World Without End

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Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Diana Gabaldon
The millions of readers who enjoyed Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth (1989) will certainly enjoy its sequel, World Without End. While it would be grossly unfair to say that it's the same book with different characters, the similarities of structure give a definite feeling of deja vu…The novel's greatest strength lies in its well-researched, beautifully detailed portrait of the late Middle Ages. Society at every level is here, mingling in an altogether convincing way. Follett shows the workings of politicians in all their corrupt glory, in both religious and temporal spheres. Of course, the best research in the world does not a story make, but Follett also comes through with a terrifically compelling plot.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

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
Library Journal

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.]
—David Faucheux

Kirkus Reviews
The peasants are revolting. Some, anyway. Others-the good-hearted varlets, churls and nickpurses of Follett's latest-are just fine. In a departure from his usual taut, economical procedurals (Whiteout, 2004, etc.), Follett revisits the Middle Ages in what amounts to a sort of sequel to The Pillars of the Earth (1989). The story is leisurely but never slow, turning in the shadow of the great provincial cathedral in the backwater of Kingsbridge, the fraught construction of which was the ostensible subject of the first novel. Now, in the 1330s, the cathedral is a going concern, populated by the same folks who figured in its making: intriguing clerics, sometimes clueless nobles and salt-of-the-earth types. One of the last is a resourceful young girl-and Follett's women are always resourceful, more so than the menfolk-who liberates the overflowing purse of one of those nobles. Her father has already lost a hand for thievery, but that's an insufficient deterrent in a time of hunger, and a time when the lords "were frequently away: at war, in Parliament, fighting lawsuits, or just attending on their earl or king." Thus the need for watchful if greedy bailiffs and tough sheriffs, who make Gwenda's grown-up life challenging. Follett has a nice eye for the sometimes silly clash of the classes and the aspirations of the small to become large, as with one aspiring prior who "had only a vague idea of what he would do with such power, but he felt strongly that he belonged in some elevated position in life." Alas, woe meets some of those who strive, a fact that touches off a neat little mystery at the beginning of the book, one that plays its way out across the years and implicates dozens of characters.A lively entertainment for fans of The Once and Future King, The Lord of the Rings and other multilayered epics.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451228376
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/27/2010
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 1056
  • Sales rank: 43,832
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Ken Follett burst into the book world with Eye of the Needle, an award-winning thriller and international bestseller. After several more successful thrillers, he surprised everyone with The Pillars of the Earth and then with its long-awaited sequel, World Without End, a national and international bestseller. Follett’s new, magnificent historical epic, The Century Trilogy, opened with the bestselling Fall of Giants. He lives in England with his wife, Barbara.

Biography

As a young boy growing up in Cardiff, Wales, Ken Follett's love for all things literary began early on. The son of devoutly religious parents who didn't allow their children to watch television or even listen to the radio, Follett found himself drawn to the library. It soon became his favorite place -- its shelves full of stories providing his escape, and ultimately, his inspiration.

Follett's more formal education took place years later at London's University College, where he studied philosophy -- a choice that, as he explains on his official Web site, he believes guided his career as an author. "There is a real connection between philosophy and fiction," Follet explains. "In philosophy you deal with questions like: ‘We're sitting at this table, but is the table real?' A daft question, but in studying philosophy, you need to take that sort of thing seriously and have an off-the-wall imagination. Writing fiction is the same."

After graduating in 1970, a journalism class touched off Follett's career as a writer. He started out covering beats for the South Wales Echo, and later wrote a column for London's Evening News. Becoming more and more interested in writing fiction on evenings and weekends, however, Follett soon realized that books were his true business, and in 1974 he went to work for Everest Books, a humble London publishing house.

After releasing a few of his own novels to less than thunderous acclaim --including The Shakeout (1975) and Paper Money (1977) -- Follett finally hit it big with 1978's Eye of the Needle. The taut, edgy thriller with more than a dash of sex appeal flew off the shelves, winning the Edgar award and allowing Follett to quit his job and get to work on his next book, Triple. Showing no signs of a sophomore slump, Triple went on to spark a string of bestselling spy thrillers, including The Key to Rebecca (1980), The Man from St. Petersburg (1982), and Lie Down with Lions (1986). 1983's On Wings of Eagles was an interesting departure -- a nonfiction account of how two of Ross Perot's employees were rescued from Iran in 1979.

Follett changed direction even more sharply in 1989, surprising fans with The Pillars of the Earth -- a novel set in the Middle Ages many critics considered his crowning achievement. "A novel of majesty and power," said The Chicago Sun-Times of Follett's epic story. "It will hold you, fascinate you, surround you."

