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Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy, #1)
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Archived 2014 Group Reads > Week 9: 11/2 Ch 21-Ch 24.VI

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message 1: by Kristi (new)

Kristi (kristicoleman) Thoughts on this section of reading?


message 2: by Kristi (new)

Kristi (kristicoleman) Sarah's comment from Speed Readers:

I think I finally figured out why this book feels so different from other Follett books. In other books, like Pillars of the Earth, his characters have all of these dramatic ups and downs in their lives. Good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people, there are dramatic reversals of fortune, but the point is that these things are happening to the characters. In this novel it feels like the characters are just plunked down in major events so you know what those events are. I think this is why the novel feels so thin to me.

One of my favorite sentences, possibly in the entire book, happens in this section: Fitz was no good at the crossword puzzle challenge of decoding - he could never even work out the murderer in a Sherlock Holmes mystery This really made me laugh.

Is anybody bothered by the fact that Bea and Fitz continue to call their son "Boy" rather than calling him by his name? This is weird to me.

Word of the week: poltroonery Completely awesome.

The peace proposal was interesting, as was the sentiment that peace was unachievable because everyone had forgotten what they were fighting for and now they were just fighting to win.

I thought Ethel marrying Bernie was kind of odd. She held out for so long. I couldn't even begin to believe that she was considering Fitz's proposal. Lust seems to be the undoing of several characters in this novel.

I really liked seeing Rosa Hellman again. She's begun to really grow on me.

I think the bulk of the interesting info happened in Russia this time around. There were so many horrible situations. I think the most difficult for me was when they were ordered to fire on their compatriots. I can't even imagine the dilemma this would put you in. I was leaning towards the "fire over their heads" solution as well. I was very very happy when the soldiers ended up firing on the police.

Grigori says something at one point about "smokeless ammunition". Does anybody know what this is?

Then of course you have the downside of the revolution - the near gang rape of the woman in the doorway and when the 10 year old boy shot someone on accident. This reminds me of the horror and violence in A Tale of Two Cities.

I was appalled that the farmers and millers are refusing to supply more flour because they were insisting on getting paid. I know that it's necessary to feed your family, but like the corruption of the officers, it's also necessary to have compassion for others. Would it have hurt them to lower their prices? And yet, without this pressure, would the Russian Revolution have started at this particular point in time?

Reading this book has exposed two major areas where I lack knowledge. The Russian Revolution, which I know absolutely nothing about, and World War I which I know very little about. I was surprised that the U.S. entered the war so late. April 6, 1917. Would the war have been over sooner if we had entered in earlier?

I need to hit the non-fiction.



Alex Agree with many of your comments here, Sarah.

The Russian Revolution - ahh! Some scary stuff right there. I can't organise my thoughts very well as I only just put the book down but I was horrified by the idea of the police firing on the public.

I used to like Ethel, but she's becoming a very unsympathetic character to me. She's idealistic, but in a very negative way and she comes across as too proud considering her background and situation. Her marriage to Bernie makes me shudder.


Kaycie | 294 comments Hmm...weird. You both dislike Ethel's marriage to Bernie, but I actually like that part. Her and Bernie make sense together, get along well, and share the same ideals. To me, that's a pretty perfect marriage, AND it keeps her away from Fitz. She knows that's a bad situation, and this is going to help keep her from temptation. Lust fades whereas love can stem from working towards a common goal.

I am just enjoying the ride now with this book. It does really appear now (someone mentioned this earlier but I don't know who) that characters are only there so that Follet can have "eyes" on all of the major happenings in this war, but I'm still okay with it.


message 5: by Luffy (last edited Nov 05, 2014 07:05AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Luffy (monkey-d-luffy) While I thought this section was harmless, it was not really harmless fun. These chapters are neither sugary nor nutritive. The Russian Revolution was one highlight.


The stuff about Walter's and Fitz's work and Ethel's need to go back to Aberowen and her marriage, all of these are fine, but if it took 400 pages for Ken Follet to being firing on SOME cylinders, then I don't know how he can pounce on the historical upheavals and make this story his own.

There are too many characters sitting on the horns of a dilemma. I don't know how people's brains are wired in this book, but real people often know, even under extenuating circumstances, what they want and what they intend to do with the upcoming few days of their lives. I suspect this decision to make the characters indecisive and going back on their previous stance is just a failed attempt from Follett to give complexion to his two dimensional characters.

