July 16, 2010
World Without End
World Without End by Ken Follett
2007 Penguin Audio; Unabridged Edition
Reader: John Lee
Finished on 6/9/10
Rating: 5/5 (Outstanding!)
On the day after Halloween, in the year 1327, four children slip away from the cathedral city of Kingsbridge. They are a thief, a bully, a boy genius and a girl who wants to be a doctor. In the forest they see two men killed.
In 1989, Ken Follett astonished the literary world with The Pillars of the Earth, a sweeping epic novel set in twelfth-century England that centered on the building of a cathedral and the men, women and children whose lives it changed forever. Critics were overwhelmed--"it will hold you, fascinate, surround you" (Chicago Tribune)--and readers ever since have hoped for a sequel.
And at last it is here. Although the two novels may be read in any order, World Without End takes place in the same town of Kingsbridge, two centuries after the townspeople finished building the exquisite Gothic cathedral that was at the heart of The Pillars of the Earth. The cathedral and the priory are again at the center of a web of love and hate, greed and pride, ambition and revenge.
As adults, their lives will be braided together by ambition, love, greed and revenge. They will see prosperity and famine, plague and war. One boy will travel the world but come home in the end; the other will be a powerful, corrupt nobleman. One girl will defy the might of the medieval church; the other will pursue an impossible love. And always they will live under the long shadow of the unexplained killing they witnessed on that fateful childhood day.
The Pillars of the Earth was "a novel that entertains, instructs and satisfies on a grand scale," said Publishers Weekly. "With this book, Follett risks all and comes out a clear winner." And now he has done it again. Three years in the writing, World Without End once again shows that Ken Follett is a masterful author writing at the top of his craft.
And about the reader:
John Lee gives a breathtaking performance of Follett's sequel to Pillars of the Earth. Two hundred years have passed, and fourteenth-century Kingsbridge is now a prosperous town, with its cathedral and priory still a central force. As the novel follows its four main characters from 1327 to 1361, medieval English life is slowly and thoroughly revealed. Lee gives stunning portraits of change-resistant churchmen, the hardships and superstitions of peasant life, the inequities of corrupt noblemen, and the grotesqueries of the Black Death. While creating wholly credible major and minor characters, Lee delivers Follett's intricate plots and subplots, making each detail fascinating, from medieval medicine and bridge-building to the surprisingly powerful role of women. Even after 36 CDs, listeners will be sorry to see this book end.
Can I just say Wow?!!!
This was one of the most enjoyable audio books I have ever listened to. Maybe even the very best. I was completely enraptured with Follett's epic follow-up to The Pillars of the Earth, and as the above description states, yes, I was very sorry to hear this book end. As I listened to the last chapter and heard the final words, a wave of sadness washed over me. I'd been captivated by this grand story for over six weeks and I would have been perfectly content to listen for another six. I kept telling my husband how much I was enjoying the audio, but that I was glad I owned a copy of the hardcover so I could actually read it someday. (He gave it to me for Christmas more than three years ago!) This is one of those great books that draws you in from the opening pages and never once lets up or lags. Pretty amazing, for a 36-disc audio (and a 1000+ page hardcover). The richly painted details of life in a medieval village and the intricate descriptions of the craftsmanship involved in the building of a bridge or priory held my attention just as in The Pillars of the Earth. I've read several of Follett's earlier works, but these two epic tales are by far my favorite.
It's been over seven years since I read The Pillars of the Earth, and now I'm thinking I should get it on audio! In my 2003 reading journal, I wrote the following:
Group read for TheBookSpot (Yahoo group)
Superb character development. Excellent sense of time and place. Got bored here and there, but overall I thought it was a very good read. A bit repetitious. Could've used a little more editing. If you enjoyed Pope Joan, this one's for you! Took 3 weeks to read.
Rating: A- (8/10 Very Good)
I wonder if Follett has any plans to continue with this storyline. Just as The Pillars of the Earth's Prior Phillip, Tom Builder, Ellen, Jack and Ailiena worked their way into my consciousness, I came to care about Caris, Gwenda, Merthin, and Wulfric and missed hearing about their challenges and plights after I finished listening to World Without End. Follett not only creates gripping tales that keep the reader engaged chapter after chapter, but he peoples them with such fully developed and memorable characters that one has to remind oneself that they are simply that: characters, not real people.
On medieval life for a woman:
Caris stared at the closed door. A woman's life was a house of closed doors: she could not be an apprentice, she could not study at the university, she could not be a priest or a physician, or shoot a bow or fight with a sword, and she could not marry without submitting herself to the tyranny of her husband.
John Lee is an outstanding reader. It took me a little while to get all the characters straight in my mind, but once I could envision their individual roles in Kingsbridge, whether a monk, nun, nobleman or peasant, I never once had to stop and wonder who was speaking. I should mention that this is not an audio you'd want to listen to with young children nearby. There are quite a few sexual scenes throughout the novel and the language and details are fairly explicit.
Final Thoughts: If there's ever going to be a third book about Kingsbridge, I hope it doesn't take Mr. Follett another 18 years to write! That said, Follett fans have a new trilogy to look forward to! From his website:
Fall of Giants, the first novel in my 'Century' trilogy, will be published in 14 countries simultaneously on September 28, 2010. In Fall of Giants, I follow the destinies of five interrelated families – one American, one Russian, one German, one English and one Welsh – through the earth-shaking events of the First World War and the Russian Revolution.
The second book in the ' Century' series, set to be published in 2012, will feature the children of the characters in Fall of Giants as they live through the Depression and the Second World War. The third book, due out in 2014, will be about the next generation during the Cold War.
I. Can't. Wait!