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Literature: The Century Trilogy
The Century Trilogy is, as the name indicates, a trilogy of novels by Ken Follett which tell the history of the 20th century through the eyes of five interrelated families—American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh. The trilogy consists of the following novels:

  • Fall of Giants (2010): Covers 1911 to 1923, but most of the novel is set during World War One.
  • Winter of the World (2012): Covering 1933-49, focusing on the rise of the Nazis and World War II
  • Edge of Eternity (2014): Covering the Cold War.

The five families are:

  • The Dewar family—aristocrats with high connections in the American government.
  • The Fitzherbert family—ditto, except they're British.
  • The von Ulrich family—ditto, except they're German.
  • The Peshkov family—two Russian peasants, one who emigrates to America and one who stays behind and gets involved in the Russian Revolution
  • The Williams family—Welsh coal miners.


The series as a whole provides examples of:

  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Happens from time to time.
  • Been There, Shaped History: The characters often have small but pivotal roles concerning the outcome of crucial historical events.
  • Contrived Coincidence / One Degree of Separation:
    • In the first book:
      • Was it pushing things too far for Earl Fitzherbert and Walter von Ulrich to meet each other in no-man's-land on the day of the 1914 Christmas Truce?
      • Or for Gus Dewar and von Ulrich to be on opposite sides of the battle for Chateau-Thierry?
    • In the second book:
      • The same maid serves Daisy Peshkov and is sweet on Lloyd Williams.
      • A Jewish girl who knows the von Ulrich family in Berlin emigrates to America and becomes Daisy Peshkov's friend.
      • The obnoxious NKVD agent who irritates Volodya Peshkov also turns out to be courting his sister.
      • The Dewar family goes to Pearl Harbor in time for the Japanese attack.
      • And the biggest of all has to be Boy getting shot down right in front of Lloyd.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: A Ken Follett trademark.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Many. The POV characters wind up interacting with most of the Great Men of their era.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • The Mistress: Lev Peshkov has several over the course of two books.
  • Sequel Hook: Fall of Giants ends with some bitter Germans taking interest in a rabble-rousing politician named Adolf Hitler.
    • Winter of the World ends with the Cold War well underway (the Soviets detonate a nuclear bomb, and the Berlin Airlift marks the end of any trace of cooperation between the Soviets and the West).
  • Shout-Out: In Giants Fitz sees a church from the year 1000 and wonders why people are interested in old churches.
    • This may also be a subtle bit of characterization from cathedral enthusiast Ken Follett, since Earl Fitzherbert is the closest thing to an antagonist that the first book has.
    • In Winter, Joanne says her hangover feels like the Black Death.
  • Spiritual Successor: To The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. After writing thrillers and spy novels for most of his career, Follett told the story of 12th and 14th century England (respectively) through those two novels about the residents of a fictional English town called Kingsbridge. The Century Trilogy is recounting the events of the 20th century through a similar narrative style.
  • Switching P.O.V.:
    • Giants has eight POV characters—Gus Dewar, Earl Edward Fitzherbert and his sister Maud, Walter von Ulrich, brothers Grigori and Lev Peshkov, and Billy Williams and his sister Ethel.
    • Winter has a new set of of POV characters—the children of the first set. This time it's Woody and Chuck Dewar, Daisy and Greg Peshkov (Lev's children), Lloyd Williams (love child of Earl Fitzherbert and Ethel), Carla and Erik von Ulrich, and Volodya Peshkov (Grigori's son). The only POV character outside of the original circle is Thomas Macke, a Gestapo officer.
  • The Von Trope Family: The von Ulrichs.

Fall of Giants provides examples of:

  • Author Tract: It sure does seem like Ken Follett is a Labor Party voter.
  • Dramatic Irony: At the end of the novel, Maud greets news of the failure of the Beer Hall Putsch with a relieved "Thank God that's over."
  • Groin Attack: Lev Peshkov kicks a thug in the nuts.
  • Historical In-Joke: Fitz makes a comment about how Bolshevism should be "strangled at birth". A visiting Winston Churchill likes that turn of phrase.
  • Hustling The Mark: Lev Peshkov does this to Gus Dewar in Petrograd.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Earl Fitzherbert and his wife are struggling to conceive but the earl knocks up maid Ethel Williams pretty quickly.
  • Love Across Battlelines: Walter and Maud, being German and British respectively during WWI.
  • Man on Fire: After the explosion in the Aberowen coal mine.
  • One Head Taller: Gus towers over Rosa, as he is very tall and she is rather petite.
  • Red October: Grigori is an enthusiastic participant.
  • Riches to Rags: Rich, aristocratic Lady Maud Fitzherbert winds up playing a piano in a seedy German bar after her brother cuts her off and her husband's family is ruined by the war.
  • Shot at Dawn: The unfortunate fate of a fifteen-year-old boy who panics and bolts as troops are assembling to go over the top at the Somme.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Lev receives this after impregnating the daughter of his powerful and Russian-mafia style employer
  • World War One

