Over the last month I have been devoting myself to Ken Follett's major works, Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. I finished Pillars of the Earth last week and immediately began World Without End because I was so captured with the story.
When I began Pillars of the Earth I didn't know anything about the story except what was written on the back cover. It sounded engaging, and I liked the prospect of a large work of fiction being set in Medieval England. There is a lot that can be learned from this book about architecture, Medieval building practises, and Medieval culture. As it is a book written primarily about the building of a large catholic cathedral, I was expecting to learn a lot about the early church, church customs and law, and the like. However, I was not expecting the high level of violence, raping, and pillaging that is involved. A sedate read, Pillars of the Earth, is not. Parts of this book were actually hard for me to read as a woman. Even though, intellectually, I know that woman had a rough deal throughout history, it is shocking what happens to the women in this story. You feel close to them, and it is hard to read about the trials they endure
The story itself is extremely well-written, suspenseful, informative, and gripping. The characters are complex and there is a lot of mystery and motivation involved in the plot. Though the length of this tome may be daunting to some, it is such a complex story and so entertaining, that the pages turn at a rapid pace. I feel I finished it far too quickly, which is why I immediately plunged into World Without End.
I am only about 150 pages into this book, but I have to say that I feel that it is a bit formulaic. It seems to be progressing with a very similar plot and very similar characters. It isn't that it is any less good than Pillars of the Earth, but having just finished it, it is fresh in my mind and I am constantly noticing the similarities between the two. Still, it is an excellent source of English history, the characters are compelling, and the story is full of violence, struggle, and intrigue. I'll have a more complete analysis when I have finished it.
Until then . . .