Tuesday, December 31, 2013

World Without End by Ken Follett

This sequel to "Pillars of the Earth" is the second of the trilogy to this sensational historical fictional saga by this masterful  story teller and researcher..I read it in less than a month, all 1014 small print pages in this massive paperback tome published by the New American Library.   First published in 2007 in a Dutton edition, it is a delight for any historical fiction reader continuing the  tale of Kingsbridge Priory early England, reaching across the channel into France and as far as Florence Italy.  How Follett weaves all the many characters through the novel while covering suspense, tragedy, triumph, the breadth of human emotions, vice and character traits all the better to humanize the people is a testament to the gift of this author and his intense research.  

From the back cover, "Two centuries after the townspeople of Kingsbridge finished building their exquisite Gothic cathedral, four children slip into the forest and witness a killing...an event that will braid their lives together by ambition, love, greed, and revenge."   It begins December 1, 1327,  page 1, "Gwenda was eight years old, but she was not afraid of the dark.  When she opened her eyes she could see nothing, but that was not what scared her.  She knew where she was.  She was lying on the floor in a bed of straw at Kingsbridge Priory in the long stone building they called the hospital.  Her mother lay next to her.....When the dawn broke it would be All Hallows, a Sunday this year and therefore an especially holy day..." 

Among so much history of the English and French wars, the crusades, the plague, the church with it's plethora of sometimes evil leaders, I  refreshed myself and learned new history either forgotten by me or not known.  I had always believed that our current jury system was based on Old English Law,  the old common law..but learned on page 210 that indeed the concept of 12 men jurors  (and they were all men then) stretched back to Normandy, France.  

It would not be essential to have read the first novel, Pillars to appreciate this tale, but it would give a sense of familiarity and continuity to have done so and I am glad that I did.  I now look forward to reading the 3rd of this saga.   It is a book into which the reader can be truly drawn, enfolded and engrossed. Multiple characters, multiple plots and life which is not always triumphant jump off the pages.  I need say no more, Follett is famous for his intrigue.

   I give this a 5 *****.