I just finished reading a brick called Fall of Giants: Book One of the Century Trilogy by Ken Follett.
It’s the first Ken Follett book I’ve read and definitely not the last one. Follett is a very well accomplished author with over 150 millions book sold.
Fall of Giants is the first book of the Century trilogy. The first book is about the events that lead to WWI, the Great War itself, and the aftermath. The second book is about WWII and the last one is on the Cold War. The trilogy is supposed to take you through the major events of the twentieth century. The novel follows five interrelated families throughout the course of the 20th century. Each book is about 1000 pages thick but the pages just flew. Ken Follett has done incredible research to make it legit. It’s part history book and entertaining. You get the content that you would find on a WWI encyclopedia except its not boring.
I had to admit that my knowledge of World War I was limited. I knew the overall story of what happened but I was clueless about the why and how. Everything I knew about the Great War is pretty much what is taught in high school. After reading Fall of Giants I understood that you can’t explained the events that lead to WWI in a typical high school class. I by ’s very complex with a lot of moving pieces.
To keep things simple, we are told that the trigger of WWI was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. Instead of just Austria-Hungary getting into a scrap with Serbia to settle the score, what is not explained in school is how that assassination led to a bunch of country from around the world to start killing each other. It’s estimated that WWI caused 17 million deaths and 20 million wounded. The assassin, Gavrilo Princip, was aghast at what he has caused. I don’t think anybody expected that kind of ripple effect. Every country went into self-defense mode and things torpedoed into a war.
WWI was 100 years ago. It was a time when there was still empires in some parts of the world with a complex system of allies. Everybody though the war was going to be over by Christmas. Troops didn’t even prepared their winter gear. Indians were freezing in France during the winter. When you hear that India was fighting the Germans on the Western Front, you start scratching your head. Russia had the biggest army in the world. It was also terribly disorganized and mismanaged, rule by the Tsar. The Russians didn’t like their Tsar very much. The Russian people were poor and starving to death, so they had a lot of beef against the royalty. A bunch of events led to the Bolshevik revolution. Germany, a relatively new comer on the empire scene, was known for their efficiency. When the Russians troop got to Germany, they couldn’t believe that their pigs were sleeping in stone houses and how “well-off” the German were. This fueled further resentment against the Russian royal family.
At first people were “brainwash” into going to war. Troops were pumped-up. Once they saw the horror of war, they forgot the why and the what they were fighting for. It’s just what you had to do. X and X country was “evil”, so you have to kill them. While reading the book you get the feeling that after a while their heart and mind wasn’t into the war. Something that was suppose to last weeks or months ended up lasting years. As you can guess, troop moral was low on every side. Then the combattants started having these “Christmas Truce“. The Christmas Truce was a series of widespread but unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front. German and English troops would met in the no-man land and play soccer, smoke cigars, drink, chat…They probably realized that they were much or less the same with a lot in common. Too bad that didn’t transform into real peace. The troops got orders from to stop fraternizing with the enemy and to resume fighting.
There’s no time in school to understand in depth these events. You have to read and figure it out yourself. For some it’s definitely not the most exiting topic but Fall of Giants makes it easy and interesting for you. I learned a lot. I will definitely read the second book and third book. My reading list is pretty thick, so hopefully I get it done this year.