The Washington Post
World Without Endby Ken Follett
In 1989 Ken Follett astonished the literary world with The Pillars of the Earth, a sweeping epic novel set in twelfth-century England centered on the building of a cathedral and many of the hundreds of lives it affected. Critics were overwhelmed—“it will hold you, fascinate you, surround you” (Chicago Tribune)—and readers/i>/i>
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In 1989 Ken Follett astonished the literary world with The Pillars of the Earth, a sweeping epic novel set in twelfth-century England centered on the building of a cathedral and many of the hundreds of lives it affected. Critics were overwhelmed—“it will hold you, fascinate you, surround you” (Chicago Tribune)—and readers everywhere hoped for a sequel.
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, but this sequel stands on its own. This time the men and women of an extraordinary cast of characters find themselves at a crossroad of new ideas— about medicine, commerce, architecture, and justice. In a world where proponents of the old ways fiercely battle those with progressive minds, the intrigue and tension quickly reach a boiling point against the devastating backdrop of the greatest natural disaster ever to strike the human race—the Black Death.
Three years in the writing, and nearly eighteen years since its predecessor, World Without End breathes new life into the epic historical novel and once again shows that Ken Follett is a masterful author writing at the top of his craft.
The Washington Post
Eighteen years after Pillars of the Earthweighed in with almost 1,000 pages of juicy historical fiction about the construction of a 12th-century cathedral in Kingsbridge, England, bestseller Follett returns to 14th-century Kingsbridge with an equally weighty tome that deftly braids the fate of several of the offspring of Pillars' families with such momentous events of the era as the Black Death and the wars with France. Four children, who will become a peasant's wife, a knight, a builder and a nun, share a traumatic experience that will affect each of them differently as their lives play out from 1327 to 1361. Follett studs the narrative with gems of unexpected information such as the English nobility's multilingual training and the builder's technique for carrying heavy, awkward objects. While the novel lacks the thematic unity of Pillars, readers will be captivated by the four well-drawn central characters as they prove heroic, depraved, resourceful or mean. Fans of Follett's previous medieval epic will be well rewarded. (Oct.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Best known for such tightly plotted World War II thrillers as The Key to Rebecca and more contemporary suspense novels like The Third Twin, British author Follett returns to the West Country town of Kingsbridge, the setting for his huge historical epic, Pillars of the Earth, released in 1989. In Pillars, Follett uses the building of a cathedral to portray an England torn by civil war and strife that affects all levels of society. This long-awaited sequel opens 200 years later, in 1327, and continues the story of some of Jack's descendants against a backdrop of extreme change. The action centers around four children: Merthin, inventive and later a builder himself; Caris, the protofeminist, medically inclined daughter of the town alderman; Ralph, Merthin's younger bullying brother; and Gwenda, a child of a landless, thieving laborer. Venturing into the forest outside Kingsbridge, they witness an armed conflict, and Merthin learns about a secret letter. The novel explores their intersecting lives during the next three decades, with the worlds of religion, medicine, commerce, and politics vividly if disturbingly depicted in a manner reminiscent of James Clavell or Jean Auel. Actor and playwright John Lee brings a modulated, English-accented sensibility to this story; his voices add extra vitality to the narration but do not overpower it. Recommended for libraries with large historic fiction collections and those who like well-detailed historical narratives with straightforward characters whose speech is very 21st century. [Pillars of the Earth was an Oprah Book Club selection in 2007; World Without End is also available as downloadable audio fromAudible.com.-Ed.]
—Diana Gabaldon, The Washington Post
“JUICY HISTORICAL FICTION.”—USA Today
“AN IMMENSE CAST OF TRULY REMARKABLE CHARACTERS…this is not a book to be devoured in one sitting, tempting though that might be, but one to savor for its drama, depth, and richness.”—Library Journal
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World Without End
By Ken Follett
DUTTONCopyright © 2007 Ken Follett All right reserved.
Chapter OneGwenda 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 at Kingsbridge Priory, in the long stone building they called the hospital, lying on the floor in a bed of straw. Her mother lay next to her, and Gwenda could tell, by the warm milky smell, that Ma was feeding the new baby, who did not yet have a name. Beside Ma was Pa, and next to him Gwenda's older brother, Philemon, who was twelve.
The hospital was crowded, and though she could not see the other families lying along the floor, squashed together like sheep in a pen, she could smell the rank odor of their warm bodies. When dawn broke it would be All Hallows', a Sunday this year and therefore an especially holy day. By the same token the night before was All Hallows Eve, a dangerous time when evil spirits roamed freely. Hundreds of people had come to Kingsbridge from the surrounding villages, as Gwenda's family had, to spend Halloween in the sanctified precincts of the priory, and to attend the All Hallows' service at daybreak.
Gwenda was wary of evil spirits, like every sensible person; but she was more scared of what she had to do during the service.
