Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy #1)

Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy #1)

by Ken Follett

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Ken Follett’s magnificent new historical epic begins as five interrelated families move through the momentous dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women’s suffrage. 

A thirteen-year-old Welsh boy enters a man’s world in the mining pits. . . . An American law student rejected in love finds a surprising new career in Woodrow Wilson’s White House. . . . A housekeeper for the aristocratic Fitzherberts takes a fateful step above her station, while Lady Maud Fitzherbert herself crosses deep into forbidden territory when she falls in love with a German spy. . . . And two orphaned Russian brothers embark on radically different paths when their plan to emigrate to America falls afoul of war, conscription, and revolution. 

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, Fall of Giants takes us into the inextricably entangled fates of five families—and into a century that we thought we knew, but that now will never seem the same again. . . . 

Look out for Ken's newest book, A Column of Fire, available now.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101543559
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/30/2011
Series: The Century Trilogy , #1
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 960
Sales rank: 3,538
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Ken Follett is one of the world’s best-loved authors, selling more than 160 million copies of his thirty books. Follett’s first bestseller was Eye of the Needle, a spy story set in the Second World War. 

In 1989 The Pillars of the Earth was published, and has since become the author’s most successful novel. It reached number one on bestseller lists around the world and was an Oprah’s Book Club pick.
Its sequels, World Without End and A Column of Fire, proved equally popular, and the Kingsbridge series has sold 38 million copies worldwide.
Follett lives in Hertfordshire, England, with his wife Barbara. Between them they have five children, six grandchildren, and three Labradors.


Hertfordshire, England

Date of Birth:

June 5, 1949

Place of Birth:

Cardiff, Wales


B.A. in Philosophy, University College, London, 1970

Read an Excerpt


January 1914

Earl Fitzherbert, age twenty-eight, known to his family and friends as Fitz, was the ninth-richest man in Britain.

He had done nothing to earn his huge income. He had simply inherited thousands of acres of land in Wales and Yorkshire. The farms made little money, but there was coal beneath them, and by licensing mineral rights Fitz’s grandfather had become enormously wealthy.

Clearly God intended the Fitzherberts to rule over their fellow men, and to live in appropriate style; but Fitz felt he had not done much to justify God’s faith in him.

His father, the previous earl, had been different. A naval officer, he had been made admiral after the bombardment of Alexandria in 1882, had become the British ambassador to St. Petersburg, and finally had been a minister in the government of Lord Salisbury. The Conservatives lost the general election of 1906, and Fitz’s father died a few weeks later—his end hastened, Fitz felt sure, by seeing irresponsible Liberals such as David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill take over His Majesty’s government.

Fitz had taken his seat in the House of Lords, the upper chamber of the British Parliament, as a Conservative peer. He spoke good French and he could get by in Russian, and he would have liked one day to be his country’s foreign secretary. Regrettably, the Liberals had continued to win elections, so he had had no chance yet of becoming a government minister.

His military career had been equally undistinguished. He had attended the army’s officer training academy at Sandhurst, and had spent three years with the Welsh Rifles, ending as a captain. On marriage he had given up full-time soldiering, but had become honorary colonel of the South Wales Territorials. Unfortunately an honorary colonel never won medals.

However, he did have something to be proud of, he thought as the train steamed up through the South Wales valleys. In two weeks’ time, the king was coming to stay at Fitz’s country house. King George V and Fitz’s father had been shipmates in their youth. Recently the king had expressed a wish to know what the younger men were thinking, and Fitz had organized a discreet house party for His Majesty to meet some of them. Now Fitz and his wife, Bea, were on their way to the house to get everything ready.

