To begin with I have one thing to say about this big: It is huge. Mammoth – just like A Suitable Boy, The Stand, It and Ulysses. At over 900 odd pages, I thought I would never be able to finish the book and yet when I started reading it I was glued. I have always loved reading Follett’s works (except for Night Over Water) and they are fast-paced for sure and so was this one. However, the historical fiction angle to this book is huge and though the book is long – there is not a single sentence which is irrelevant. Size does not matter when there is an enthralling story brewing to be told. I was up most nights reading this one and not for once did I feel that my time was being wasted.
The plot is not as simple as it seems: The story moves logically and seamlessly starting in 1911 and ending in 1925. The large canvas of characters are sweeping and each one has its place in tact. No one is out of place. Their motivations are known – no matter how minor the character and he or she fits hand in glove to the story.
So book I of the trilogy (yes there are two more to come titled “Century Trilogy” and I for one cannot wait) is set in Europe before, during and after WW1. The 5 families who lives are intertwined are American, English, Scottish, German and Russian. What made me love the book even more was that it was set in a time and place I was completely unaware about. The kings, the queens, the dukes and duchesses, the coal miners, the working class – their lives and how they thought. Ideas about politics, love, family traditions, comunities and class distinctions, women suffrage and how they thought in those times intrigued me to the core. This period of time encompasses the First World War. The period of late the Victorian Age was a time when society was rigid with “manners”. The upper classes new their place and weren’t shy about letting everyone else know their place as well. If the code of conduct was firmly set for the upper classes and royalty, so was it set for the lower classes as well! If you were a member of the “working” class you knew who your “betters” were and behaved accordingly. Life was hard and took its toll on the masses. Follett does a masterful job at describing the world as it existed at that time and he spends a good deal of time examining the class struggle which went on in much of Europe during this time.
The story is intriguing and complex, but eminently readable. The violence and gore that were present in Follett’s previous works is absent here, and the action is fast and the storytelling fantastic. I have a fondness for historical fiction, and this work does not disappoint as the author has obviously thoroughly researched the era and has rendered it beautifully.
I won’t provide a detailed synopsis of this book since the product description on this page does that, but will say that it’s a drama about life and love during these fateful years and I promise you that this will go down as being one of the best books you’ve ever read.
I cannot recommend it highly enough and can’t wait for the sequel! This book, however, has a very satisfying conclusion and can stand alone as you are not left with unanswered questions at the end! Historical fiction at its best.
Here is a book trailer for you of the book:
Fall of Giants; Follett, Ken; Macmillan India; Rs. 350