The reason why FoG seems like the worst choice for a group book is that Follett has decided from the outset to base his book about romanticizing wrongdoing. A lot of fiction is based on that concept. But here we get no respite from that aspect. The difference from say, A Mills and Boons novel and a J.D Robb book is the diversity in motives and settings. When Lust is romanticized, its product is the romance novel genre; well here Follett has dumbed down everything about his book. All things considered I rate Week 9 3.5/5. Bye.


message 6: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments Zee wrote: "I used to like Ethel, but she's becoming a very unsympathetic character to me. She's idealistic, but in a very negative way and she comes across as too proud considering her background and situation. Her marriage to Bernie makes me shudder.
"


Fully agree on all counts.


Sarah Luffy, you asked last week why I didn't like Ethel and I said I couldn't answer until this week. This week sealed it for me. I was struggling with her anyway because of her pride and her belief that she was somehow better than others. I was struggling with her character right up until she started actually considering the situation with Fitz. It was appalling. It's hard to believe that after all that time she would even consider him. It was ridiculous. And then she turns around and marries Bernie instead. A marriage to a man she doesn't love, who loves her deeply. I thought that falling into this marriage with Bernie seemed to just be a reaction to the situation with Fitz. It's almost like she has no idea what she actually wants. And jumping into a marriage when you don't know for sure that it's what you want is incredibly foolish. At this point I just don't see that Ethel can redeem herself to me.


message 8: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments I'm waiting for the chapter in which Grigori comes to an airfield, jumps in an airplane, figures out instantly how to fly it, bombs the heck out of the Russian government troops, then navigates safely over to America and negotiated peace with President Wilson. Heck, after all the rest of what he's done, this wouldn't be a stretch for him at all, just all in a day's work.

Oh, yes, since his plane is then out of fuel, to get home he walks across the Atlantic. Why not?


Sarah Ha! I like it. He does have a knack for knowing how to do everything AND being in the right place at the right time. Your description is fabulous.


Luffy (monkey-d-luffy) Sarah wrote: "Luffy, you asked last week why I didn't like Ethel and I said I couldn't answer until this week. This week sealed it for me. I was struggling with her anyway because of her pride and her belief t..."

I guess what she did, contracting such a marriage, has been done by a lot of women. A bad marriage is the great leveler across all classes. Maybe Ethel will get rich and suffer a loveless union with Bernie. Maybe Boy will die and Lloyd will be wanted by Fitz - but no, that sounds silly. I can't predict these things. I though Ethel would die in childbirth and now look at her...still one of the prominent characters on the SHOW that Follett has authored.


JoLene (trvl2mtns) I too was fascinated by the events in Russia as I also know very little about the Russian revolution. Everyman -- your comments about Grigori are spot on and hilarious.

I also don't particularly care for Ethel but her marriage to Bernie was not that surprising too me. Maybe she was always holding out hope for Fitz to come back in her life and when he did and she realized that they did not have any of the same values, she decided to turn to someone who did -- even though she didn't love him, it was a practical solution.

Walter's situation where his parents are keeping him out of the front-lines until he is able to produce an heir was a sad commentary of the times. I think we hear about those types of the things in England --- but I thought it was interesting to also have it take place in Germany as I don't think of Germany having as much nobility (mostly because we don't hear as many stories).


message 12: by Nina (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nina (ninarg) | 79 comments What bothered me about Ethel's marriage was that up to that point we had been told that she didn't love him, he was a friend but nothing more. A line or two about her growing feelings for him would have been nice, because the marriage does make sense in that they share the same ideals, Bernie likes Lloyd etc.

I lost what little respect I had for Ethel when she seriously considered Fitz' proposal.

The Russian Revolution was the highpoint of the book so far for me. It must have been so exciting for the oppressed workers, soldiers, women etc. to witness the changes around them and feel that a better future is perhaps not that far away. I am looking forward to seeing if the enthusiasm fades as the revolution carries on. It won't be all rainbows and butterflies.

Is anybody bothered by the fact that Bea and Fitz continue to call their son "Boy" rather than calling him by his name? This is weird to me.

Yup. Why not go all the way and call him "Thing" or something equally as cute and personal?

I really liked seeing Rosa Hellman again. She's begun to really grow on me.

Me too. I wouldn't complain if she and Gus Dewar could steal some showtime from Ethel and Fitz.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) Ethel may be standing for the ideas I share, but I still think that she is slightly annoying. There is some unpleasant tenseness in her, the feeling that she is high-strung and can spiral into action and emotion way too fast.

