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Fall of Giants

Narrated by: John Lee
Series: Century Trilogy, Book 1
Length: 30 hrs and 36 mins
4.7 out of 5 stars (394 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A huge novel that follows five families through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for votes for women.

It is 1911. The Coronation Day of King George V. The Williams, a Welsh coal-mining family, is linked by romance and enmity to the Fitzherberts, aristocratic coal-mine owners. Lady Maud Fitzherbert falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a spy at the German Embassy in London. Their destiny is entangled with that of an ambitious young aide to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and to two orphaned Russian brothers, whose plans to immigrate to America fall foul of war, conscription and revolution. In a plot of unfolding drama and intriguing complexity, FALL OF GIANTS moves seamlessly from Washington to St Petersburg, from the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty.

©2010 Ken Follett (P)2010 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about Fall of Giants

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  • Sue
  • 18-02-2014

A gripping and unmissable historical fiction!

If you could sum up Fall of Giants in three words, what would they be?

History made interesting.

What did you like best about this story?

Ken Folletts characters, while sometimes cliched, are always interesting, and always masterfully interwoven.

Any additional comments?

I listened to this audio book after reading a hard copy (and loving it), to improve my knowledge of early 20th century history. Whilst I recognise that it is a history of interpretation by Mr Folletts, he nevertheless covers all of the most important events before, during and after the First World War, with great accuracy. This history, so often told in dry and difficult style in non fiction works, becomes alive when told through the lives of a number of interwoven fictional characters from different countries. The narrator, John Lee does an excellent job of dealing with many different accents and really made the book come alive for me. I loved it even more as an audio book. Highly recommended.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Amy
  • 29-11-2016

Wonderful!

This book is amazing, do not be intimidated by it's length. Ken Follett captivated me captivated again, just like with Pillars of the Earth (if you haven't read that btw, it's brilliant and a must). It is also based very strictly on historical fact, which I find to be fantastic and fascinating. I've been recommending this book to anyone who will listen.

4 people found this helpful

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Very Enjoyable

I very much enjoyed listening to this story. Looking forward to the next two as well.

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Masterpiece, worth the listen

The perfect balance between fiction and non-fiction. Allowing you too learn and also enjoy the story. Very well developed characters too.

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Thrilling, interesting historical drama

This was a great book, and highly interesting, let down only I felt by a small part near the end of the book where the politics of the Russian Revolution was not as tightly written as earlier parts. It was the only part of the book which I felt dragged. The majority of the book is extremely interesting and it is well read by the narraror. I am a big fan of Ken Folletts books which are always well written and entertaining. It was highly listenable and I thoroughly recommend it!

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Ripping yarn!

Ken Follett weaves these magical tales. Entrancing to listen to! I was disappointed in the quality of this download. Was it my wifi or a random effect but the audio skipped and jumped whether I was listening on headphones, on bluetooth the car or out loud. It diminished the powerful story-line. That said, I can't wait to listen to the next part of this trilogy.

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Not Folletts best.

Not my favourite Ken Follett saga by any means, nevertheless a reasonably enjoyable tale badly let down by John Lee's poor narration. There appeared to be a distinct lack of interest in the book as read by John Lee, evidenced to my ear by his unenthusiastic and rushed telling of this tale of the years around the First World War. One is left to wonder whether Mr Lee has become tired and bored with the historical writings of Ken Follett and whether it be time to find another narrator who will inject more life into them with a more enthusiastic narration.

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Another masterpiece from Ken Follett’s

Brilliant narration enhances a gripping story based on history before during and after World War One. On reading the graphic information, one’s feelings are laden with pathos. Ken does not hold back and describes the lives of people in Wales and Russia with an eye for detail and an unfolding story that makes it hard for you to stop listening. One of the many messages arising is how fortunate we are today in comparison with yesterday. Moreover, how unfortunate were ordinary people in Russia as they endured life under a tzar and later under Bolshevik rule facing both brutality, cold weather and lack of food!

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Entertaining historical fiction

In the first of a trilogy, the prelude to World War I, deciding factors and battles, and the aftermath, seen through the intimately portrayed and intertwining lives of people across the Western world. John Lee's performance is brilliant, convincingly portraying a range of accents and attitudes. Although the plot twists are like soap opera, Ken Follett's larger picture shows how social change and economy intertwine in history, and the soap washes clean the view to bring out class antagonisms. I loved it.

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Comprehensive and enjoyable historical immersion.

Another great and thoroughly researched story from Ken Follett, but the narration was somewhat poorly voiced. Great Welsh accents, but all the Russians sounded like The Count from Sesame St!

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  • S. R. Gibb
  • 04-09-2011

Disapointing

I really wanted to like this book. I have been a keen student of 20th century history since high school, 40 years ago.