She stared into the gloom, trying not to think about what frightened her. She knew that the wall opposite her had an arched window. There was no glass-only the most important buildings had glass windows-but a linen blind kept out the cold autumn air. However, she could not even see a faint patch of gray where the window should be. She was glad. She did not want the morning to come.
She could see nothing, but there was plenty to listen to. The straw that covered the floor whispered constantly as people stirred and shifted in their sleep. A child cried out, as if woken by a dream, and was quickly silenced by a murmured endearment. Now and again someone spoke, uttering the half-formed words of sleep talk. Somewhere there was the sound of two people doing the thing parents did but never spoke of, the thing Gwenda called Grunting because she had no other word for it.
Too soon, there was a light. At the eastern end of the long room, behind the altar, a monk came through the door carrying a single candle. He put the candle down on the altar, lit a taper from it, and went around touching the flame to the wall lamps, his long shadow reaching up the wall each time like a reflection, his taper meeting the shadow taper at the wick of the lamp.
The strengthening light illuminated rows of humped figures on the floor, wrapped in their drab cloaks or huddled up to their neighbors for warmth. Sick people occupied the cots near the altar, where they could get the maximum benefit from the holiness of the place. At the opposite end, a staircase led to the upper floor where there were rooms for aristocratic visitors: the earl of Shiring was there now with some of his family.
The monk leaned over Gwenda to light the lamp above her head. He caught her eye and smiled. She studied his face in the shifting light of the flame and recognized him as Brother Godwyn. He was young and handsome, and last night he had spoken kindly to Philemon.
Beside Gwenda was another family from her village: Samuel, a prosperous peasant with a large landholding, and his wife and two sons, the youngest of whom, Wulfric, was an annoying six-year-old who thought that throwing acorns at girls then running away was the funniest thing in the world.
Gwenda's family was not prosperous. Her father had no land at all, and hired himself out as a laborer to anyone who would pay him. There was always work in the summer but, after the harvest was gathered in and the weather began to turn cold, the family often went hungry.
That was why Gwenda had to steal.
She imagined being caught: a strong hand grabbing her arm, holding her in an unbreakable grip while she wriggled helplessly; a deep, cruel voice saying "Well, well, a little thief"; the pain and humiliation of a whipping; and then, worst of all, the agony and loss as her hand was chopped off.
Her father had suffered this punishment. At the end of his left arm was a hideous wrinkled stump. He managed well with one hand-he could use a shovel, saddle a horse, and even make a net to catch birds-but all the same he was always the last laborer to be hired in the spring, and the first to be laid off in the autumn. He could never leave the village and seek work elsewhere, because the amputation marked him as a thief, so that people would refuse to hire him. When traveling, he tied a stuffed glove to the stump, to avoid being shunned by every stranger he met; but that did not fool people for long.
Gwenda had not witnessed Pa's punishment-it had happened before she was born-but she had often imagined it, and now she could not help thinking about the same thing happening to her. In her mind she saw the blade of the axe coming down on her wrist, slicing through her skin and her bones, and severing her hand from her arm, so that it could never be reattached; and she had to clamp her teeth together to keep from screaming out loud.
People were standing up, stretching and yawning and rubbing their faces. Gwenda got up and shook out her clothes. All her garments had previously belonged to her older brother. She wore a woollen shift that came down to her knees and a tunic over it, gathered at the waist with a belt made of hemp cord. Her shoes had once been laced, but the eyelets were torn and the laces gone, and she tied them to her feet with plaited straw. When she had tucked her hair into a cap made of squirrel tails, she had finished dressing.
She caught her father's eye, and he pointed surreptitiously to a family across the way, a couple in middle age with two sons a little older than Gwenda. The man was short and slight, with a curly red beard. He was buckling on a sword, which meant he was a man-at-arms or a knight: ordinary people were not allowed to wear swords. His wife was a thin woman with a brisk manner and a grumpy face. As Gwenda scrutinized them, Brother Godwyn nodded respectfully and said: "Good morning, Sir Gerald, Lady Maud."
Gwenda saw what had attracted her father's notice. Sir Gerald had a purse attached to his belt by a leather thong. The purse bulged. It looked as if it contained several hundred of the small, thin silver pennies, halfpennies and farthings that were the English currency-as much money as Pa could earn in a year if he had been able to find employment. It would be more than enough to feed the family until the spring ploughing. The purse might even contain a few foreign gold coins, florins from Florence or ducats from Venice.
Gwenda had a small knife in a wooden sheath hanging from a cord around her neck. The sharp blade would quickly cut the thong and cause the fat purse to fall into her small hand-unless Sir Gerald felt something strange and grabbed her before she could do the deed ...
Godwyn raised his voice over the rumble of talk. "For the love of Christ, who teaches us charity, breakfast will be provided after the All Hallows' service," he said. "Meanwhile, there is pure drinking water in the courtyard fountain. Please remember to use the latrines outside-no pissing indoors!"