As for her marriage, it is the one what happens very often when people believe that they fit each other and are comfortable in the company of the other. It is not the marriage that is based on passion, but the one that will probably last longer than others.

I also felt surprisingly attached to the episode about the Russian Revolution. I thought I would be nit-picky and censorious, but in fact, Follett did not disappoint. His version shows the possible optimism after the years and years of oppression, and I am sure he will also show the evil side of the revolution and the negative effect some of its policies had on the peasantry and middle class. I also hope he will not avoid the topic of new Revolutionary nobility and Red Terror.

I actually enjoy how he shows that every character has his or her opinion about many different things. Fitz stays conservative despite the crucial war exposure. Maud is still the same suffragette, Walter is the same romantic. The characters keep their political aspirations, and they are very sincere about them. I know that Follett is a prominent supporter of the Labour Party in the UK, but he still allows other characters to stay in their part of the political specter without being too judgmental or opinionated.


message 14: by Sarah (new) - rated it 1 star

Sarah There was a rebound quality to Ethel's marriage that really bugged me. Follett is probably pretty pressed for time so I can see where he'd want to compress Fitz's proposal with the marriage to Bernie, but it was clumsily done. If there had been another section with more description of her and Bernie I might not have been so bothered.

The Russian Revolution was also my favorite part so far. Minus the gang rape scene. I could really empathize with the soldiers and peasants so there was a quick "YES!" at the beginning of that piece. Grigori and the sniper situation was a bit silly, though. Only because, like Everyman says, the guy knows how to do everything and is in the perfect position to do it. All the time. I wish someone else had taken care of the sniper. I did like that he got the experience of the bread lines in there.

Does anyone remember the scene when Grigori had his guys hiding from the battle? Were there any opinions on that one? I thought it was odd.

Nina, I like it. We should all call Boy, Thing. :)


message 15: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments Nina wrote: "The Russian Revolution was the highpoint of the book so far for me. It must have been so exciting for the oppressed workers, soldiers, women etc. to witness the changes around them and feel that a better future is perhaps not that far away. "

But terrifying for those who cherish stability, reliability, a quiet life, just live and work and raise a family. Like trying to just live a normal life in Ferguson these days. Armored vehicles in the streets, police in riot gear, cars being burned in the streets, stores being attacked and burnt, fear of going out to the market or even to work.

I would have hated having to live in those times.


message 16: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments Zulfiya wrote: "Ethel may be standing for the ideas I share, but I still think that she is slightly annoying. "

Only slightly?


message 17: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments Sarah wrote: "Does anyone remember the scene when Grigori had his guys hiding from the battle? Were there any opinions on that one? I thought it was odd."

He was -- is -- a master of dishonesty and self-interest.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) Everyman wrote: "Zulfiya wrote: "Ethel may be standing for the ideas I share, but I still think that she is slightly annoying. "

Only slightly?"



At that point of the novel:-)


message 19: by Nina (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nina (ninarg) | 79 comments Everyman wrote: "But terrifying for those who cherish stability, reliability, a quiet life, just live and work and raise a family."

But that was not the situation for most Russians before the revolution? It seems their lives consisted more of police brutality, oppression, hunger etc., and that a time of chaos and revolution would be welcome if it would lead to stability, reliability and a quiet life in the future. I'm not saying the revolution was all good, definitely not, very far from it. But at that point in time it must have been exciting to feel that for once, you could help shape the future of your country and that maybe starvation, police brutality and oppression was now a thing of the past. I wouldn't want to live in those days either, but I can understand the excitement of it.


message 20: by Sarah (new) - rated it 1 star

Sarah I agree, Nina, it must have been intoxicating.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 456 comments Everyman wrote: "I'm waiting for the chapter in which Grigori comes to an airfield, jumps in an airplane, figures out instantly how to fly it, bombs the heck out of the Russian government troops, then navigates saf..."

This made me literally laugh out loud! So true, especially in later sections, but I'll get to that later.

Ethel's marriage to Bernie didn't really bother me. Her serious consideration of Fitz made me want to slap her across the face, however. But after she again realizes what a sleaze he is, her realizing that Bernie is a great man and wonderful for her family, even if she's not head over heels for him, was perfectly understandable and even honorable. I got the impression their feelings for each other had grown, even if Ethel never thinks it explicitly.

I actually like the way (other than Grigori's part) that the Russian Revolution unfolded in the book. I could feel the tenseness of the overthrow of the government, followed by people high on emotion and not knowing entirely how to bring it under control. Very realistic.


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