Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The book brings the era before, during and immediately after WWI alive.
Gus Dewar, the son of an American Senator works for President Woodrow Wilson. He watches in dismay as Europe moves toward war and is horrified when Germany's scheming brings America into the war. Germany believing that all out submarine warfare would end the war in their favor by preventing Britain and France from receiving goods from America attempts to make a deal with Mexico. When the British intercept the Germans' message to the Mexicans they leak it to the American Press ensuring America will enter the War. After a brief engagement to Olga Vyalov that ends when Olga becomes pregnant with Lev's child before America enters the War Gus marries Rosa Hellman a journalist, at the end of the War.
Earl Fitzherbert (Fitz) owns a mine in Wales where the Welsh miners work and live in horrible conditions. Billy Williams is forced to go down in the mine at age 13, the same mine his older brother died in. He becomes something of a hero after a mine explosion when he risked his life to get other miners out. His sister Ethel works as Earl Fitzherbert's housekeeper until Earl Fitzherbert gets her pregnant. Fitz discards Ethel and she is forced to leave her home in Aberowen and start over in London. She goes to work as a newspaper editor and forms a friendship with Lady Maud (Fitz's sister). She begins working for the Labor Party and eventually marries one of the Labor Leaders Bernie Leckwith. At the end of the book Ethel Leckwith is the M.P. from Aldgate and her brother Billy is the M.P. from Aberowen.
Before the War Maud falls in love with (German) Walter von Ulrich a friend of Fitz's. They secretly marry before the War and manage to keep the marriage a secret until the end of the War. Fitz disowns Maud for marrying without his permission and she goes to live in subjugated Germany with Walter, where food is scarce and inflation is high. His cousin Graf (Count) Robert von Ulrich joins the National Socialists (Adolf Hitler is the leader).
Grigori Peshkov and his brother (Lev) work in a St Petersburg factory. Their Father and other peasants were hanged by Princess Bea (Fitz's wife) for allowing their cattle to graze on her land and their Mother was killed by tsarist troops during the Bloody Sunday Massacre. Grigori dreams of going to America and is saving his money for a ticket when Lev gets in trouble with the authorities, Grigori gives Lev his ticket. Grigori stays in Russia and marries Lev's pregnant girlfriend Katerina. Conscripted into the army he becomes a leader in the Red Army that overthrows Tsar Nicholas. The Red Army makes peace with Germany. After Germany ask for an armistice with the Allies Fitz tries to use the British Army to overthrow the Bolshevik Government in Russia by backing the White Army. Fitz wants to regain his sons Russian inheritance (As Princess Bea's brother died without children her children are his heirs). Billy had the misfortune to be part of the army Fitz took to Russia and using a secret childhood code alerted Ethel to what was going on. Ethel wrote about it in the papers and British sentiment forced Fitz to return home with his army. Lev wound up being seconded to them as an interpreter. He was captured by the Red Army and briefly meet with Grigori. He offered Grigori the money to come to America with Katrina and their children but Grigori turned him down as he believed in the New Russia. Grigori had a rude awakening when he got back to Moscow and discovered the secret police were executing anyone who disagrees with Lenin. His friend Konstantin was scheduled to be executed, the book ends with Grigori's intervention in the execution but we don't know if Grigori is able to save Konstantin or if it causes problems for him later.
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