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Fall of Giants

“Fall of Giants” stands with Follett’s best

Novelist Ken Follett is back. Big time. So what else is new?

Follett, famous for his sweeping epics, is out with the first installment of the Century Trilogy, his first historical novel set in the 20th century.

Fall of Giants is classic Follett. It’s long – almost 1 000 pages; it’s populated with hundreds of characters whose lives are intertwined; it’s set on a tumultuous world stage; it’s a good read.

Even he acknowledges that the trilogy is “probably the publication event of my life,” which is saying something considering his epics World Without End in 2007 and The Pillars of the Earth in 1989 were both mega-hits, soaring to the top of best-seller lists.

But Follett, known more for his storytelling than his literary craftsmanship that can verge on the overwrought, has outdone even himself here. Everything in this novel is oversized, from the scope of history it covers to the characters he creates.

It’s a book that will suck you in, consume you for days or weeks, depending upon how quick a reader you are, then let you out the other side both entertained and educated.

That’s quite the feat.

The five families in Fall of Giants – American, English, Welsh, Russian and German – are all affected by what’s happening worldwide, of course, but Follett takes the readers into their everyday lives, from the stuffy drawing rooms of British aristocracy to the brutal battlefields of Europe.

In addition to world wars and revolutions, Follett gives women’s suffrage considerable ink since it was one of the major movements of the early part of the century.

Listen to Follett’s Ethel, a housekeeper and pregnant paramour to an English earl:

“Why did men think they could get away with this? Probably because they usually could. A woman had no rights. It took two people to make a baby, but only one was obliged to look after it. How had women let themselves get into such a weak position?”

Follett’s women do not put up with it much longer.

And the best news is that the tale will not end here. Books II and III of the trilogy – Book II is called The Winter of the World – will follow the descendents of the five families introduced in Fall of Giants from World War I to the Great Depression, World War II and finally the Cold War.

Craig Wilson, USA Today, 29 September 2010