Alas I found myself unable to really engage with the characters, finding them rather cardboard cutout. I could not help feeling that each was created purely to act as a vehicle to show key historical moments and most of the conversations they had, tended to give us lengthy history lessons. The fact that they seemed to somehow turn up at key points of world events of the time, I found clunky.
The book is redeemed to an extent by some great descriptions, the delivery of casulty telegrams being one good scene.
Overall, while i have no argument with the accuracy of the events portrayed, I feel that Mr Follet may have been better to have reduced the scope of the epic and used history as a background to the characters lives rather than awkwardly dropping them into each significant event. Not a book I could immerse myself in, rather, I skipped along the top, unable to find a way in

15 people found this helpful

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  • Rev. Kate
  • 27-11-2011

Powerful work; exceptional & gripping adventure.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

This audiobook is worth every cent and every second. I would very happily recommend this book to family and friends.A masterful piece.

What other book might you compare Fall of Giants to and why?

Ken Follett is an outstanding author. Yet, I find it very hard to compare one skilled writer's work with other skilled writer's work, even of the same genre, as their styles often differ quite dramatically... and so attempting to compare their work is a bit like debating which is the best type of friut.I can, however, state that there is no better wordsmith for his standard and style of work. The way he keeps your attention from start to finish, never under nor overstating life and it's bare,sometimes brutual, sometimes sensual, but always honest realities. He just weaves you into the lives of his characters and never lets you breath until he's finished.

Have you listened to any of John Lee’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have not heard John Lee's performance before, but his reading style is personable and clever. His interpretation of humour is simple and real, and his ability to hold your utter attention in dramatic moments is highly skilled. Brilliant performance... and I will be pleased to listen to any of his other readings.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I certainly laughed at times. And, I was certainly provoked to deep consideration of incidents and experiences, astonishment for the intricate manipulations of the war machine of the early 20th century, disgust for the polarised standards of rights and responsibilities, and I was prompted to empathy,sadness and even tears for the distainful attitude of negligence for life.

Any additional comments?

Brilliant work. Exceptional story. Plot and networking to real events was outstanding. An utter pleasure that I was sad to finish. A clever, highly skilled work that will stay with listener for some time... Superb!!

6 people found this helpful

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  • mr
  • 17-02-2012

A bit overambitious1

This is an enormous book. It tells the story of 5 different families in the years from 1910 to 1924. The research involved must have been immense and the book is almost successful. Perhaps this should be two books because I felt that the different stories all lost dynamism in cutting from one to the other. Nonetheless this is what might be called a 'jolly good read'.

I felt that the writing about the fighting on the Somme, the leading up to it and the reasons for it's dreadful body count were among the best I have read.

The audible version was rather spoilt for me by the reader who attempted numerous accents with varying degrees of success. I also cannot see why a German or Russian needs to speak with a strong German or Russian accent if he is speaking in his native tongue.

4 people found this helpful

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  • karen
  • 22-11-2011

A story to get totally lost in!

Would you listen to Fall of Giants again? Why?

Yes absolutely!! Fall of Giants is compulsive listening. I got so involved in the characters lives, loves and losses. A great insight to the different classes of the time and how war impacts on them. Love Ken Follett books - this is the third novel I've listened to.

Have you listened to any of John Lee’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I love this narrator! I so enjoy listening to him, he has wonderful tone and a beautiful accent and he reads at the right pace - not too slow, not too fast, and I was able to absorb the story fully. He can switch accents several times in one sentence - amazing, and brings the characters to life! I actually look for books that are read by John Lee now.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Jane
  • 26-11-2011

Compelling

This was a book really worth listening to. Not only was this due to Follett's strong narrative skills but because it was read by John Lee: he read with calm objectivity which linked his outstanding management of the many voices and the accents ??? wonderful acting.

This is an interpretation of the major events of one hundred years ago ??? the causes and the conduct of the first world war, rise of the Bolsheviks, the Versailles treaty and unionism, amongst many compelling themes. Follett demonstrates the human tragedy, the waste and pointlessness of war, the foibles and careless decisions of many of the leaders, both military and industrial (leaders coming from the so called ruling classes), the fights for women's rights. He clearly shows where he feels the seeds for future wars were laid.

And all this is very human as he interlaces stories of the personal lives of interesting characters.

So, one hundred years later, what have we achieved from the hell of the battle of the Somme? It was not easy to watch the news and ask whether the modern decisions of giants, the desperate current revolutions are just mirror images of the limits to humanity that Follett presents.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-08-2019

History and fiction in an interesting mix

I really enjoyed this. A perfect blend of fiction intertwined with historical figures and events makes this a very entertaining introduction to 20th century history. Good, strong characters and very well narrated.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 24-06-2019

Outstanding

John Lee is an incredibly talented narrator. A masterpiece created by Ken Follett. Together they make history come alive. Thank you both so very much.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-08-2020

Couldn’t get any better!!

My favorite writer plus the best narrator! Couldn’t get any better!!! I enjoyed every word.