The monks and nuns were strict about cleanliness. Last night, Godwyn had caught a six-year-old boy peeing in a corner, and had expelled the whole family. Unless they had a penny for a tavern, they would have had to spend the cold October night shivering on the stone floor of the cathedral's north porch. There was also a ban on animals. Gwenda's three-legged dog, Hop, had been banished. She wondered where he had spent the night.
When all the lamps were lit, Godwyn opened the big wooden door to the outside. The night air bit sharply at Gwenda's ears and the tip of her nose. The overnight guests pulled their coats around them and began to shuffle out. When Sir Gerald and his family moved off, Pa and Ma fell into line behind them, and Gwenda and Philemon followed suit.
Philemon had done the stealing until now, but yesterday he had almost been caught, at Kingsbridge Market. He had palmed a small jar of expensive oil from the booth of an Italian merchant, then he had dropped the jar, so that everyone saw it. Mercifully, it had not broken when it hit the ground. He had been forced to pretend that he had accidentally knocked it off the stall.
Until recently Philemon had been small and unobtrusive, like Gwenda, but in the last year he had grown several inches, developed a deep voice, and become awkward and clumsy, as if he could not get used to his new, larger body. Last night, after the incident with the jar of oil, Pa had announced that Philemon was now too big for serious thieving, and henceforth it was Gwenda's job.
That was why she had lain awake for so much of the night.
Philemon's name was really Holger. When he was ten years old, he had decided he was going to be a monk, so he told everyone he had changed his name to Philemon, which sounded more religious. Surprisingly, most people had gone along with his wish, though Ma and Pa still called him Holger.
They passed through the door and saw two lines of shivering nuns holding burning torches to light the pathway from the hospital to the great west door of Kingsbridge Cathedral. Shadows flickered at the edges of the torchlight, as if the imps and hobgoblins of the night were cavorting just out of sight, kept at a distance only by the sanctity of the nuns.
Gwenda half expected to see Hop waiting outside, but he was not there. Perhaps he had found somewhere warm to sleep. As they walked to the church, Pa made sure they stayed close to Sir Gerald. From behind, someone tugged painfully at Gwenda's hair. She squealed, thinking it was a goblin; but when she turned she saw Wulfric, her six-year-old neighbor. He darted out of her reach, laughing. Then his father growled "Behave!" and smacked his head, and the little boy began to cry.
The vast church was a shapeless mass towering above the huddled crowd. Only the lowest parts were distinct, arches and mullions picked out in orange and red by the uncertain torchlight. The procession slowed as it approached the cathedral entrance, and Gwenda could see a group of townspeople coming from the opposite direction. There were hundreds of them, Gwenda thought, maybe thousands, although she was not sure how many people made a thousand, for she could not count that high.
The crowd inched through the vestibule. The restless light of the torches fell on the sculpted figures around the walls, making them dance madly. At the lowest level were demons and monsters. Gwenda stared uneasily at dragons and griffins, a bear with a man's head, a dog with two bodies and one muzzle. Some of the demons struggled with humans: a devil put a noose around a man's neck, a fox-like monster dragged a woman by her hair, an eagle with hands speared a naked man. Above these scenes the saints stood in a row under sheltering canopies; over them the apostles sat on thrones; then, in the arch over the main door, Saint Peter with his key and Saint Paul with a scroll looked adoringly upward at Jesus Christ.
Gwenda knew that Jesus was telling her not to sin, or she would be tortured by demons; but humans frightened her more than demons. If she failed to steal Sir Gerald's purse, she would be whipped by her father. Worse, there would be nothing for the family to eat but soup made with acorns. She and Philemon would be hungry for weeks on end. Ma's breasts would dry up, and the new baby would die, as the last two had. Pa would disappear for days, and come back with nothing for the pot but a scrawny heron or a couple of squirrels. Being hungry was worse than being whipped-it hurt longer.
She had been taught to pilfer at a young age: an apple from a stall, a new-laid egg from under a neighbor's hen, a knife dropped carelessly on a tavern table by a drunk. But stealing money was different. If she were caught robbing Sir Gerald it would be no use bursting into tears and hoping to be treated as a naughty child, as she had once after thieving a pair of dainty leather shoes from a soft-hearted nun. Cutting the strings of a knight's purse was no childish peccadillo, it was a real grown-up crime, and she would be treated accordingly.
She tried not to think about it. She was small and nimble and quick, and she would take the purse stealthily, like a ghost-provided she could keep from trembling.
The wide church was already thronged with people. In the side aisles, hooded monks held torches that cast a restless red glow. The marching pillars of the nave reached up into darkness. Gwenda stayed close to Sir Gerald as the crowd pushed forward toward the altar. The red-bearded knight and his thin wife did not notice her. Their two boys paid no more attention to her than to the stone walls of the cathedral. Gwenda's family fell back and she lost sight of them.