Fitz cherished traditions. Nothing known to mankind was superior to the comfortable order of monarchy, aristocracy, merchant, and peasant. But now, looking out of the train window, he saw a threat to the British way of life greater than any the country had faced for a hundred years. Covering the once-green hillsides, like a gray-black leaf blight on a rhododendron bush, were the terraced houses of the coal miners. In those grimy hovels there was talk of republicanism, atheism, and revolt. It was only a century or so since the French nobility had been driven in carts to the guillotine, and the same would happen here if some of those muscular black-faced miners had their way.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Follett is masterly in conveying so much drama and historical information so vividly…grippingly told.”—The New York Times Book Review

Fall of Giants is classic Follett.”—USA Today

“Follett conjures the winds of war.”—The Washington Post

“Grand in scope, scale, and story.”—The Associated Press

“A suspenseful epic.”—The Seattle Times


“Fascinating, in a big way.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Reading Group Guide


Fall of Giants is his magnificent new historical epic. The first novel in The Century Trilogy, it follows the fates of five interrelated families—American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh—as they move through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women's suffrage.

Thirteen-year-old Billy Williams enters a man's world in the Welsh mining pits… Gus Dewar, an American law student rejected in love, finds a surprising new career in Woodrow Wilson's White House… two orphaned Russian brothers, Grigori and Lev Peshkov, embark on radically different paths half a world apart when their plan to emigrate to America falls afoul of war, conscription, and revolution… Billy's sister, Ethel, a housekeeper for the aristocratic Fitzherberts, takes a fateful step above her station, while Lady Maud Fitzherbert herself crosses deep into forbidden territory when she falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a spy at the German embassy in London…

These characters and many others find their lives inextricably entangled as, in a saga 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. As always with Ken Follett, the historical background is brilliantly researched and rendered, the action fast-moving, the characters rich in nuance and emotion. It is destined to be a new classic.

In future volumes of The Century Trilogy, subsequent generations of the same families will travel through the great events of the rest of the twentieth century, changing themselves—and the century itself. With passion and the hand of a master, Follett brings us into a world we thought we knew, but now will never seem the same again.



Ken Follett is the author of seventeen bestsellers, from the groundbreaking Eye of the Needle, and is one of the world's most popular novelists. He has sold approximately 90 million books. He lives in England with his wife, Barbara.


  • Before reading Fall of Giants, what did you know about World War I? Did you learn anything new upon finishing the novel?
  • Is there a custom or practice from the book's early twentieth-century time period that you wish existed in our modern day? What would it be, and why do you think it should have a place in today's world?
  • Is it significant that Fall of Giants begins with the stories of Billy and Ethel Williams? Would the novel have been different if other characters' stories opened the book, such as those of Grigori and Lev Peshkov, or Gus Dewar?
  • Talk about the historical figures that appear throughout Fall of Giants, such as Woodrow Wilson, King George V, Vladimir Lenin, and others. What did you think of Ken Follett's depiction of them? Do you like seeing notable people such as these come alive in fiction, or do you prefer reading about them in a strictly historical context?
  • When you first read about Billy Williams in chapter one, did you anticipate how his life would unfurl—for example, that he would end up in running for Parliament? What about other characters: Could you guess what some of them would end up doing or being at the book's end?
  • Do you enjoy reading epic novels such as this one? What makes them so appealing to readers, in your opinion?
  • In continuation of the above question, if you had to identify one of the main characters' stories as one that would make a good "stand-alone" novel, which would it be? Why do you think his/her story would make an enjoyable book on its own?
  • Think about the main characters and what place faith held in their lives. Did religion help or hinder their respective circumstances? What is the overall role of religion in Fall of Giants?
  • Along these lines, discuss the characters who abandoned their respective faiths. What caused them to walk away from their beliefs? To what end?
  • Follett depicts life in the early twentieth century through a series of detailed and imagery-rich scenes: the pitch-darkness of a Welsh coal mine, the opulence of an English country manor, the austerity of pre-industrial Russia, the horrors of a French battlefield. Which scenes stood out for you? Why did they make such an impression?
  • Follett writes from the vantage points of people whose home countries come to the brink of—and finally enter into—a world war. What was it like to read the perspectives of enemies as they embark on battle with one another? Did you find yourself taking sides in any way? Did reading about World War I through fiction cause you to think differently about the conflict?
  • Follett populates this novel with several strong female characters. Compare/contrast some of them; who was your favorite? Which one did you like least? Apply the same question to the book's male figures. When considering those of different backgrounds and social classes, were any of the male figures similar to one another?
  • Discuss Maud and Ethel's relationship. Did you expect them to form such a lasting bond, considering they met as mistress and servant? What did you think of the circumstances surrounding how their friendship ultimately dissolved?
  • Also contemplate Ethel and Maud's work as women's rights advocates. Were there aspects of each woman's personal life that seemed at odds with her commitment to advancing the cause of women?
  • Go back to the Aberowen mine explosion in chapter two. Do you think it's a metaphor for any of the novel's themes? How do things change in Aberowen, and elsewhere, after this disaster?
  • Discuss examples of the disparity between how women and men were treated during this era. Were women regarded better, or worse, than you imagined they'd be? How far have women come since the early 1900s? What inequalities between the sexes still persist today?
  • Think about the ways the main characters' lives intersected throughout the book. Were there any characters that didn't meet over the entirety of the novel that you wished did? Who, and why?
  • What did you think of Earl Fitzherbert at the beginning of Fall of Giants? How did he evolve as a man throughout the course of the narrative? Did your opinion of Fitz change from your initial impression of him?
  • Consider the book's title. Who or what are the "giants" of the story? How did they fall?
  • What did you think of the book's ending? Did the author succeed in wrapping up the many threads and strands in Fall of Giants? Which of the characters in Fall of Giants do you expect to be reading about in books two and three of The Century Trilogy?

