Wednesday, December 8, 2010

WORLD WITHOUT END by Ken Follett


A book of over 1000 pages has to have several villains, and this one has at least four. Two are monks, one is a murderous nobleman, and one is an overrated carpenter. The action takes place in England in the 1300s and follows its main characters from childhood to middle age. During that time the plague rips through Europe, leaving entire families demolished, houses abandoned, and fields uncultivated. Religious figures rule and see the plague as God's punishment for man's (and woman's) lascivious ways. Simple health procedures like avoiding contact with victims and hand-washing are just coming into practice, but the clergy sees these precautions as unnecessary and even heretical. Caris is a forward-thinking woman who reluctantly becomes a nun on the eve of her wedding in order to avoid a death sentence for witchcraft. Her erstwhile fiancé Mirthen is a talented architect who is also way ahead of his time and devastated by Caris's fate. Gwenda is a peasant, forced to help support her family by pick-pocketing, and her father trades her to an outlaw in exchange for livestock. I had to marvel at the author's ability to manage a zillion characters and intertwine their lives. However, his writing style is neither lyrical nor memorable. I do remember enjoying The Pillars of the Earth, this book's prequel, but that was at least 15 years ago, and my literary tastes have changed since then. So I'm curious as to who's the audience for this book. Not the book clubbers. And not the casual reader, because its length is far too intimidating. I guess it's readers like myself who just wanted to relive their Pillars experience. Also, I was under the incorrect assumption that Fall of Giants was a follow-up to this book, but, no, it's the daunting (almost 1000 pages) first book in a projected trilogy.

2 comments:

Terry said...

So did you read "Fall of Giants"? I just finished it. As usual, he tells a compelling story with interesting characters, but it's not a work of art.

Terry

Patti's Pages said...

No, I haven't read Fall of Giants. I guess my mention of it was a little confusing. You and my mom both recommended World Without End, but it just didn't grab me.