Tag Archives: america

#4 Fall of Giants – Ken Follett

3 Dec

The Century Trilogy – Book 1 of 3

Fall of Giants - Front Cover

Fall of Giants – Front Cover

Goodreads rating: 4.14 (35,000+ ratings)

My rating: 9/10

Why it’s on the list: About  5 or so months ago I was looking for book recommendations (Around the same time I started The List), and a good friend of mine recommended it to me. When she first sent me the synopsis I said no straight away, because it sounded long, rambling and boring. But once I saw another summary I decided to read it, and I’m so glad I did.

First published: September 28th, 2010 by Pan Macmillan

Genre: Historical Fiction, Epic

Fall of Giants follows five interrelated families from America, Germany, Russia, Wales & England and is set between 1911 and 1924, and covers huge events including WWI, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women’s suffrage. It is full of love, scandalous sex, betrayal, war, loss, hatred, family ties, loyalty (both to family and country) and aristocracy.

When I first bought this book, I couldn’t believe how HUGE it seemed. But thankfully, it’s broken up into chapters that have small ‘mini-chapters’ within it, which makes it much easier to tackle. The story is so easy to get lost in, and the great thing about it is that you can totally relate to the people and their stories, even though it was set almost 100 years ago.

Cast of Characters - Fall of Giants

Cast of Characters – Fall of Giants

I found myself much more interested in the fate of the English, Welsh and Russian families than the German or the American, however they really are all interrelated and woven within each other that you can’t have one family’s story without the rest of them. Although the chapters jumped from one country to another, it was really easy to keep track of the families thanks to the handy index at the beginning, listing all the families, their acquaintances, and real historical figures from the time, as you can see in the photo to the left.

Every night when I’d read in bed, I felt like I was losing myself in a totally different world, and once I’d finished the book I felt like I was saying goodbye to old friends. I think whenever you feel like you’re going to miss a book and its characters, you’ve found a gem.

Bits & pieces

  • Fall of Giants was checked by eight historians. [Source]

-H-

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#3 Freedom – Jonathan Franzen

26 Nov
Freedom - Jonathan Franzen

Freedom Front Cover

Goodreads rating: 3.63 (62,900+ ratings)

My rating: 5/10

Why it’s on the list: I bought it as it was on Dymocks‘ top ‘something’ list, and I could get 3 books for 2. Plus it sounded like something I’d be interested in.

First published: August 31st, 2010 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Genre: Family Drama

I read this book whilst holidaying in Mexico & Hawaii, and it was quite a depressing story. I hated every. single. character. I found them all selfish, uncaring, dishonest and depressing. However, after reading up on this book more, I believe that was Franzen’s intention. Freedom has a sombre mood throughout, and just when you think something good is going to happen, or a character is finally happy – something happens to change that. Which is frustrating, because as a person you expect ‘happily ever after’.

Set over a 20 or so year period in different states of the US, Freedom is about a typical, middle-class, American family – The Berglund’s – made up of Walter, Patty, Jessica & Joey. It centers around this family, with the comings and goings of rock star Richard Katz (Walter’s friend), Lalitha (Walter’s work colleague) and Connie (Joey’s girlfriend).

The first third is told from different perspectives of different characters. The middle portion of the book is in the form of an Autobiography written by Patty, at the suggestion of her therapist. In the last third, we go back to being written in different perspectives, but it jumps ahead, past the time that Patty’s autobiography is written. Freedom jumps around in time which can become confusing if you’re not paying attention to the story. Personally, I enjoyed Patty’s autobiography section, as you learn a lot about her childhood, and why she’s ended up the way she has. I felt really sorry for her through parts of it, but in the end found myself blaming her for her problems. Although her depression is sad, and in some ways I can empathise with her there.

Freedom is depressing and sad, and is a perfect example of what I’d never like my life to be like. At the end of it, I found myself pretty disappointed with the ending and where it went. Despite all my negative comments, I still think it’s worth reading this book, for the mere fact that it’s an interesting look into what some people’s lives are like. I tend to agree with the review below.

Past reviews

“Despite the brilliance, or maybe even because of it, I found the novel quite unappealing, maybe because every line, every insight, seems covered with a light film of disdain. Franzen seems never to have met a normal, decent, struggling human being whom he didn’t want to make us feel ever so slightly superior to. His book just has too much brightness and not enough color.”  – Alan Cheuse, National Public Radio

Notable quotes

“Nice people don’t necessarily fall in love with nice people.”

“You may be poor, but the one thing nobody can take away from you is the freedom to fuck up your life whatever way you want to.”

“This isn’t funny, Joey. She’s very depressed. You’ve given her a depression and you need to stop messing around. Do you understand?”

-H-

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