The nave filled up quickly. Gwenda had never seen so many people in one place: it was busier than the cathedral green on market day. People greeted one another cheerfully, feeling safe from evil spirits in this holy place, and the sound of all their conversations mounted to a roar.
Then the bell tolled, and they fell silent.
Sir Gerald was standing by a family from the town. They all wore cloaks of fine cloth, so they were probably rich wool dealers. Next to the knight stood a girl about ten years old. Gwenda stood behind Sir Gerald and the girl. She tried to make herself inconspicuous but, to her dismay, the girl looked at her and smiled reassuringly, as if to tell her not to be frightened.
Around the edges of the crowd the monks extinguished their torches, one by one, until the great church was in utter darkness.
Gwenda wondered if the rich girl would remember her later. She had not merely glanced at Gwenda then ignored her, as most people did. She had noticed her, had thought about her, had anticipated that she might be scared, and had given her a friendly smile. But there were hundreds of children in the cathedral. She could not have got a very clear impression of Gwenda's features in the dim light ... could she? Gwenda tried to put the worry out of her mind.
Invisible in the darkness, she stepped forward and slipped noiselessly between the two figures, feeling the soft wool of the girl's cloak on one side and the stiffer fabric of the knight's old surcoat on the other. Now she was in a position to get at the purse.
She reached into her neckline and took the little knife from its sheath.
The silence was broken by a terrible scream. Gwenda had been expecting it-Ma had explained what was going to happen during the service-but, all the same, she was shocked. It sounded like someone being tortured.
Then there was a harsh drumming sound, as of someone beating on a metal plate. More noises followed: wailing, mad laughter, a hunting horn, a rattle, animal noises, a cracked bell. In the congregation, a child started to cry, and others joined in. Some of the adults laughed nervously. They knew the noises were made by the monks, but all the same it was a hellish cacophony.
This was not the moment to take the purse, Gwenda thought fearfully. Everyone was tense, alert. The knight would be sensitive to any touch.
The devilish noise grew louder, then a new sound intervened: music. At first it was so soft that Gwenda was not sure she had really heard it, then gradually it grew louder. The nuns were singing. Gwenda felt her body flood with tension. The moment was approaching. Moving like a spirit, imperceptible as the air, she turned so that she was facing Sir Gerald.
She knew exactly what he was wearing. He had on a heavy wool robe gathered at the waist by a broad studded belt. His purse was tied to the belt with a leather thong. Over the robe he wore an embroidered surcoat, costly but worn, with yellowing bone buttons down the front. He had done up some of the buttons, but not all, probably out of sleepy laziness, or because the walk from the hospital to the church was so short.
With a touch as light as possible, Gwenda put one small hand on his coat. She imagined her hand was a spider, so weightless that he could not possibly feel it. She ran her spider hand across the front of his coat and found the opening. She slipped her hand under the edge of the coat and along his heavy belt until she came to the purse.
The pandemonium faded as the music grew louder. From the front of the congregation came a murmur of awe. Gwenda could see nothing, but she knew that a lamp had been lit on the altar, illuminating a reliquary, an elaborately carved ivory-and-gold box holding the bones of St Adolphus, that had not been there when the lights went out. The crowd surged forward, everyone trying to get closer to the holy remains. As Gwenda felt herself squashed between Sir Gerald and the man in front of him, she brought up her right hand and put the edge of the knife to the thong of his purse.
Excerpted from World Without End by Ken Follett Copyright © 2007 by Ken Follett . Excerpted by permission.
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What People are saying about this
“A well-researched, beautifully detailed portrait of the late Middle Ages.”—The Washington Post
“Juicy historical fiction.”—USA Today
“Follett tells a story that runs the gamut of life in the Middle Ages, and he does so in such a way that we are not only captivated but also educated. What else could you ask for?”—The Denver Post
“So if historical fiction is your meat, here’s a rare treat. A feast of conflicts and struggles among religious authority, royal governance, the powerful unions (or guilds) of the day and the peasantry…With World Without End, Follett proves his Pillars may be a rarity, but it wasn’t a fluke.”—New York Post
Meet the Author
Ken Follett is one of the world's best–loved novelists. He has sold more than one hundred million copies. His last book, World Without End, went straight to the No. 1 position on bestseller lists in the United States, Spain, Italy, Germany, and France.
He first hit the charts in 1978 with Eye of the Needle, a taut and original thriller with a memorable woman character in the central role. The book won the Edgar Award and became an outstanding film starring Kate Nelligan and Donald Sutherland.
He went on to write four more bestselling thrillers: Triple, The Key to Rebecca, The Man from St. Petersburg, and Lie Down with Lions. Cliff Robertson and David Soul starred in the miniseries of The Key to Rebecca. In 1994 Timothy Dalton, Omar Sharif, and Marg Helgenberger starred in the miniseries of Lie Down with Lions.