Customer Reviews

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Fall of Giants 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2222 reviews.
Catbluize More than 1 year ago
This is the first book of a new series. Starts with Welsh miners in early 20th century and intermission (ends) in the 1920's. The interaction historically is wonderful, the characters are extremely varied and it's amazing how they tie together. Follett goes into great detail of the characters. The book is very instructional on the politics of the era and the various characters are examples of the points of view of the period and how the politics eventually affect them. This is not a book you can read 5 pages at a time. Chapters are 50 pages. Find a comfortable chair, a good bottle of wine, and plan on a weekend of wonderful reading. If you're a part of a book club, plan on chapter discussions, they will be extremely stimulating. IF I had a complaint, it's that the book jumps between the characters. I plan on reading the book a second time, a character at a time. A definite for your Library. You'll want to keep a copy to reread when the second comes out.
SanvenFW More than 1 year ago
Having had the opportunity to actually read the book, I can tell you that Mr. Follett is spot on yet again. His razor sharp story telling, character development and interwoven storyline are all realized brilliantly. The entanglement of these characters with each other leads to a complex yet seamless journey around the globe. The book is fast paced, almost impossible to put down and sure to be an instant classic! I can not more highly suggest a title, this one was incredible. That being said, while I agree that the eBook price is outrageous, please note that the price is not set by Mr. Follet, it is in fact, set by his publisher. While I can say this book blew me away, I'm do not think I would purchase this title until Penguin decides to stop punishing those of us who have decided to invest in the future of electronic publishing. Book: 5 stars, ebook price: 0 stars.
PiratesGold More than 1 year ago
To all who have complained about the price of this novel, I will be the first to admit, it is worth every dollar. Fall of Giants falls into the status level of 'Gone with the Wind.' I would have paid $40 to have the experience of reading Margaret Mitchell's timeless classic. Price is relative to all and all will have their different thresholds. I spent twenty dollars to have a fascinating journey into the early 20th century. The same day, I spent twenty dollars on cleaning supplies for my kitchen. Guess which will have the most lasting impact on my life? This is an exceptional story with Follett creating depth into his characters in which very few authors can achieve. The list of characters in the beginning of the novel can be daunting but Follett introduces his characters to the reader as if they were part of your family. You understand their thought process and inner workings to the point where emotions are evoked, similar to the way family members evoke certain emotions at Thanksgiving... for better or worse. This historical fiction has the abilty to open eyes to the complicated yet simplistic world of politics. Find a weekend with no commitments then buy this novel, a bathtub shelf, bubble bath, and a bottle of wine. On Monday, tell me what the price is to your mind and soul, of having the opportunity to enjoy the luxuries of a warm bath with an amazing novel.
denverbroncosgirl More than 1 year ago
It's unfair to rate this book with one star because you're upset with Barnes & Noble's ebook price. That has nothing to do with a book review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This ,as other books by KF is a worthwhile read. I suggest borrowing it or get it from libraryor get it used - - the ebook is too expensive! I borrowed it, and it's bulky snd cumberson compared to the nook, but it was free. and definitely worthwhile!! On line go to contact us" in customer service - mention the cost of the e books there too!! This is the responce I received when I did. eBooks are an emerging category and many pricing models are being tested from both publishers and retailers. What's important for all of our customers to know, is that we are committed to providing them with the widest catalog of digital books and ePeriodicals, that they can read and take with them on more devices than any other ebookstore. However, Barnes and Noble does not control the pricing of eBooks. Publishers, for the most part, control the pricing of digital books. The move to publisher pricing happened very quickly and this change became official recently.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can not begin to rave enough on the brilliance and quality of the writing, research, and sheer story telling by Ken Follett in Fall of Giants. The story is full of historical details, but Ken Follett finds a way to keep the story moving at an easibly readable pace. No matter if you are a history ethusiast or an average book reader you will love this novel. All who boycott it simply due to price are missing out.
