Historical fiction at its finest, The Fall of Giants tells the story of five families over a period of nearly 40 years just ending with the mid 1920’s; coal miners in middle England, a land owning noble family in the same region, a couple of orphaned Russian brothers and an American diplomat in the Woodrow Wilson Whiter House.
The story line tracts the lives of the five families from romance to revolution, from elation to destruction, from peace to war.
Follett is s superb writer of fiction and should be even more highly regarded for his writing of historical fiction. He incorporates real people with his fictional characters, giving them dialogue which either quotes or represents what would have been said by the historical person. He paints dynamic characters with broad brush strokes of scene description, dialogue which authentically portrays the social and culture position of the speakers, and the emotional vibrancy of lived lives of that era.
The book is an epic in length, yet it is easily read for Follett is a master at creating condensed chapters which are short but each moves the story along in dramatic increments. Just as one might find the chapter beginning to wane in interest, Follett opens a new one with a new phase of a revisited family.
There are scenes of tension brought on by combat scenes depicting World War I engagments; by conflicts and clashes from the Russian Revolution era of pre-WWI and later; by social and cultural polarization and divisions between the British landed aristocracy and their tenant workers; and by the suspenseful working lives of the English coal miners.
Follett’s story draws on the reader’s emotions as one reads about the battle scenes, the dangers of coal mining, the romances between class cultures in England at the turn of the last century.
My feelings about this book
I enjoyed the book a lot because it was like was a movie or TV series with continually evolving scenes based on the development of family histories. It was light reading but enjoyable as the prose style moves the story along at a comfortable pace, with never a dull moment. The reader is never really left hanging at the end of any chapter but merely “told to hand on for moment” as a new scene is opened. Shortly thereafter, another, and then soon after, another again. Nice, comfortable reading. The descriptions, the dialogues, the pace combine to envelope the reader in the classic story line of developing drama, sad diversions, and enjoyable climaxes. A reader easily anticipates what is coming but always enjoys Follett’s narrative when the expectation is fulfilled.
A very enjoyable read. To criticize such an entertaining read would do disservice to the creative work completed by Ken Follett.