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Sarum: The Novel of England Paperback – June 23, 1997
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From School Library Journal
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
The creation of Stonehenge will invade your imagination. Christianity comes and the Salisbury Cathedral is a result. Lives and loves of men and women with their triumphs and disappointments evolve against the parade of ages -- kings and their wars and kingdoms, plagues, revolutions, until we get to Queen Victoria and an age that developed faster than ever. The reader gets the impression of a snowball rolling downhill -- time begins with few people and slower development but one bit of progress inspires 30 more and on it goes, bigger and faster ad infinitum.
Rutherford's research is thorough but it doesn't impede his story. With narrative under strict control, his style is clear, descriptive and tight. Relationships wax and wane through the generations as families grow and change with the times.
Rutherford has said about this book that he admires James Michener and deliberately set out to accomplish for England what Michener did for Hawaii, Texas and others. I think he did it better.
Some parts of the book are easy reads, and some aren't. The best parts are the parts dealing with stone age England, the Black Death era, Roman era England, and the times around the American Revolution. Some of the intervals in between the foregoing get pretty bogged down, and are tough sledding. But this is a book that is worth reading, worth finishing, and worth reading again.
Oddly, the book largely ignores the Napoleonic War era, one of Britain's most heroic times. It also does not dwell much on the British Empire at its height. It spends more time on histories of old English cathedrals than most of us care about. But what the heck, with a subject as ambitious as this one, criticism is inevitable.
This book will not disappoint, but it does require effort.
Edward Rutherford begins his tale in a time, before recorded time, as the last ice age retreated from northern Europe and severed Britain from the rest of the continent. Rooting two fictional family trees in characters from this era, he then takes broad strides through the history of Sarum, an ancient name for the area in and around modern Salisbury, England; right up through World War 2 and into the 1980's. Routinely rooting additional fictional families in characters, which arrive over the progression of ages, Rutherford floats a very human dramatic narrative of individuals, families, personalities and geneology on the real timeline, currents and subtleties of the true history of a fascinating region, country and people.
While focusing on a relatively compact region of England, this book offers some deep insight into the very unique, historically multi-cultural and yet, deeply reserved people that are the English. The history in this book is rich, while not overwhelmingly scholarly.Read more ›
At 1330 pages, it's very long. Allow 2 months to read it, and if you cannot clear at least 35 pages a day, don't pick it up that day. Run some contrasting short books alongside it (I read some Carson McCullers, for example) so that you won't feel bored/depressed/guilty while scrabbling along.
Is it worth reading? Definitely. It has its faults, but is an immensely worthy book. Is that enough? Sure. You will get some good stories and a lot of history.
Rutherfurd subtitled it "The Novel of England", asserting that "Sarum is a novel and to see it as anything else would be a mistake." 22,000 years of love, lust, envy, hatred, success, failure are chronicled in pot-boilerish narrative. It's mostly skilful, sometimes frankly two-dimensional. A couple of chapters run to as much as 150-200 pages, luckily with internal breaks. They have been compared to discrete novellas, but the fictional families unify the novel.
Rutherfurd sets his imaginary families "amongst people and events that either did exist, or might have done." People have questioned his selection of dates, but each enshrines a landmark of English history. Concerned with his characters' physical survival above all, there is admittedly too much on drainage and masonry.
But this is a minor quibble. Rutherfurd provides a terrific canvas of political, social, religious, cultural, and industrial events. Along the way, he brings in important figures like Charlemagne and major literary works, e.g., Beowulf. You might question some of the relevance, but it's mostly rewarding - and I assure you, there's plenty to be learned from this book.
Finishing it was a struggle, but I'm glad I did. Highly recommended.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Lots of history here, I would have given it five stars, except for the fact that the book neither provided a map of England or family trees for the families that are followed from... Read morePublished 28 days ago by Susan H. Eaton
Just like his other writings, a lend of the historic and fiction--'hope the next one I read is as good!Published 1 month ago by joe cornell
Too many pages devoted to romance. Also the book is written, in parts, as if Sarum was not part of England.. Very little about what went on in London for examplePublished 1 month ago by Arthur P. Hurter
love the book, as well as NEW YORK and cannot wait until i am able to download another of Mr. Rutherfurd's novels !!!!Published 2 months ago by inky
A marvelous epic of interlocking family stories. Interesting how family traits keep peeking through the characters. Made a well known location live through the centuries.Published 2 months ago by Dirtguy