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Review of "Fall of Giants" Book by Ken Follett

Updated on August 30, 2013

Book 1 of Ken Follett's Century Triology: Fall of Giants

Welsh author, Ken Follett, has been publishing epic novels for many years. Since 1978, he has delighted his readers with a number of international best-sellers such as Eye of the Needle and Pillars of the Earth. Many of his books have been adapted to the screen, including The Key to Rebecca and World Without End.

Recently, Follett embarked on another historical fiction trilogy. In September 2010, he published "Fall of Giants," which explores the global political atmosphere in the early 20th Century. The nearly 1000-page book covers the lives of five fictional families in Europe, Russia and America as the world was gradually drawn into World War I - the Great War.

History buffs and fans of the show Downton Abbey will love this book, which is now available as paperback, as well as in audio and in e-book format. Despite its potentially daunting length, "Fall of Giants" is a quick, engaging read. Follett is a master of storytelling, drawing the reader in immediately with his intriguing fictional characters set in the midst of real-life, historically accurate settings.

I learned more about the time period from 1911-1924 than I could have by memorizing history books. Follett painstakingly researched the facts for the backdrop against which is story is set. No fewer than eight history professors reviewed the manuscript for accuracy!

"Fall of Giants" is both educational and entertaining. I gave the book a rating of 5 stars. If you have read and enjoyed this book, be sure to cast your vote below.

Ken Follett's book "Fall of Giants"
Ken Follett's book "Fall of Giants" | Source

What is the Book "Fall of Giants" About?

The title "Fall of Giants" refers to the transition from aristocracy and monarchies to a new society and new forms of government in the early 20th century. At the beginning of the book, King George V is crowned in England in 1911. Thirteen years later, when the book ends in 1924, he is the only remaining European crowned head of state.

The story is centered on five fictional families involved in intriguing plots involving infidelity, class struggles and family drama. But Follett's backdrop is perhaps the most compelling. It includes accurate historical detail regarding living and working conditions, working class struggles and the privileged aristocracies, progression toward early women's rights, and the stubborn arrogance of world leaders which transformed a Balkan conflict (arising from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Austria) into a full-fledged World War that resulted in the loss of over 16 million lives and ended with the controversial Treaty of Versailles.

When you first start this book, you may be overwhelmed by the "Cast of Characters" set forth for reference at the beginning. Yet, before long, the interconnections between the lives of a poor coal miner and his sister who works as a maid in Aberowen, a British aristocrat and his Russian princess wife, the aristocrat's liberal, forward thinking sister, a German spy, an American law student, and a pair of young Russian brothers, orphaned during the pre-revolutionary years are woven together.

Fall of Giants moves seamlessly between each storyline which both draws the reader into the minute detail of the individual sagas, but also provides a "bird's eye view" of the impact of the Great War on all countries involved.

World War I is brought to life in a way that history books simply cannot convey. Fictional characters are present in real-life scenes that changed the course of history forever. Follett masterfully places a number of compelling fictional stories against an accurate historical backdrop. Winston Churchill, Woodrow Wilson, Lenin, Lloyd George and other figures appear throughout the book, lending a "real life" feel to the stories that draw the reader through history. Follett employs accurate and confirmed characteristics in describing these real-life characters, lending additional authenticity to the storyline.

At the end of the book, you cannot wait for the second book in the Century Trilogy!

Rate Follett's "Fall of Giants" Book

5 out of 5 stars from 3 ratings of Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

Trailer for Fall of Giants Book by Ken Follett

Accolades for "Fall of Giants" by Ken Follett

If you did not score high marks in history class, do not worry about getting lost in Ken Follett's books. In "Fall of Giants," Follett includes ample background detail to set the historical stage, as well as impart a civics lesson to his readers without coming across as a teacher.

Indeed, this is one of my favorite features of Follett's books: his ability to draw you into the books, learn some history, and enjoy it all at the same time. The fictional characters in "Fall of Giants" are realistic, and have been carefully and accurately placed in "real life" scenes to lend additional credibility to the tale. Conversations are very realistic, without feeling strained or contrived.

The bottom line is that "Fall of Giants" is engaging and a page-turner through the entire 1000-page book. You will probably breeze right through the tome, despite its massive length. I finished Fall of Giants in a single long weekend!

