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World Without End Paperback – October 7, 2008
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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.
Questions for Ken Follett
Amazon.com: What a phenomenon The Pillars of the Earth has become. It was a bestseller when it was published in 1989, but it's only gained in popularity since then--it's the kind of book that people are incredibly passionate about. What has it been like to see it grow an audience like that?
Follett: At first I was a little disappointed that Pillars sold not much better than my previous book. Now I think that was because it was a little different and people were not sure how to take it. As the years went by and it became more and more popular, I felt kind of vindicated. And I was very grateful to readers who spread the news by word of mouth.
Amazon.com: Pillars was a departure for you from your very successful modern thrillers, and after writing it you returned to thrillers. Did you think you'd ever come back to the medieval period? What brought you to do so after 18 years?
Follett: The main reason was the way people talk to me about Pillars. Some readers say, "Its the best book Ive ever read." Others tell me they have read it two or three times. I got to the point where I really had to find out whether I could do that again.
Amazon.com: In World Without End you return to Kingsbridge, the same town as the previous book, but two centuries later. What has changed in two hundred years?
Follett: In the time of Prior Philip, the monastery was a powerful force for good in medieval society, fostering education and technological advance. Two hundred years later it has become a wealthy and conservative institution that tries to hold back change. This leads to some of the major conflicts in the story.
Amazon.com: World Without End features two strong-willed female characters, Caris and Gwenda. What room to maneuver did a medieval English town provide for a woman of ambition?
Follett: Medieval people paid lip-service to the idea that women were inferior, but in practice women could be merchants, craftspeople, abbesses, and queens. There were restrictions, but strong women often found ways around them.
Amazon.com: When you sit down to imagine yourself into the 14th century, what is the greatest leap of imagination you have to make from our time to theirs? Is there something we can learn from that age that has been lost in our own time?
Follett: Its hard to imagine being so dirty. People bathed very rarely, and they must have smelled pretty bad. And what was kissing like in the time before toothpaste was invented?--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
This is being touted as a sequel to "The Pillars of the Earth" which is true enough, but it is also a little misleading, as it is set 200 years after the tales told in that magnificent novel, and as such can definitely be read as a stand alone novel. Having said that though, if you haven't read "Pillars of the Earth" - do - it is magnificent!
Knowledge of this wonderful earlier work will be helpful, as there is reference to characters from that time and being familiar with their adventures certainly gives you some insight into what is happening at the time, but if you are new to Follett's work, please don't let this put you off. He mentions enough of the earlier characters (without being boring to those readers who know the book SO well)for any new reader to have an idea of what has happened before.
The tale seems simple enough - 4 very different young people witness a fight in the forrest which leads to death and the hiding of a great secret, and this reverberates through their lives for years to come. What is not simple enough is the detail that goes in to these character's lives - they are all wonderful in their own different ways, and we can all feel that we can see the world they live in, taste their food, smell the odours of their environment and rejoice and mourn as they do.
Follett is also the master of understanding how humans think; how they plot and scheme, and how the whims of fate can change a life that seems completely planned and organised.Read more ›
I am happy to report that my concerns were unfounded. The book is long, but it has a lot going on and is not at all bloated. There are several stories being told, but they all interweave and the elimination of one would be a loss. Although it is set in the same location and refers back to some of the original characters, reading or remembering "Pillars" is not required. I enjoy learning about the construction and medical theories of the day and wish this aspect had been further expanded, but if a reader does not, there is not so much of it that it would be detrimental.
All in all, if you like historical fiction with plenty of death, love and destruction, this book is highly recommended. The length of the book will dissuade some from trying it, but those who have longer attention spans will not be disappointed.
But I was disappointed. While "World without End" is compelling stuff with endless twists in it's storyline and characters you grow fond of, this book just doesn't have that epic pizzazz that "Pillars" had in spades. A lot of the events in this book seem to be rehashed from its predecessor and now that the cathedral is built it seems that the major issues facing Kingsbridge (like becoming a town in its own right, having a cathedral at all) are over and done with. "Pillars" was at its heart a book about creation and the forces of the time that caused that-the church, the ruling class, the merchants, even the peasents. Its a book about a developing society that is setteling down not only from the recent Norman invasion, but is gearing up to be one of the greatest empires the world will ever see (even though that happens hundreds of years later.) This book has no unifying theme that creates the epic feel that "Pillars" had-the sense that you were reading about something great (though fictional) in history.
Anyway the basic plot follows the formula from "Pillars." We start out with a piece of a mystery that gradually revels clues to us as we read on.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One of my favorite books ever. Worth the read of the almost 1000 pages.Published 15 hours ago by Jane Austen "Barbara"
This is one of Follett's best! Read Pillars of the Earth first, which was great by itself.....This one is a wonderful addition.Published 1 day ago by Ellen
I'm not someone who reads a great deal, but I couldn't put it down. When I had to I had to find a good stopping place.Published 1 day ago by Amazon Customer
The end seemed to come quickly, but it was an entertaining a good read.Published 4 days ago by carol terry
A compelling read and a must for anyone who has read the previous book, Pillars of the Earth.Published 6 days ago by Phyllis Cusworth
as with all of Ken Folletts stories, this is a great read. Never want the story to end, but all beginnings have an end.Published 6 days ago by Charlotte B. Hansen