This book is being touted as the long awaited sequel to The Pillars of the Earth, which was published 18 years ago. Although it is set in the same town as the original book and some of the characters from the past are mentioned this story occurs 200 years after the events in Pillars.
Four children witness a murder in the forest near their home. They never tell anyone of what happened that day and never discuss it among themselves. The four children, Merthin and Ralph brothers of a disgraced knight, Caris daughter of a rich merchant and Gwenda the destitute daughter of a thief, live vastly different lives but their paths are always entwined with each others. Over the course of 34 years we follow these four through their loves and losses and learn to care for some and loathe others, but always we are wrapped up in their story.
Although I think Pillars was a better book, I think this one is not too far off the mark. We have a lot of the same themes that were visited in that tale here: Star crossed love, wicked nobleman, ambitious monks, hard working poorly treated peasants, murder, death, betrayal, and the Black Plague. Through it all you root for some people to overcome the obstacles thrown in their way and wait for others to get payback for all the evil they do.
Once again I learned many things about life in those Dark Ages and was fascinated by all the detail Follett put into his work. This is a huge book, over 1000 pages, yet I managed to read it in about a week and a half, about 500 pages over the past two days; I just had to know how it would all turn out.
If you loved Pillars I don't think you will be disappointed.
Historical purists will not be pleased. Neither will readers who make their selections based on the length of a book, or people who object to a little sex in their reading (World is hardly pornography), or religious fundamentalists.
But those who enjoy ripping epic adventures, historical settings, compelling characters, and plot twist after twist, should have a fine time in World Without End. Yes, it mimics its predecessor, but that is precisely what I, for one, was hoping for. Jumping back into Jack the Builder's city after 200 years was a joy. Few writers on the scene today are capable of creating such appealing protagonists and such hateful villains. Few are capable of filling 1000 pages with heartfelt conflict, human mistakes and foibles, or gut-wrenching turns of event. Follett can do all of this, and has proved it again in World.
The treatment of the bubonic plague in World is worthy of comment. Rather than focus upon the horrific physical element, Follett has chosen to represent the vast psychological, financial, and societal consequences of this most devastating of diseases: the breakdown of mores, conventions, and behavior, the inability to produce enough food, the utter uselessness of mere wealth, the failure of the religious establishment to meet the needs of its flock. It is difficult today to imagine that time, and the narrative here helps.
Circumstances change, but human nature doesn't. Here's hoping Mr Follett has another Kingsbridge novel in him, set perhaps during the religious and political upheaval that characterized the Tudor era.
I've been telling people for years about Pillars Of The Earth - it was a remarkable work. Among the many aspects of the story, I enjoyed the description of the development of Ecclesiastical architecture - fascinating stuff! It was a great tale, well told. World Without End is a gripping sequel and while it pays homage to its predecessor, it stands by itself as a story. It didn't quite capture my imagination as much as POTE probably because there were so many similarities to the plot. This time the building centered more on bridge building - again, interesting from a technical aspect. There was also a lot more gratuitous sex thrown in - some of it was necessary to the plot but some of it seemed to be added just to spice things up and really didn't need to be there. All in all it was a pretty good read.
For those who enjoy a good epic historical tale, I'd highly recommend Stephen Lawhead's 'Byzantium' - a marvelous tale (based on historical fact) of an Irish monk's journey to Byzantium. His King Raven trilogy (Hood/Scarlet/Tuck) retelling the legend of Robin Hood from a different historical perspective is also excellent!
I enjoyed this book, but not as much as Pillars of the Earth. This is a stand alone book, and not truly a sequel to Pillars. The book follows the town of Kingsbridge during the 14th century England and includes a vivid portrait of the devastation of the plague, the trials of the serfs/peasants and the hostility of the ruling gentry, and the lack of sanctity of the church. This is a social novel that depicts the conflict between serfs/nobility; men/women; clergy/guilds and the rise of the middle class. The novel is extremely long (1,000+) pages, but if you like historical fiction, or Pillars, then this is worth a read.
A wonderful sequel to "Pillars of the Earth" which involves the descendents of Tom and Jack Builder. A huge book, a cast of thousands it seems, yet I skipped very few pages in it. This book again depicts the Catholic Church as not only the only institution in the Middle Ages which dispenses care and comfort, but also as a greedy and villaneous force for its own welfare. It very clearly shows why the Protestant Reformation took hold so rapidly in Europe and England as a reaction to the behavior of the clergy of the Catholic church. Genny