Ken Follett and Fall of Giants

Criticisms of "Fall of Giants" Book by Ken Follett

As much as I loved this book, "Fall of Giants" is not a literary masterpiece. It is an engaging story through which you may gain some appreciation of the struggles endured by Europeans and Russians in the early 20th Century. It could be a book club selection, but it lacks the artistic, unique qualities of scholarly literature.

My second criticism of the book is that it is not appropriate for people under the age of 18. As much as I would love my teenaged sons to read this book to learn about World War I, there are sexual and violent scenes that would garner an "R" rating if the book was made into a movie.

Don't let these criticisms dissuade you from reading Fall of Giants, however. I loved the soap opera-style and the engaging story line. Ken Follett also does a commendable job researching historical facts. As a result, readers can learn a bit of history by reading his books.

If you have read "Fall of Giants," be sure to rate the book and leave a comment below!

Have You Read any Books by Ken Follett?

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© 2012 Stephanie Hicks


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    • LoisRyan13903 profile image

      Lois Ryan 

      6 years ago from Upstate NY originally from Long Island

      My daughter had to read this book for a college History Class. Now I am reading the book and I would consider it a Masterpiece. Will be reading the next books.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thanks for the endorsement! Wish I had "Man from . . . " waiting for me. Enjoy.

    • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Hicks 

      6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Kathleen - I agree about this trilogy. I liked the first book, but was a bit disappointed in the second Follet book on WWII. And, like you, I did learn a lot about WWI and that time in history from reading Fall of Giants.

      I have not read Man from St. Petersburg yet.

      What have you done with your life? I'll bet in some ways, yours has been more interesting than Ken's! :-)

      All the best, Stephanie

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Ken Follet and I are about the same age, which begs the question: What the heck have I been doing with my time?

      Loved "Fall of the Giants" though I'm a little disappointed in the second in the trilogy. I learned a great deal from "Fall" about WWI and its aftermath that I never heard in a classroom as a history minor in college. For instance, that England gave married women the vote after WWI because they knew those women would vote with their conservative husbands to offset the horde of labor voters who were returning war veterans who swore they would never let their country send them into a senseless war again.

      The second book about WWII didn't really tell me anything new. But it was still Ken Follet!!!

      Have you read "Man From St. Petersburg"? My personal favorite.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      6 years ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      His longer novels can be overwhelming. Pillars and World without End did me in for awhile. Since I've started writing so much, I haven't read a lot. I miss it. Have you read anything by Bernard Cornwell? His series called the Saxon Tales is unrivaled in historical fiction, even by Follet. That is my humble opinion.

      Eye of the Needle is a great book, as is Key to Rebecca. So many good little time to read them.

    • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Hicks 

      6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      That is funny, LA Elsen! We listened to the audio version of Pillars of the Earth last year on a long car ride to Southern California. My 15-year old son was in the car and just as embarrassed as we were as we quickly jumped over parts on the discs that were a little too sexual!

      Hope you enjoy one of his books now that you are "old enough"! LOL!

    • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Hicks 

      6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Chris,

      Yes, Pillars of the Earth is definitely one of Follett's masterpieces. Yet, the funny thing is that, the first time I tried to read it, I couldn't finish it!

      My husband gave me "Eye of the Needle" this Christmas, but I have yet to get into it, as well. I think there must be a "tipping point" in some of his novels. :)

      Cheers, Steph

    • LA Elsen profile image

      LA Elsen 

      6 years ago from Chicago, IL

      As a teen there were a couple of Follet's books in our home and I too was banned from reading them for the sexual scenes. Now as an adult, I wonder why I never red one of his novels. I am looking for a new read during this long, grey, snowless winter. Goint to pick this one up. Thanks for writing this hub!

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      6 years ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Stephanie, Thank you for a thorough and entertaining hub. I tried but could not get into this one for some reason. Follett is among my favorite authors, but it just wasn't time for me to read this one. You said Fall of Giants is not a literary masterpiece. What I did read of it leads me to agree. Now, Pillars of the Earth is in my book, a masterpiece and a I am so proud to say I read it many years before Oprah found it. Nicely done.

