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I finished Ken Follet's sequel to "Pillars of the Earth" yesterday, entitled "World Without End."
I'm a sucker for big thick honkin' books set in the middle ages, and this one doesn't disappoint on those scores.
What Follet presents us with is essentially a soap opera plot with the Priory of the fictional Kingsbridge as the hub, an sprinkled with events like the death of Edward the II, the wars of Edward the III in Normandy (culminating with a description of the battle of Crecy) and, of course, the Black Death.
I'm inclined to find reasons not to like this book. I guess I found the romantic entanglements-- particularly surrounding the hero and heroine-- a tad contrived and tedious. But there are others involving peripheral characters that are more interesting, and less aggravating.
But there's more to this tome than this, and it kept me going. There is the historical backdrop, and while I found it to be covered ground, there are probably many people who would find everything about the 14th century news to them, and perhaps interesting. For them, this book would be an excellent primer.
I also liked the way Follet, speaking through the characters, engaged in the debate between faith and reason that we so much enjoy today.
I think if one enjoyed "Pillars of The Earth", or Edward Rutherford's "Sarum", one would enjoy this book. But I do not think it is an equal to either of those.
I am now beginning Cormac McCarthy's "The Road".
Where Follet's descriptive prose is unsubstantially thick, McCarthy's is sparsely fat.
Quite the contrast in styles.
Am looking forward to it. Ken Follett has given me much pleasure. Pillars of the Earth. What an incredible story.
Strange that only today it came to mind, viewing Canterbury Cathedral, as Archbishop Rowan Williams broadcast an environmental message. You'll see what I mean, here:
It's becoming a hackneyed theme, but came upon it with a new author (to me) Steve Berry. It's about lost scrolls and the Israelis and Saudies collaborating in them remaining "lost" - come to think of it, the Christians aren't too keen either in them coming to light. The book? [i]The Alexandria Link[/i]
The author writes with great humor and I really like the many feisty female characters.
Feisty female characters are all the rage these days, since it's mostly women who are reading. Not that there's anything wrong with that-- in fact it's long overdue in popular fiction. However, I wonder at how much expense comes according to historical accuracy? On one hand, we know of from record and I think safe inference that there were strong women who pushed the envelope in the middle ages, and there have always been women who ruled, or who had great influence through the men around them.
Then again, it's "historical [i]fiction[/i]" so, I suppose we might forgive some liberties for the sake of story.
One of my more favorite authors in this genre, Bernard Cornwell, includes notes at the end of his books to detail where he took liberties with the known history, and why he takes one interpretation of events over others where the record is vague or contested.
I kind of missed that in "World Without End."
There have been works of historical fiction that have inspired me to do my own research, and find out more on the subject from more academic sources. Gore Vidal's "Julian" was one, and Colleen McCollough's series on Rome was another, and of course Bernard Cornwell's many books have sent me on searches for materials on Wellington, Waterloo, Alfred the Great and other assorted saxons.
But, as much as I could not put down "Pillars of the Earth" and "World Without End", I have never been so inspired by Follet. It could be because I've read material on the Black Death before, and because I've visited a few Cathedrals in England, which always supplies the tourist with historical materials.
If you get the chance ever in your life, take in the York Minster, in York. It's impressive, naturally, and-- unless they have had some policy change, there is no shortage of materials on the archeology of the site.
Love Ken Follett [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img]
So looking forward to my wife finnishing the book. Do you guys think world without end is as good historically as Pillars was?
Went to the author's site. Got an outline but very sparse.
He'll have to go some to outdo Pillars of the Earth.Probably an excellent book, but I don't think he'll do it with me - not writing about the Black Death.Hope he proves me wrong:
[ 31 January 2008: Message edited by: bliter ]