LADYHEARTWELL More than 1 year ago
I am writing this as a rebuttal for all the NEGATIVE "reviews" that were posted for FALL OF THE GIANTS. Barnes & Nobles, or any other book store, should NOT permit comments re: pricing to be listed as a review. THIS IS NOT A BOOK REVIEW!! PERIOD. END OF STORY. I'm confident we will not be disappointed in this book; so far I've not been disappointed in any of Ken Follett's books. It will be wonderful to read a trilogy about a more modern time that we might be able to relate to. Perhaps some of our ancestors came from some of the places KF wrote written about. I can't wait to get started!! For those of us who plan to enjoy ourselves page by page; HAPPY READING!! :-) As for the rest of the complainers about price, etc., KEEP THESE COMMENTS OUT OF THE BOOK REVIEWS! SEND YOUR COMPLAINTS DIRECTLY TO BARNES & NOBLES; THAT'S WHERE THEY BELONG---NOT HERE! WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE BOOK--NOT THE PRICE!!!
BeckyLynn More than 1 year ago
I was somewhat hesitant to purchase this book because of the reviews, but I am so glad I did. The characters are engaging and I love the fact that it is about World War I. There are not that many historical novels about the politics and events of this time period. It reminds me of The Winds of War and War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk, both of which I totally loved. I am eagerly awaiting the next in the series!
Queen-Reader More than 1 year ago
Ken Follett never disappoints and he is one of the few who gets better with age. I didn't think I would enjoy any book as much as Pillars of the Earth. Fall of Giants is my new favorite! I hope he doesn't make us wait too long for the second book of the trilogy. I can't recommend this book enough. The characters are interesting, the storyline is so smooth and the writing is suburb. 1000 pages of pure joy!!!!!! Keep 'em coming!
CONSTANTREADERMO More than 1 year ago
I remember my Grandmother telling me how the world was when she was 15 when the US entered WWI. This book gave me a global view which was fantastic. The only thing that the book did not truly expose was the effects of gas warfare and the world-wide Influenza that killed around 25 million people. But other than that, I found it very very good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Once again, Ken Follett has given us a dramatic look into history with this sweeping epic. Follett is a master at fleshing out an extraordinary number of characters. It can be a bit overwhelming when you read the character list at the start of the story, however, by about a third the way into the book I found myself thoroughly engrossed in their lives. The action picks up about half way in and although there are a few chance encounters that seem a bit too contrived, overall the story flows well and the historical aspects make for a fascinating read. I'm now well past the half way point and can without a doubt say that if you liked "Pillars of the Earth" and "World Without End" the Century Trilogy will be right up your alley. This first book covers what is probably the most patchy area of 20th century history for me, I've learned so much through the course of this book and especially find the story of the Russian Revolution engrossing. Cannot wait to see what Books 2 & 3 have in store!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story was fantastic from start to finish. The price however was hard to swallow for an e-book. However, I won't punish the rating of the story based on the price. This books is up their with "Pillars of the Earth" and "World Without End".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book, and I read tons of historical fiction. I was stunned at the number of "bad" reviews from people who obviously haven't bought or read the book. If you don't want to pay for it, don't buy it. But you will miss a really great read. Although it follows the lives of several characters over time, it was easy for me to follow and very captivating. I have read Ken Follett's other novels and this ranks as one of my very favorites.
