faced by each class division. The author also cleverly inputs real life historical figures such as Woodrow Wilson, King George V, Churchill, Lenin and Trotsky, so effectively one would forget that this book is actually a fictional novel.
The reader is given an in depth look at the political upheaval of the first world war particularly as previously mentioned the Russian revolution, but also the plight of the Women’s Suffrage movement, the beginning of the demise of the landed gentry estates, the overthrow of Russian Royalty, the threat of conscription, the breakdown in class barriers as a result of war, the breakdown in families themselves, and the beginning of the red stain of Communism. It is horrifyingly clear how the decisions made by leaders of each political corner, can lead their people to either success or utter devastation. It is evident that the author has heavily researched the history of this era and his knowledge permeates the stories of the various characters and their countries.
The book also has your usual classic love stories that will also attract any reader, unrequited love and also the ever so popular forbidden love. The story is rich in adventure and suspense, and gives a rather in-depth look at life in the battlefields of World War one, and the political dramas that set up the events leading to the War and Russian Revolutions. Spies are quite a feature in these books and therefore add to the suspense. I personally found the chapters pertaining to the split in Russian society between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks quite enlightening.
This novel successfully highlights the deep seated tensions between the various countries, the problems and breakdown in communications that existed and led to the outbreak of war. It is fast paced and easy to follow, but also complex without being confusing, which is quite surprising since there are so many characters and story-lines present. Although I personally prefer the second book in the series, Fall of Giants is undoubtedly an excellent read. The characters provide a foundation for the following sequels, and the families will also play roles in the books to follow. The author also allows us to relate to the characters and form an attachment to them, which is a sign of a good writer.
So my dear avid readers, without revealing too much details, as I have been known to do in the past, I instead wish you all to form your own opinion of the trilogy. It is a must for any history and World War one fanatic out there. Ken Follett is a true champion when it comes to fast paced thrillers and successfully creates a society to which one can immediately relate to. I do hope you enjoy this book immensely.
As always please leave any comments or opinions you wish,
The Avid Reader 🙂