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  • Cliente de Amazon
  • 01-07-2020

Fascinating!!

History at its best, superb combination of a true story structure with perfectly created fictional characters.

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  • Anita Kristensen
  • 04-05-2020

Educational

In these days, or any days, it’s healthy with a bit of a glimpse into history. It seems to be repeating itself.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 14-09-2011

What a discovery

I have found this an absolutely absorbing listen, and have even found myself drawn to listen to another chapter at times outside my normal listening schedule. It has encouraged me to purchase a further two of the author's books as I had not listened or read any of his books before.

25 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Richard
  • 25-08-2011

Fantastic

Probably the best audio book I have ever downloaded. The narrator is brilliant at keeping the book alive with good accents for different characters. The story itself is also great, i didn’t know too much about this period and almost nothing about the Bolsheviks in Russia but this novel takes you through it on a level at which anyone could relate to the experiences of the characters.

Funny, thrilling, interesting and educational.

Write another one please!

43 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amy
  • 23-09-2011

Brilliant

Gripping novel which kept me hooked! I think this has helped me understand the causes and the length of World War 1 more than any history lesson ever did at school. I really hope Ken Follett follows it up with a sequel as the characters were so realistic and would love to know how their lives evolve....maybe during World War 2? Would recommend unreservedly!

20 people found this helpful

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  • Robyn
  • 26-11-2014

Outstanding

I keep recommending this book to friends. It's one of those books that both educates and entertains - a real winner as I feel I'm improving myself rather than simply indulging in escapism. If the sheer size of the traditional paper version puts you off, then this is definitely one to do audio-style. The narration is spot on.

Rich story-telling in satisfying Follett style. I happened to be listening to the Battle of the Somme as we reached Remembrance Sunday this year - right at the time the papers were full of photos of the poppies at the Tower of London. Really quite poignant.

Setting the key families in the UK, Germany, Russia and the USA gives the listener a very full picture of the world at the time. A fabulous window to history.

I have just finished listening to book two in the series - just as good, though equally harrowing in places. Feeling slightly shattered - the world really did get itself into a right mess, didn't it? Book three has just been released.....fingers crossed it's of the same standard.

17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Dale
  • 26-09-2011

Excellent!!

I was engulfed in the story from the start when a 13 year old boy starts work in the welsh coal mine. From here it seamlessly moves around linking 5 different families and follows their lives before, during and after the first world war. This is probably the longest novel I have read (listened to!!) but possibly the best to date. I couldn't wait to listen to the next installment and I'm afraid to admit that my household chores have suffered a bit due to this book. I loved it!! I hope you do too.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Kirstine
  • 23-04-2014

A superb historical novel

There are many novels based on the impact of the First World War on peoples’ lives but none better than this book. The factual content is an excellent analysis of how countries slipped into what turned out to be a disaster and a salutary reminder of how hubris and stupidity can change the course of history. Where this book scores over a straight historical account of the period is that the author creates such engaging characters who are deftly inserted into this tumultuous period of world history whose fates become personally important and whose imaginary lives illustrate forcefully the impact of the war on all strata of society, on women and countries across the world. The book isn’t jingoistic in that there are sympathetic characters as well rogues and autocrats from both sides of the conflict though there is more sympathy for the ordinary people than for those with influence over events.
I was engrossed for over 30 hours by superb story-telling, excellently narrated, and will be downloading the next part, Winter of the World, as my next listen.

20 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Philip Salaman
  • 23-02-2012

Inspirational

A fantastic view of the political and emotional battles in the early 20th Century. Before reading this book if someone had asked me why the First World War was fought, I would have answered "something about an assassination of an Austrian Arch Duke". Now I know the reality, and having always found history books boring, this is brilliant. The characters are wonderfully interwoven with real historical people, that brings this very relevant story to life.

8 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Clive
  • 13-10-2011

An interesting piece of social history

I learnt a lot about the class system in the early 20th century and the reasons for the first world war. The book follows five families: Welsh miners, English aristocracy, German Aristocracy, American upper class and Russian peasants. The story is well woven together, slow at times but enough to keep you interested at all times. I found the book thought provoking and was left wondering why we did not have a revolution in the UK after WW1. Maybe if we had 90% of the wealth would not be with 10% of the people as it is in the early 21st century. (My age group 50-60).

15 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 14-07-2014

Disappointing

I didn't finish this and that is unusual. I found it all fairly cliched and boring to be honest. I accept I am in the minority here judging by the other reviews.

5 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Kim
  • 02-01-2012

An absolute must

Mr Follett has done it again, a brilliant mixture of facts and fiction, believable characters and an exciting stroyline. I will admit that I did struggle at the beginning, the narrator spoke rather fast and I had to get used to the different accents pretty quickly to be able to keep up but once I did I couldn't stop listening. I am an avid reader and I will read the book as well... yes, it's that good!

5 people found this helpful