He also wrote On Wings of Eagles, the true story of how two employees of Ross Perot were rescued from Iran during the revolution of 1979. This book was made into a miniseries with Richard Crenna as Ross Perot and Burt Lancaster as Colonel "Bull" Simons.
Ken Follett then surprised readers by radically changing course with The Pillars of the Earth, a novel about building a cathedral in the Middle Ages. Published in September 1989 to rave reviews, it was on the New York Times bestseller list for eighteen weeks. It also reached the No. 1 position on lists in Canada, Great Britain, and Italy, and was on the German bestseller list for six years. It was voted the third greatest book ever written by 250,000 viewers of the German television station ZDF in 2004, beaten only by The Lord of the Rings and the Bible. When The Times (London) asked its readers to vote for the sixty greatest novels of the last sixty years, The Pillars of the Earth was placed at No. 2, after To Kill a Mockingbird. (The sequel, World Without End, was No. 23 on the same list.) In November 2007, Pillars became the most popular choice of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club, returning to No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. The miniseries, produced by Ridley Scott and starring Ian McShane and Matthew Macfadyen, is due for broadcast in 2010.
After Pillars, Ken Follett abandoned the straightforward spy genre for awhile, but his stories still had powerful narrative drive, strong women characters, and elements of suspense and intrigue. Night over Water, A Dangerous Fortune, and A Place Called Freedom followed.
Then he returned to the thriller. The Third Twin was a scorching suspense novel about a young woman scientist who stumbles across a secret experiment in genetic engineering. Miniseries rights were sold to CBS for $1,400,000, a record price for four hours of television. The series, starring Kelly McGillis and Larry Hagman, was broadcast in the United States in November 1997. (Ken Follett appeared briefly as the butler.) In Publishing Trends' annual survey of international fiction bestsellers for 1997, The Third Twin was ranked No. 2 in the world, beaten only by John Grisham's The Partner.
The Hammer of Eden, another nail–biting contemporary suspense story, came in 1998. Code to Zero (2000), about brainwashing and rocket science in the fifties, went to No. 1 on bestseller lists in the United States, Germany, and Italy, and film rights were snapped up by Doug Wick, producer of Gladiator, in a seven-figure deal. Jackdaws (2001), a World War II spy story in the tradition of Eye of the Needle, won the Corine Prize for 2003. Film rights were sold to Dino De Laurentiis. Hornet Flight, about two young people who escape from German–occupied Denmark in a Hornet Moth biplane, is loosely based on a true story. It was published in December 2002. Whiteout, a contemporary thriller about the theft of a dangerous virus from a laboratory, was published in 2004 and made into a miniseries in 2009.
World Without End, the long–awaited sequel to The Pillars of the Earth, was published in October 2007. It is set in Kingsbridge, the fictional location of the cathedral in Pillars, and features the descendants of the original characters at the time of the Black Death. It was a No.1 bestseller in Italy, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Spain, where it was the fastest–selling book ever published in the Spanish language, outstripping the last Harry Potter book.
A board game based on The Pillars of the Earth was released worldwide in 2007 – 2008 and won the following prizes: Deutscher Spielepreis 2007, Game of the Year 2007 in the United States (GAMES 100), Jeu d'annee 2007 (Canada), Juego del ano 2007 (Spain), Japan Boardgame Prize 2007, Arets Spill 2007 (Norway), and Spiele Hit 2007 (Austria). It was a nominee in Finland, France, and the Netherlands, and got a recommendation in Germany by the Jury "Spiel des Jahres."
In 2008 Ken was awarded the Olaguibel Prize by the Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos Vasco–Navarro for contributing to the promotion and awareness of architecture. A statue of him by the distinguished Spanish sculptor Casto Solano was unveiled in January 2008 outside the Cathedral of Santa Maria in the Basque capital of Vitoria–Gasteiz in northern Spain.
His next project is his most ambitious yet. The Century Trilogy will tell the entire history of the twentieth century as seen through the eyes of five linked families: one American, one English, one German, one Russian, and one Welsh. The first book, Fall of Giants, focusing on the First World War and the Russian Revolution, will be published worldwide simultaneously on September 28, 2010. He is already at work on the second book, provisionally titled The Winter of the World, about the Spanish civil war, the Second World War, and the development of nuclear weapons.
Ken Follett is married to Barbara Follett, a political activist who was the member of Parliament for Stevenage in Hertfordshire for thirteen years and minister for culture in the government of Gordon Brown. They live in a rambling rectory in Stevenage and also have an eighteenth-century town house in London and a beach house in Antigua. Ken Follett is a lover of Shakespeare and is often seen at London productions of the Bard's plays. An enthusiastic amateur musician, he plays bass guitar in a band called Damn Right I Got the Blues and appears occasionally with the folk group Clog Iron playing a bass balalaika.
