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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Fall of Giants and Winter of the World: A Review

I just finished reading Ken Follet's works one after the other: "Fall of Giants" and "Winter of the World", which are part of the Century Trilogy.  Both books are massive. Kindle gives a reading time for each book at 16 hours.  It took me weeks to finish them.

The books are about five families in different parts of the world, Russia, Germany, Britain and the USA, which were intertwined by events of the last century.  Follet introduces them to us in Fall of Giants, which took place in the 20s and 30s and pretty much covered events leading to and during World War I, the Russian Revolution and political events that changed the course of history, including women's suffrage.

The second book, Winter of the World introduces us to the next generation and mostly offsprings of the characters in the first volume.  We also see changes in the lives and social standing of many of the characters.  For me, this is darker than the first book because it dealt about the atrocities of the Nazi Regime, the terror of World War II and the savagery of the Red Army which was supposed to liberate Berlin after the war.  Oh, and it also set the stage for the cold war with the introduction of the atomic bomb.

Follet described everything in vivid imagery.  He is a master of description: from the darkness of the coal mine pit, to the battlefields in France, the blitzkrieg, and the harsh Russian winter.  Follet described everything so well that you could almost even smell his characters when he says that they haven't bathed for weeks.  

I think this is why I got hooked with these books and kept me turning page after page.  Follet made me feel like I was part of the events as they unfold.  It felt like, I was sitting beside the Dewars while they were negotiating for the establishment of the United Nations or when the British Parliament was debating whether to unseat Chamberlain or not.  It does help that the reader knows basic modern history but it is not necessary.

This brings us to the next point I want to make.  Follet made the reader learn history and the behind the scenes stories about the events without the reader noticing it.  I learned a lot about the conditions of the miners in Wales and how the British women won their right to suffrage by reading this book.

Spending weeks reading these books also made me feel that I knew these families well enough that I am interested to what would happen to them. "Winter of the World" ended in a hopeful note, on Christmas Day, with Carla von Ulrich surrounded by her family singing a Christmas Carol.   

I am looking forward to the third and final installment of the trilogy.  

Fall of Giants and Winter of the World are both available for Kindle on

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