    • Stina Caxe profile image

      Cristina Cakes 

      7 years ago from Virginia

      Ken Follett is without a doubt my favorite author! I haven't finished Fall of Giants yet, it's just difficult to find time to read with kids and work and school but I am really enjoying it so far. Follett just amazes me with his epic storytelling! Thank you for writing this review!

    • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Hicks 

      7 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi everyone - let me just say, I am halfway through the second Ken Follett book in this trilogy. It is entertaining and a good read, but this first one shines brighter.

      Lots to learn about the early 20th century. I like that his writing is so well researched.

      Europewalker - I gave my copy of Fall of Giants to my good friend who is a huge Downton Abbey fan and she cannot put it down.

      Best to everyone! Steph

    • europewalker profile image


      7 years ago

      I am a Downton Abbey fan and this book sounds like something I will enjoy reading. I prefer reading books, (fiction or non-fiction) about European history over American history. Voted up:)

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Steph. Sounds like a great read. Will add it to my list. Love books that revolve around actual historical events.

    • vox vocis profile image


      7 years ago

      I'm a fan of scholarly literature, but although you've mentioned that the trilogy is not a literary masterpiece, I'm still interested in reading it. The title is catchy and the plot sounds intriguing. Great review, voted up!

    • Nemingha profile image


      7 years ago

      I have read The Key to Rebecca and Eye of the Needle by this author and I have to say that they were both excellent. I never saw the plot twists coming! I shall certainly be on the lookout for the Century trilogy!

    • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Hicks 

      7 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Bob,

      I'm glad to inspire you to read Ken Follett's books. If you liked the movie, Eye of the Needle, you will probably enjoy his engaging writing style.

      With respect to your diabetes diagnosis, I wish you all the best in managing your health. Feel free to direct message me with any questions. My grandfathers both had/have Type 2 diabetes.

      Enjoy the weekend, Steph

    • healthwriterbob profile image


      7 years ago from United States

      Hi Steph,

      I have not read any books by Ken Follett, but I did see the movie "Eye of the Needle" back in the late 1970s. I thought that was excellent, and now you have given me a whole list of books that I might want to read over time. Thanks for the great hub. Voted up, useful and interesting.

      P.S. Back when I first joined hubpages about one year ago, I read your hubs about what it is like to have diabetes. At the end of September of this year, I found out first hand because I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Now I check my blood glucose every day using the method you talked about. I know you have had the disease for 10 years, and I see that you are doing quite well. Hopefully, I can follow the same path. Thanks for the inspiration and best of luck to you.


    • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Hicks 

      7 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks Bill - you too! Enjoy your day.... congratulations again! :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well done, Steph! I have read this book and I thought it to be excellent; of course, your review is excellent as well. :)

      Have a great weekend my friend.


    • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Hicks 

      7 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Margaret - Fortunately for you, Fall of Giants is a quick read. I hope that that library reserve list moves along quickly! Let me know what you think when you read the book. Cheers, Steph

    • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Hicks 

      7 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Jools, I read Pillars of the Earth earlier this year and I agree. It was starting to get a little predictable and overly dramatic.

      However, I think Follett has matured as an author in Fall of Giants. First, it is definitely very historically educational. I enjoyed learning about this era nearly as much as I was intrigued by the fictional characters' stories. I really enjoy his powerful female characters, as well.

      If you read this book, please be sure to come back and let me know what you think. Best, Steph

    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 

      7 years ago from San Antonio, FL

      I read Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, and loved both of them. I have Fall of Giants on reserve from the library, but it hasn't come in yet. I've been looking forward to reading it, especially after reading this great review. Voted up!

    • profile image

      Nila Eslit 

      7 years ago

      This sounds interesting. I will surely get a copy of the book.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

      Steph, with this review you have at least piqued my interest in reading this book. I read Pillars of the Earth two years ago and agree with you that Follett is a master of drawing you in to engaging with his characters and also picking up some great history lessons along the way. At times I found Pillars of the Earth a bit formulaic, the main characters get on their feet and are knocked down again, on their feet, then something else scuppers their plans - I fond myself getting frustrated with this and it had put me off reading any more of his novels. However, you don't mention that he's done it here and I am interested in the historical period enough to give this one a try. Thanks!

    • Nat Amaral profile image

      Nat Amaral 

      7 years ago from BC Canada

      Thank you very much for this hub. I'll be sure to give this one a read!


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