He was chair of the National Year of Reading 1998 – 99, a British government initiative to raise literacy levels. He was president of the charity Dyslexia Action for ten years. He is a member of The Welsh Academy, a board director of the National Academy of Writing, and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. In 2007 he was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Literature (D.Litt.) by the University of Glamorgan as well as similar degrees by Saginaw Valley State University, Michigan—where his papers are kept in the Ken Follett Archive—and by the University of Exeter in 2008. He is active in numerous Stevenage charities and was a governor of Roebuck Primary School for ten years, serving as chair of governors for four of those years.
He was born on June 5, 1949, in Cardiff, Wales, the son of a tax inspector. He was educated at state schools and
- Hertfordshire, England
- Date of Birth:
- June 5, 1949
- Place of Birth:
- Cardiff, Wales
- B.A. in Philosophy, University College, London, 1970
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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First off, Pillars of the Earth is one of my all-time favorite books. I loved the politics and intrigue in that book. Expecting big things from a sequel that took over a decade to complete, I was hoping Follett would have the same types of subject matter. This book follows descendants of the main characters of Pillars, focusing mostly on Merthin the builder and his brother Ralph. The book focuses more on graphic descriptions of sex, rape, and battles rather than the interesting politics and architecture of the times like Pillars. The plot twists are fairly predictable, and Follett really makes this a Job-like story of Merthin and Caris. That would be fine if he stopped after "twist" number 3, but continuously bringing in "challenges" for the main characters gets old after a while. When a character started getting uninteresting, Follett had the foresight to set his novel in the 1300s and would kill them off using the Black Plague. Considering the book is over 1000 pages, I was really expecting him to go into detail the bridge architecture that his character envisions, or the tower, or the hospitals, or the palaces... He has the characters spend time in France and Italy, and barely even describes any of the architecture or lifestyle in those countries (conveniently one of the characters is bedridden in Italy, and there is plague and war in France). Instead, he focuses more on unrequited love, unimaginatively evil villains, an excessive number of graphic descriptions of sex and rape, and teenager-like descriptions of battles. Characters are a pretty shallow - the heroes are obnoxiously saintly, and the villains are blatantly manipulative and evil. It's difficult to care much about the characters when they're so polarized. Plot is pretty basic - boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, plot twist 1, plague/war (plot twists 2-5), boy loses and regains girl and loses and regains girl, bad guys do bad things (big surprise - plot twists 6-12), everyone's happy, plot twist 13, plot from beginning of book is explained really quickly at the end. All in all, I had high expectations for this book and was pretty disappointed when it turned into a pretty basic "good vs. evil" action/sex book. He certainly didn't need to make it 1000 pages long if that's what his aim was...
I read The Pillars of the Earth but surely don't remember it (I forget most of the books I read). I bought World Without End because I read everything by Ken Follett. When I saw how big it was 'over 1000 pages' I kept putting off reading it. I finally decided to take the plunge. This book was fantastic. I couldn't get enough of the characters. I cared about them, and loved some and hated others. I never wanted the book to end.
There is nothing I like more then finding a book I can really sink my teeth into. I love it when a book is so good I find myself thinking about it when I'm not reading it. I love when a book is an easy read not because the content is frivalous, but the writing is fluid and well paced. I love books that have epic story lines and diverse characters. I love historical fiction that is well researched but not "preachy". As a relatively slow reader, I love being able to read 100+ pages in one go without batting an eye. I love this book because it provides all these things.
If you're looking for a book with emotional depth and contemplative prose, move along.
If you're looking to invest yourself in a long and thrilling tale, look no further.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Suggested With: An oversized chair and a tankard of ale. ;)
Wicked and heavenly. This novel is frosted with every element of powerful story telling. All one thousand pages. But don't be intimidated by the length. The book is chalk full of everything entertainingly medieval. In the small village of Kingsbridge you'll find the ultimate bad boys, Ralph and Godwyn, whom you'll love to hate, down to the ultra sweet Caris, falsely accused of witchcraft and forced to join a nunnery and leave her beloved Merthin behind. There is also the spunky and wise Gwenda to admire. She a peasant and friend of Caris, sold by her own father into prostitution for nothing more than a milk cow. Her only desire is to have some land and marry, Wulfric,the man she loves who just happens to love someone else. Follett slips you inside the mysterious world of nunneries and priory's where you'll find more sinners than saints. Outside to the colorful yet sad world of peasants, knights, lords and ladies. You'll discover how the plague wrenches the town inside out. Strange times, even stranger behavior. The Godly turn into saints, the wicked into complete devils. Do Caris and Gwenda get their dreams? Will the disturbing behavior of Ralph and Godwyn go unpunished? Can the town survive the plague? You'll have to buy the book to find out. Be ready for a mystical ride you won't soon forget! Dorraine Darden, Author of novel, Jack Rabbit Moon
I couldn't put this book down, and it was so heavy I could hardly hold it up, but it was worth the pain. Yes there were many similarities to "The Pillars of the Earth," but you become so invested in the lives of the people in both books you really do not want them to end. The research and imagination that went into both books is phenominal. I'm sorry you cannot write about just one. They are a pair. I wish they were quadruplets. I feel like a moron even trying to review this book. Who am I to review this? All I know is that I enjoyed every minute of the time it took to read this book. It was finished much too soon and I thank Mr. Follett for writing such a wonderful story, for so many wonderful stories. I highly recommend this book, I have recommended it to many people. They have all thanked me for the recommendation. It has provoked many discussions. I don't understand how anyone could give this less than five stars. Thank you for the opportunity to put in my two cents.
