Review: World Without End by Ken Follett
It has been 18 years since the publication of Ken Follett’s groundbreaking historical novel, The Pillars of the Earth. Apparently, he has been very busy because the sequel, World Without End, weighs in at over 1,000 pages and could be named Book Without End. Nevertheless, Follett is at the top of his game, and World Without End is as captivating and informative as its predecessor.
Set in the village of Kingsbridge 200 years after the town’s cathedral was built, World Without End is an engrossing medieval tale of the lives of the four main characters – Caris, Gwenda, Merthin, and Ralph. As children they witnessed a fight in the forest with an ensuing death and the hiding of a secret. Each represents a different aspect of medieval society in the 1300’s to great effect.
This epic historical novel takes on all-encompassing themes such as the role of the priory in that period, changes in attitude towards medicine, innovations in commerce and architecture, and how justice was administered. Conflicts arose over these changes, and it is through the eyes of the four main characters that we experience and understand these changes.
For example, Caris is a nun when the Black Plague descends on the area. At the time the treatment du jour was bloodletting, which only ensured that the patient would die more quickly. Caris had read that the plague was spread by proximity and instituted cloth masks and handwashing. The prevailing medical minds thought this very akin to witchcraft, and we all know what the punishment for that is.
As though there was not enough going on in England, Follett brings the reader to France, where King Edward is fighting another interminable war with that enemy. Battlefield strategies are graphically described and feel quite authentic. There was a lot of barbarity at the time so be prepared for such details.
Ken Follett has come a long way since his Eye of the Needle days, which were quite good. He is now at a whole new level of writing, and I believe a trilogy is in the works.
If he keeps on writing, I’ll keep on reading his entertaining, informative work.
I give the book 4 loaded longbows.
Happy reading from Beverly!