It seems that almost everyone in our book clubs and for that matter everyone everywhere is mesmerized by the PBS series Downton Abbey. If you are under a certain age; however, you may not know that much about that time period. Many things lead up to World War I. It was one of the most troubled times in modern history and all you may remember is just bits and pieces as told by your grandparents.
A very readable historical novel that attempts to explain the period from 1911 - 1924 is Ken Follett's Fall of Giants, Book One of the Century Trilogy. It is a fascinating novel journeying through the Russian Revolution, the fight for women's vote, World War I and its aftermath. It follows five families from different countries and social classes as political events unfold. The New York Times has an excellent review at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/03/books/review/Boylan-t.html.
Winter of the World, Book Two of the Century Trilogy, takes the reader on a journey with the children of the same families through the rise of the Third Reich, the Great Depression and World War II. A third novel is planned for release in 2014 with the families' third generation during the Cold War.
Internationally famous Welsh author Ken Follett was only 27 when he wrote the spy thriller Eye of the Needle. His later works include Pillars of the Earth and its sequel World Without End about 12th century England.
If you want to learn fascinating historical details about the 20th century along with a good family saga check out Ken Follett's Century Trilogy.