I ordered this book after completing Pillars of the Earth. I put off starting it because of the let down feeling I knew would come upon finishing. What could I possibly read to compare with this work of art? I finished it a couple of days ago and immediatly checked the Internet to see if there was another book in the works. No such luck. Come on Mr. Follett, it's been two years since this was written. You owe it to your fans not to stop there. I realize this takes a tremendous amount of research to write about this era, but you make it so mesmerizing and easy to follow. I have never lost so much sleep by reading far into the night, but would do it again as soon as your next book comes out. Thank you, thank you! Barbara Briggs Nampa ID
Ken Follett has wriiten another super historicqal fiction in WORLD WITHOUT END. The main characters are brought to live vivitly in the first few paragraphs and you are taken back in time. To old England, the live and time are done very well, in graphic detail weaving a wonderful story of a Builder, a Knight, a Peasent and a woman merchant. I love the way Follett intersects all there lives with the main Church and the Priests and Nuns, the daily life of the time and the horrors that have shown as a people we have grown. I have read his past book, PILLARS OF THE EARTH and was hoping for the same caliber in this book. My hope fulfilled, WORLD is just a delicious as PILLARS. I like Follets writting so much that I have put him on my list of Authors aother books to read.
this was a very wouderful book to read.though longer than pillers of the earth this has made me a bigger ken follett fan
Like the first book, Pillars of the Earth, this has a narrative packed with nonstop excitement and suspense. Set two hundred years after the first novel, it continues the story of the English town of Kingsbridge, in the late Middle Ages. Ken Follett delights us with vivid characterizations and has the reader rooting for the good guys. Some readers may be disconcerted by the contemporary dialogue - there isn't a 'mayhap' or a 'with child' to be found. Instead a character will say, 'Maybe she's pregnant.' Occasionally it goes a bit over the top. I doubt we would really hear any medieval individual accuse another with, 'She has constructed a fragile defense around her self-esteem, and you just tear it down.' But the author can be forgiven a small lapse here and there! Don't be put off by the 1,000+ pages, as the story flies by. Now, Mr. Follett, how about fast-forwarding another 200 years in your next novel, so we can find out what's going on in Kingsbridge during the Tudor era?
After reading Pillars of the Earth it is fair to say that I had very high expectations of Follett. I simply didn't want Pillars to end! So when I came across this sequel I snatched it up and began to read it immediately following Pillars. That was a mistake. Let me explain. I had fallen hopelessly in love with all of the characters of Pillars. I hoped they would be in this book and while their great-grandchildren are, the original cast is not. To jump forward 200 years messed with the flow for me. Preferably, I would have liked World Without End to pick up with the children of the main characters in Pillars. I found myself having to write a family tree of who in this book was related to whom in the first book. That was OK. But then the book just couldn't stack up to Pillars though it did come close enough that I would buy it again. I found the characters again either likeable or loathesome; it was not in the same distinct way. Each of the charactes in Pillars had very distinct personalities and made each character in WWE seem like a diluted version of their ancestors. I do appreciate how Follett can keep an entire village intertwined all at once weaving each of their stories into one another soap-opera style. He certainly has greatness within him as he proved in Pillars. Had I read World Without End first I probably would have loved it completely, though I wouldn't have understood some things, but it still fell slightly short, as sequels often do, of Pillars. I give Pillars an overall 5 and WWE an overall 4.
At over one thousand pages, this sequel to Pillars of The Earth can seem quite daunting. Don't let the length put you off, I guarantee you'll hardly notice. The author keeps the book moving. Some reviews said that it was slow in parts, and I for one wondered where these parts were. It's an elaborate and interesting story revolving around the lives of four main characters, two female, two male. They live in hard times (fourteenth century) and life is constantly throwing them curveballs. Few books upset me the way this one did. Their lives are just so brutal! I would sit and stare at the book on the couch, knowing that their lives continued even as I avoided reading it, only because it moved me so much. I loved it and highly recommend it. I recommend it to family and friends all the time, and it is a permanent fixture on my bookshelf.
Ken Follet is one of my favorite writers. I read almost all of his book. World without end is a sequel for the The Pillars of The Earth. I absolutely recommend this book to any one who likes a really great story with characters that we won't want to forget. Sometimes I was wondering how Ken can think of so many twists and turns to write in his story. But he did. He manages to surprise me every time. Don't spoil your story by reading this book before you get a chance to read the first book. Make sure you finish all of your homework or house chores as you will not want to put it down. I must finish all of Ken's novel at one sitting. I read it all through the night. Highly recommended.
