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 emigrate 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.
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I am all about books set during the first and second World Wars, and the more historically accurate and steeped in fact they are, the better. I find it fascinating to learn the different points of view and mechanics of having so many people involved in the same conflict. I wasn’t expecting all this going in to Fall Of Giants, but reading the book was almost like watching a reenactment. The characters themselves may not have existed, but the conversations they had, the people they met, the places they went, and the battles they fought certainly did. It was epic and all encompassing and really brilliant.
Fall Of Giants’ main selling point, I suppose, is the multiple perspectives of American, British, German, and Russian characters. Each and every one of the view point characters – all of whom were fantastic – had their own lives, complete with fears, desires, and opportunities. Not only do these characters present perspectives from different nations, but different social classes as well. You’ve got a German gentleman who is against the war and, indeed, tries to prevent it, and an English gentleman who is very much in favour of the fighting. This was a fantastic addition and I praise any book that shows conflict from all sides.
The book felt exceedingly well researched and there facts presented were woven in with the story with such skill that they never felt forced, or dry. I also liked the pacing of the novel. It was interesting to see the social change happening in England, even while their houses were being rattled by the force of the artillery in France. I was slightly less interested in the storylines taking place in America, but I think this was because I was eager to make sure my favourite character was still alive on the front line. Spoiler alert, he lives, and that earns the book a whole star on its own.