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The best place to locate a synopsis of Ken Follett’s 2010 historical novel Fall of Giants is at the eNotes link provided below, which presents a useful chapter-by-chapter summary of the book. Follett’s novel tells the stories of five families representing the United Kingdom, Russia, the United States, and Germany, whose lives intersect in the period leading up to the First World War (not yet called that, for obvious reasons) and follows these families, some of whom are aristocrats and others, mainly the Welsh miners, who represent the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum, as they navigate the political and social transformations that result from that horrendous conflict and the revolutionary fervors that followed. What was called “the Great War” before another, even more expansive and destructive conflict occurred beginning in the late 1930s, witnessed the demise of the world’s great empires, and with them the end of the monarchical rule that had characterized European government for many centuries. Fall of Giants is a reference to the end of that kind of aristocratic rule and the rise, mainly in Russia, of a revolutionary movement that would spawn an entirely new kind of international order.
In telling the story of young Billy Williams, a thirteen-year-old Welsh child born into the poverty and hopelessness of the coal mining communities of Great Britain, Follett is able to contrast the miners’ daily struggles for survival, both literal and economic, with the opulence and excesses of the upper classes. The author is also able to inject real-life figures like King George V and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson into the story to illuminate the international political transformations underway in the wake of World War I, particularly, Wilson’s idealistic and unsuccessful efforts at forging a new international order to replace the thoroughly undemocratic one that preceded it.
In addition to the eNotes summary linked below, there is also a useful review of Fall of Giants from the New York Times.
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