ReadingSoccerMama More than 1 year ago
I am a big fan of Follett's previous epic novels, but couldn't be more disappointed with this one. I'm no prude by any means, but had all of the explicit sex and descriptions been left out, this might have been a decent novel. The idea behind the historical story line would have been wonderful to follow through this proposed trilogy, but I will not read any more of them. The author writes like a horny teenaged boy in this novel taking away immensely from the important historical aspects that he tries to cover. In short---rating of ZERO...don't waste your money or time.
yowen2010 More than 1 year ago
Usually, I'm a avid fan of Ken Follet's book however, this book bored me and I found it hard to stay awake. I did read the entire book and along the way wished for something great to happen but instead, I was thrown for reading "encyclopedia of world war I"....big disappointment!!
KJEJ More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading Fall of Giants and can't wait to read the 2nd book in the trilogy. I planned ahead to read it on my vacation due to the length of the book and my inability to put a book down once I start reading. I downloaded it onto my nook and enjoyed every moment of being transported to another place and time. For those of you complaining about the eBook price compared to other eBooks, I say this: we are paying for the content, not the method of delivery. We are paying for a talented author, a well-researched history-based story, quality writing, and a beefy novel you can sink your teeth into. A fast-food burger is not the same (and doesn't command the same price) as a gourmet burger. The same is true for books, so sit back, relax, and savor every page (all 790 nook pages) of a great story.
Donald Dale More than 1 year ago
Great account of history, politics, and the human condition weaved into a gripping historical fiction. Thourghly enjoyed the pace of the book and appreciative of the great length Follett takes in developing his characters. Not quite on the epic level of 'Pillar's'.... just yet but has the potential to be a close second. CONS: slow start(pg. 1-100) but really picks up and of course PRICEY!!! If you can wait for it at the library CHEERS!!!......if not, no worries, you'll get what you pay for. TO ALL WHO ARE REALLY MAKING AN EXAGERATED FUSS OVER PRICE research Aggregate Demand...simple economics. ; )
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you're like me, you are not very good at remembering all that history they shoved into your head in school. This book appealed to me because I do have an interest in historical matters, though I lack the attention span for most of it. The way this book presents the historical facts makes it easy to pay attention and enjoy learning. The character interactions are a bit repetative and predictable, but overall the story is a good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well developed characters. Marvelously detailed. In-depth research prior to writing is obvious.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A bit too much time on the battlefield for me.
relax-n-read More than 1 year ago
I bought this book on my Nook, one, because I wanted a good long book for my trip to Italy and two, who wants to carry a 500 page book around with them? I loved the book, only taking me a week to read, I couldnt put it down. Once again Follett sucks you in with his plot and web of characters. Though I enjoyed the theme of Pillars of the Earth more, Fall of Giants is a great book that makes you love each character, and their side of the story. Definitely read if you enjoyed his other works.
usteacher More than 1 year ago
if you are are fan of Rutherford, Follett and Archer, you will love this book. It is a great flowing historical ficiton story. Love how there is the Russian, German, British, Welsh and American perspective. Can't wait for Part II.
Sarah Hineline More than 1 year ago
In my eyes he has done it again. I greatly admire the detail, thought and research Follett has done for this wonderful tale. Much like his previous books I have been unable to put "Fall Of Giants" down, except for sleeping and eating!
Mike Scheid More than 1 year ago
I like my history spoon fed
CatsPA More than 1 year ago
Ken Follett captures the culture of a period in time. Excellent character development and outstanding story. Reading this book gave me insight into the politics of the early 1900's. I'm looking forward to the next book in this series.