Winter of the World provides examples of:

  • Adorably Precocious Child: Woody.
  • Best Served Cold: Billy Williams gets a decades-long revenge against the Fitzherberts by getting the grounds of their ancestral estate torn up.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed
    "Oh, how nice....I may need two hands, though." (Joanne, upon undressing Woody)
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Jacky Jakes and Greg Peshkov.
  • Black Sheep: Erik, being the only Nazi within a family of social democrats.
  • Book Ends: Political meetings are violently interrupted in Berlin in 1933, at the beginning of the book, and 1949, at the end of the book.
  • Day of the Jackboot: The original Day Of The Jackboot, as fascism takes over Germany.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Carla names her son Walter, after his grandfather.
  • Generation Xerox: The main character this time are the kids of the first book's protagonists, who largely tend to follow in their footsteps.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Carla von Ulrich decides to keep the baby after being impregnated by a Red Army soldier who raped her.
  • GRU: Volodya Peshkov is a GRU agent.
  • Hazy Feel Turn: Devoted Nazi Erik turns against them upon seeing firsthard proof of their mass murders...and promptly becomes just as devoted to Communism.
  • Heel-Face Turn: Boy Fitzherbert is a Blackshirt during the '30s, but joins the RAF when war is declared. Not that this makes him any less of a jerk.
  • Heel Realization: Erik has this for himself and the entire nation of Germany after seeing an Einsatzgruppe committing mass murder of civilians in Russia.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Colonel Bobrov, a Soviet officer in the Spanish Civil War who shoots several men for retreating from a hopeless situation, calling them cowards. He later tries to flee Moscow ahead of the Germans rather than staying to fight, and is beaten to death by an angry mob.
  • "Heroic" BSOD: Josef Stalin, out of all people! After Hitler breaks the non-aggression treaty between the USSR and Germany, Stalin retreats to his dacha and shuts down any contact to the outside world. The Peshkovs and several other high-ranking Soviets have to come and snap him out of it. (Though it may or may not have been a Xanatos Gambit by Stalin, in order to secure his position as leader even after this disaster.)
  • Heroic Bastard: Lloyd Williams is this, crusading against Fascism throughout the book, from the British Union of Fascists march in London, to the Spanish Civil War, to World War II.
  • Identical Grandson: Lloyd's true parentage gets revealed after Daisy discovers that he looks strikingly similar to Earl Fitzherbert's dad.
  • Jizzed in My Pants: This happens at a very, very inconvenient time. Maud Fitzherbert seduced a young German officer in order to receive pieces of information and transmit them to German resistance. She intended to have sex with him in order to divert him from his bag and allow Carla von Ulrich to photograph the plan he is carrying. But, as he came too soon, his attention wandered from Maud, and he wound up busting Carla.
  • La Résistance: Lloyd Williams works with the original.
  • Nazi Nobleman: Erik von Ulrich is technically this, but his parents' lifestyle is not very typical for aristocrats. Ironically, a straighter example would be his cousin Boy Fitzherbert's short stint at being a British Union Of Fascists Nobleman.
  • Nazi Protagonist: Erik von Ulrich (initially) and Thomas Macke.
  • Porn Stash: Daisy finds her husband's.
  • POW Camp: Lloyd Williams finds himself in one in 1940.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand: Volodya Peshkov loses one of his contact for the GRU (a foreign diplomat in Moscow) because the NKVD (political police and concurrent Russian intelligence service) arrested said diplomat's girlfriend.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Daisy Peshkov gets Boy Fitzherbert to propose to her by taking advantage of his odd interest in her dressing like a man. Though it doesn't count as Sweet on Polly Oliver, as it's never a secret.
  • Spanish Civil War: Lloyd Williams fought as member of the International Brigades.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Daisy, whose husband is a complete scumbag.
  • Those Wacky Nazis
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Pinksy, the nasty police officer who was the major villain of Grigori's story in Giants, appeared to be set up to continue to be a problem in the second, but is nowhere to be found.
  • World War II
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Lev Peshkov sets one of these up in order to ruin a business rival.
Catherine Called BirdyHistorical Fiction LiteratureThe Chosen
Code Name VerityWorks Set in World War IIAunt Dimity
Cavendon HallLiterature of the 2010sCerberon

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