Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fall of Giants

by Ken Follett
985 pages

This saga describes the interconnected lives and events of several families covering events in Wales, England, Germany, France, Russia, & America during the World War I era.  The book starts in about 1912 and ends somewhere in the 1920's.  Socialism, worker's rights, equality, and suffrage are main themes that dominate the thoughts and actions of many of the lower class characters, especially those from Wales and Russia.  The book also details the events that lead up to the war, and the actions taken by various groups to try to prevent it.  It also talks about the peace process and the immediate aftermath of the war.  It also covers the Bolshevik revolution.  This is a great book, and I strongly recommend it.  The characters really move the plot forward and help you understand the social issues of the day.  I've described the characters below to help you get a better feel for the book.

Characters from Wales:

Earl "Fitz" Fitzherbert:  British nobleman who has a large estate in Aberowen.  Much of his money comes from leasing rights to coal mining on his land.  He is a traditional conservative and member of the House of Lords.  He is married to a Russian princess and always sides on the side of the establishment.  He serves as an officer and intelligence agent during World War I.

Lady Maud Fitzherbert:  The sister of Fitz.  She is more liberal than her older brother.  She's a suffragette and does charity work for "fallen" women and their children.  She's also has a controversial romantic relationship with German diplomat Walter von Ulrich.

Ethel Williams:  Ethel is a coal miner's daughter and starts the book working as housekeeper for the Fitzherberts.  Later she becomes a Labour Party activist and suffragette.

Billy Williams:  Billy is Ethel's younger brother and a young coal miner.  He has liberal tendencies, following in the footsteps of his father.  He later serves as a soldier in World War I under Earl Fitzherbert.

Character from Germany:

Walter von Ulrich:  German nobleman working as a diplomat to England.  He has a clandestine romantic relationship with Lady Fitzherbert, but that relationship is threatened by the war.  He is an advocate for peace, but when peace fails, he serves as an officer in the German army.

Character from America:

Gus Dewar:  Gus is the son of a wealthy New York senator.  He works as a junior staff person for President Wilson during much of the book, but also serves as an American army officer when America joins the war effort.

Characters from Russia:

Grigori Peshkov:  Grigori is a poor factory worker in Russia.  He dreams of a better life and dreams of moving to America, until World War I occurs and he is drafted into the army.  He also plays a role in the Bolshevik Revolution.

Lev Peshkov:  Grigori's troublemaking younger brother.  He is a stablehand, but eventually comes to America and becomes more successful.

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