I love savouring sagas: those stories that seem to go on forever; stories that encourage you to believe that you know the characters intimately; stories that you find difficult to put down. I enjoy reading of the characters’ experiences as they span decades; and I anxiously turn the page to see if they will overcome the obstacles that they face.
Fall of Giants is one such saga. From the first page when I was introduced to Billy, a 13 year old Welsh boy preparing for his first day of work in the coal mines, I was drawn into a tale that begins before the First World War. Billy is one of the characters the reader follows through his experiences in the mine, to his experiences as a soldier during the “war to end all wars”, to his experiences in the post war society of England. Not only is the reader shown Billy’s world, but also that of his sister, Ethel, and his parents.
The Williams family from Wales are not the only family that drive this saga. We read of an upper class family, the Fitzherberts, who come into contact with both Ethel and her brother Billy. We learn of how the war affects the Earl and the priviledged society he was brought up in. We read too of his wife’s family and how the Bolsheveik Revolution affected their wealth and status in Russia. A reading of the Bolshevik Revolution would be bare if we were not intrigued by the involvement of the Russian worker – and the experiences that led to the worker to stand against the traditional rule of Russia. We are shown this through the eyes of the Peshov family, in particular Grigori. When he is disappointed, we understand his disappointment; when he is angry, we empathise and give our support to him.
A foray into World War 1 would not be the same without the viewpoint of the Germans. The German experience is shown to us mainly through the character of Walter von Ulrich, a young man who falls in love with an English woman – a relationship which is rife with complications once the War begins. We read of his hopes and dreams; as well as the lifestyle he experiences once the war is over. And while we read of his troubles, we feel empathy for him and for the one he loves.
And just as the Americans made an appearance in the Great War, so does an American make an appearance in Follett’s work. Gus Dewar is first introduced to us in England; but we see him too in Russia, and in his hometown in America. We read of his patriotism, and his desire to serve his president. We read of his disappointments, and his realisation of what he loves at home. When he fights in the war, we turn the pages quickly to see whether he survives or not.
The Fall of Giants was a page turner – and I made use of every spare minute I had to read about the characters’ lives. The novel encompasses 985 pages and describes the disappearance of a way of life. Yet I did not feel that the story was long. The action that takes place is absorbing; and the lives of all the characters are intertwined in an interesting and believable fashion. I recommend reading this saga. I know that I am looking forward to the next volume in Century Trilogy, Winter of the World.
Some background posts I have written:
Do you enjoy reading sagas? Which saga have you recently read?