Follett's next three books were a trio considered to be more suspenseful than thrill-filled -- Night Over Water (1991), A Dangerous Fortune (1993) and A Place Called Freedom (1995), but The Third Twin (1996) and The Hammer of Eden (1998) marked a return to Follett's trademark capers. The wartime novels Code to Zero (2000) and Jackdaws (2001) showcased Follett's "unique ability to tell stories of international conflict and tell them well," according to Larry King in USA Today.

Follett "hits the mark again" (Publishers Weekly) with his latest story of international intrigue, Hornet Flight (2002) -- the WWII story of a young couple trying to escape occupied Denmark in a rebuilt Hornet Moth biplane who become unwitting carriers of top-secret information.

In a way, Follett's smash-hit success has allowed him to give back to the library of Cardiff, Wales -- by filling its shelves with his own transporting tales.

Good To Know

Eye of the Needle was made into a major motion picture, and four of Follett's books have been made into television mini-series: The Key to Rebecca, Lie Down with Lions, On Wings of Eagles and The Third Twin -- the rights for which were sold to CBS for the record sum of $1,400,000.

A very civic-minded soul, Follett is quite involved in his Hertfordshire community, serving as President of the Dyslexia Institute, Council Member of the National Literacy Trust, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Chair of Governors of the Roebuck Primary School & Nursery, Patron of Stevenage Home-Start, director of the Stevenage Leisure Ltd. and Vice-President of the Stevenage Borough Football club.

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    1. Hometown:
      Hertfordshire, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 5, 1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      Cardiff, Wales
    1. Education:
      B.A. in Philosophy, University College, London, 1970

Read an Excerpt

World Without End


By Ken Follett

DUTTON

Copyright © 2007 Ken Follett All right reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-525-95007-3


Chapter One

Gwenda 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.

(Continues...)


Excerpted from World Without End by Ken Follett Copyright © 2007 by Ken Follett . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Posted May 12, 2010

    High expectations left me a bit disappointed.

    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...

    36 out of 41 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2008

    I Didn't Want it to End

    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.

    31 out of 33 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    EPIC ENTERTAINMENT!

    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. <BR/>If you're looking for a book with emotional depth and contemplative prose, move along. <BR/>If you're looking to invest yourself in a long and thrilling tale, look no further. <BR/>Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars <BR/>Suggested With: An oversized chair and a tankard of ale. ;)

    18 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2008

    Magical!

    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

    13 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Outstanding Read!

    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

    8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 16, 2009

    How could you not give this five stars?

    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.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2009

    Good if you enjoy soap operas

    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.

    6 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Super historical fiction!

    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.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 1, 2009

    world without end

    this was a very wouderful book to read.though longer than pillers of the earth this has made me a bigger ken follett fan

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    AMAZING!

    One of the best books I have ever read. Absolutely thrilling. This is what you would call a page turner

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2008

    One of the Best Novels Ever!

    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?

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2010

    On the fence with World Without End

    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.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 28, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Disappointing Sequal

    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.

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Wonderful! Everything you could want in a novel.

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 26, 2010

    World Without End - an awesome read

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 25, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    World Without End is a stroke of brilliance.

    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.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 30, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    The characters

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    AS GOOD AS PILLARS OF THE EARTH!

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 22, 2011

    Not worth the read

    Having read two novels by Follett and being fully intrigued and inspired, I felt compelled to read the sequel to The Pillars of the Earth - World Without End. Although I wanted to know the story in its entirety, I was fully disappointed by this book. For the most part it seemed as Follett was trying too hard to write a sequel that readers were wanting. Right after putting down Pillars it was blatantly obvious how cheaply this book was written. There are new characters who are descendants of Prior Philip and of Jack and Aliena who are primary characters in this story. It appears as what Follett did was take the plights of his characters of his first story and shift them to new characters and tell what seemed to be another story but turned out to be the same story. Instead of a bishop who was blocking construction paths it was the prior Godwyn; instead of the desire to build a cathedral it was to build the tallest structure in all of England; and instead of a son and daughter of a disgraced Earl to regain their position it was a former Earl who imposes his youngest son to take back the earldom. The readers even follow characters through France, again. Only this time it's not a civil war but another power struggle. What's more is that just about everything is predictable that I almost put down the book and not finish it. Bottom line, I would not recommend reading this book unless you like to be spoon fed the same story with different names attached.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2010

    Mirror to Pillars of the Earth

    After the success of Pillars of the Earth, the author wrote this novel without originality. This novel mimicked Pillars. The story is similar with different characters and a different time. The hardships the main characters have are almost the same as Pillars. The story revolves around building a bridge rather than a cathedral. The recipe for this author's success: Write a good novel then make a sequel with a similar story to the first to have the same success. What nonsense. If you've read Pillars of the Earth...dont read this. It's the same story with a different cover.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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