Everyday you find yourself waiting to get to and wondering what is going on in Kingsbridge! I would find myself thinking, "I wonder what ___ doing today." or "I wonder if ___ and ___ are going to get married.". It is just a fascinating book.
I started this book with great anticipation, but wound up disappointed. 1000 pages of soap opera was more than enough for me. Follett does a good job with period details, but the characters are one-dimensional and the plot too much of a soap opera.
Just finished reading this today. It is quite lengthy (1014 pages), but worth the effort. If you loved "Pillars", you will love this one. The basic premise is the same as "Pillars", but the characters (200 years later) are different and of course, there are different circumstances at play. Ken Follett creates strong,believable characters, people you really want to root for and people you hate. He lets us know why they act as they do and the story line(s) are genuine. This story, is, I believe just the way things were in 14th century England where people did not live long, where life was hard for the serfs and peasants, and where the nobility enjoyed the good life. There is a lot to be learned from reading this book, and it is chocked full of historical and cultural material relative to the time (what they wore, what they ate, how their houses were built, how they worshipped, the role of the clergy, etc.). This is probably one more reason I loved the book, I tend to pick books based on historical material. All in all, if you like a really good story, easy to read yet detailed with characters that could be real, you will love this book. If you loved "Pillars", you will love this book. I could not wait to read it, and I was not disappointed.
One of the best books I have ever read. Absolutely thrilling. This is what you would call a page turner
Having read the Pillars of the Earth I was worried whether Ken Follet would be able to follow up the novel with anything better. However, he pulled it off. World Without End is one of my favorite books, the plot development as well as the connection created between the numerous characters within the book is ingenious. Though the book is without doubt not for younger readers due to some graphic sexual content, it is without doubt a must read at some point in life. Definitely something to put on the reading list if you want a book that you can read again and again and still never want to put it down.
I am an avid reader, and just fell in love with this book....I hated having to go to sleep, and often found myself waking up to read just one more chapter....My husband and I bought 2 copies and read it together as we often do....World Without End is still a favorite topic of discussion....I highly reccomend this book...Just get over the fact that you don't think you want to read about a church being built...It is soo much more than that! Trust me you will LOVE it & will be Sad when you are done!
Whether you read PILLARS OF THE EARTH or not, this book stands on its own. If you like to read about the harshness of the middle ages and about love, hate, greed, smart people, and stupid people, then you'll enjoy this book very much. Ken Follett is a master story teller. I can only hope that he will grace this world with another novel such as this and POTE.
Most of the nuns are portrayed as lesbians, the priests are either homosexual, filled with greed and lust for power or both. The nobility seem to be mostly power hungry sex addicts and child molesters who murder and rape in the most grotesque ways imaginable. The peasants seem to be a mixture of all the above with a few exceptions and are portrayed as extremely stupid. Good descriptions of the period and buildings and hardships of the times but poor historical reflection of the people, how they thought and their values and beliefs. I agree, the author took the ideas, beliefs and values of the 21st century and placed them in characters set in the 13th century. Not a well researched portrayal of what people thought, how they behaved or what their values were in the the 13th century. People did not think, act or view things in the same way we do today as this book wouls indicate.
This is a sequal that didn't need to be done. I did not feel like I was "in" the time setting. Truthfully it felt like a totally different person wrote this book then Pillars. If you want a good historical novel set during plague times - see Plague Tales or Doomsday Book.
I often find that sequels do not live up to the first of a kind. However, World Without End is just as well written as Pillars of the Earth. Perhaps it was reading two long books in close proximity. I just enjoyed "Pillars" more. But "World" is an excellent read too.
I anxiously awaited reading Time Without End, having been a devoted fan of Pillars of the Earth for years. Terribly disappointing. Just as I had thought that Redemption, the sequel to another of my all-time favorites, Leon Uris' Trinity, was scraps from the editing room floor, this book seemed like a tired and bored Follett "mailing it in." And that's some feat for a book of this length. As fresh as Pillars seemed lo, these many years ago, Time feels equally stale.
wow. I have to admit I was skeptical. How can you sequel such a perfect original. My sister urged me on. From page one through the next three weeks I was a total hermit and would not put it down. Outstanding. You do not need to remember any details from the original for those that read Pillars so many years ago.
I loved Pillars Of The Earth and I loved this. Follett does such a good job of creating characters that you quickly become invested in. You feel every triumph and tragedy. Along with great charactors, Follett brings 14th century England right to you. You feel the hardships, enjoy the festivities and shake you head at everyone's unflinching belief that God determined your lot in life, serf or knight; wealth or poverty, sickness or health. Historical fiction at its best, enjoy.