A World Without End

I’ve been reading a lot this holiday season and my blog has been suffering for it.  Of course, I do consider this a good thing.  Not that my blog has been neglected but that I’ve been taking the time to read instead of fart around on line.

My latest reading adventure has been Ken Follett’s A World Without End.  It is quite a long book and is a historical novel, which technically goes against my unwritten rule about my reading choices. (For the past, oh I don’t know, 10 years or so, while I’ve been sumberged in the world of academia, the only fiction I’ve been reading has been historical fiction.  Therefore, when I began my blog review kick I told myself I’d avoid nonfiction and historical fiction.)  Ah well, what are rules if not for breaking.

My friend Heather sent me her copy of A World Without End because she knew how much I had enjoyed Follett’s earlier novel, The Pillars of the EarthA World Without End strictly speaking, is not a sequel to The Pillars of the Earth, which centerd around the construction of a cathedral in a medieval English town.  However, it does focus on the same town, the problems it faces and the further construction of the cathedral.

What I found most interesting about the book was its focus on the arrival of the Black Plauge in England.  Merthin, a young architect and builder for the town fled to Italy after the end of a long term but disastrous relationship.  He finds himself in Florence when the plague first strikes.  When his whole family perishes and yet her miraculously survives, he decides to return home, arriving just weeks before the first signs of plague arrive on the island.  When plague hits the cathedral town Follett focuses on the actions of nuns in the town’s hospital and their treatment of the sick.

I enjoyed this book because of my historical background, but I would easily recommend it to anyone who has the slightest interest in the social repercussions of a disease that ravaged the English country side (and all of Europe) year after year.  Follett illustrates the social tensions that would eventually lead to the Peasant’s Revolt during the minority of Richard II.  He depicts the pains of the peasants fighting for survival in a system that clearly favored the rich and landed.  A World Without End also focuses on the tensions between the church and the lay people of Kingsbridge.

While it can’t be denied that during the 14th century corruption ran rampant in the English clergy, I was dissappointed with Follet’s depictions of the monks and priests of Kingsbridge priory.  I felt that he fell back on cliche.  Of all of the monks in the town, only one was a man of honor who truly behaved as one would wish a member of the clergy to behave.  The rest were self gratifying, greedy and deplorable.  I felt that was rather short sighted of him.

On the whole, I found the book compelling.  I read through its more than 900 pages in a few short days, but then again, I’m a sucker for historical fiction.

NEXT UP :  I received a very thoughtful present from a friend this Christmas.  Knowing that I was on the look out for new books by authors I did not know, she sent me a copy of The Circus in Winter by Cathy Day.  I had never heard of either the author or the book, but I look forward to reading to it with eager anticipation.

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~ by CableGirl on Thursday, January 3, 2008.

9 Responses to “A World Without End”

  1. I wrote a report about the Black Plague when I was in high school, though, I never really thought much about the subject after I turned the report in (I got an A). Perhaps I should give this book a try…though, I bet it’ll take me longer than a few days to get through!

  2. Pillars of the Earth is probably my favourite book of all time. I’m looking forward to hijacking my Dad’s copy of World Without End as soon as he finishes.

  3. I’ve wanted to read this. I really appreciate the review!

  4. hey sounds really interesting.. should check this out

  5. And farting around online is Bad somehow?

    Thanks for the review and the recommendations. I am always intrigued by your take on what makes good reading. ~jenn

  6. Oh, and there is a little something for you at my place today. ~jenn

  7. I’ve been reading a lot of top ten lists and this book has been featured quite a few times. I’m definitely going to have to check it out!

  8. I’ve been thinking about adding this book to my list and, after reading your review, I’ve now added it. Thanks!

  9. This sounds like a book I should pick up for my mom–and so does the Pillars of the Earth. I can’t remember her saying she’s read either, but the subject would be right up her alley. Thanks for the review.

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