A Review of Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
Fall of Giants by Ken Follett is one of the most recent novels to be released from the author. The novel is to be the first book in the Century Trilogy. The book focuses on a vast array of characters from all different nationalities and brings them together in clever ways. It is set just briefly before the start of World War I and really does an excellent job explaining and exploring all of the issues both leading up to the conflict and during the conflict.
The characters are interesting and entertaining; there were some that I was naturally drawn to. The book began with a very Downton Abbey-like feel. We are introduced to an Earl named Fitz, a gay footman, and a feisty yet charming housekeeper named Ethel. As a huge fan of Downton Abbey, I was immediately drawn into the novel and became invested in the characters. Yet with the introduction of the war, the book delves much deeper into the historical events playing out and the politics that weighed it all down, sacrificing any similarity it had to Downton Abbey quite quickly.
The writing is good, but not always interesting. It became work to drudge through the history – something that Ken Follett clearly tries to intermingle with the actual characters as much as possible. It almost felt as though Ken Follett was trying to write a new War and Peace, but instead of having those dreadful chapters of pure historical content separated from the actual plot, Follett tried to avoid that and intermingle that history with the actual plot of the book. Follett seems to have made a huge effort to write everything while still making it interesting. I cannot say that he completely accomplished this goal. Follett does not have the powerful prose that Tolstoy possessed, but we can hardly fault him for that. Still, the book is very long, and I felt it all; it drags. To his credit, I still had to finish the novel due to my connection to the characters. I had to know what happened to them all, even the ones I disliked.
Follett also has moments where his writing just seems a bit weaker when in comparison to the rest of it. Most of these weak moments were in the dialogue and, oddly enough, mostly the dialogue in the American character’s chapter. Gus Dewar is a fictional character who acts as a minor advisor to Woodrow Wilson. He represents America in the best way possible, the way we hope we would all be represented in reality. He is extremely likeable. However, some of the dialogue in his chapters, especially his interaction with his first love as she breaks up with him, is jarring. It rings false right away, and I wonder why his editor didn’t change it.
Aside from the sometimes jarring dialogue and the plot weighed down by history, Ken Follett provides a very intricate and detailed picture of life before and during WWI. He clearly did a lot of research and clearly put a lot of effort in to presenting that research in an interesting and new way. His characters are all different and well-written. The actual plot that ties them together is satisfying and clever with some really great moments that shine through.
DON’T READ: If you have little to no interest in history, this will absolutely not be your cup of tea. The history is too intrinsically woven in to the character’s movements to be ignored.
READ: If you enjoy history, read this. If you can at least tolerate it, the characters will intrigue you enough to stick with the novel. Though there are moments where the writing is weak, there are some really great moments that shine through and make it all worth the time invested.
Written by Rachel B.
Rachel is a co-creator and writer at Definitely Not for the Birds (DNFB). She recently graduated with a degree in English. Presently, she writes, reads, and then reads and writes some more, with a giant and ever-present mug of green tea in her hand. Follow Rachel @rrbindl and DNFB @not4birds