Friday, January 11, 2013

Fall of Giants -- WWI Historical Fiction with Great Political Detail, And I Digress. . . .

I love inspirational speeches, although it seems that these days we spend more time making fun of speeches than revering them.  But then, maybe speeches to revere only come around once or twice in a lifetime.  I'm thinking a great deal about political speeches these days (I know you are too, I see you on Facebook).  Perhaps I am thinking about them more today because  I just renewed my membership in National Write Your Congressman.  It makes me very happy to have such an avenue to be immediately connected and in the know and to be able to give my voice (Kudos to NWYC for the new App).

I am also thinking of speeches because I am finishing up Ken Follett's EPIC WWI book:  Fall of Giants.    

Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy #1)It is one of the best big picture books of all the social changes in the world during and right after WWI that I have ever read.  I think it may be the best book he has ever written, although I was a huge Pillars of the Earth fan back in the day and I haven't read the stand alone sequel Winter of the World.  But in this book,  I am amazed at how Follett has been able to work in all the politics of the day (of many countries) through the lives of his characters, intertwined with their stories in such a way as to keep me completely hooked and somehow not overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. 

I also just yesterday got to have lunch with an amazing woman who lived through a political coup in her country. Something she said struck me: "I have come to decide that people, in their basic desires, are all the same.  We all want the same thing."    Hopefully she will allow me to write to you more of her story later, or perhaps she will guest blog and share her story, but the point here is that speeches and politics are just on the brain, and in the end, as demonstrated by Fall of Giants, and as stated by my friend, most of us really all just want the same thing.  I think it is best summed up by our very own Declaration of Independence:  "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."   

If you follow my blog, you know I recently saw Lincoln, so I also have his speech on my mind: The Gettysburg Address, which was not  to have been the speech that was remembered, but which in its brevity was the more powerful speech (as so aptly shown in Lincoln, by the men who recited it to Lincoln upon meeting him):

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war . . . testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated . . . can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. 

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate . . . we can not consecrate . . .  we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us . . . that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion . . . that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom . . . and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Now, the overall point in Fall of Giants was the responsibilities and failures of Nations and their Leaders to Humanity -- Lincoln's very point of government of the people, by the people, for the people.  (There are many character stories in it that will immediately have you interested and hooked to the very end, but I think this is the main point of the book). 

I confess that I was not much of a WWI buff before I fell in love with Downton Abbey, but now I am ravenous for full detail.  It is why I read some WWI books during my Military Month in November 2012 .  And with the beginning of  Downton Abbey's third season, it has made me, like many of you, want to read more about this fascinating period.  Fall of Giants was excellent for meeting this need.  There were many famous speeches or speakers and political giants effortlessly woven into it; for me that was just icing on the cake of an excellent story.  

P.S.  I listened to this book.  I am amazed at all the perfect accents the narrator had, great job John Lee! 

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