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World Without End Paperback – October 7, 2008

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Editorial Reviews Review

Ken Follett has 90 million readers worldwide. The Pillars of the Earth is his bestselling book of all time. Now, eighteen years after the publication of The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett has written the most-anticipated sequel of the year, World Without End.

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 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. 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, "It’s the best book I’ve 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. 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. 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. 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: It’s 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

Eighteen years after Pillars of the Earth weighed 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1014 pages
  • Publisher: NAL; 1st edition (October 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 045122499X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451224996
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,614 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,439 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ken Follett was only twenty-seven when he wrote the award-winning EYE OF THE NEEDLE, which became an international bestseller. His celebrated PILLARS OF THE EARTH was voted into the top 100 of Britain's best-loved books in the BBC's the Big Read and the sequel, WORLD WITHOUT END, will be published in Autumn 2007. He has since written several equally successful novels including, most recently, WHITEOUT. He is also the author of non-fiction bestseller ON WINGS OF EAGLES. He lives with his family in London and Hertfordshire.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1,274 of 1,325 people found the following review helpful By Lesley West on October 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I am a big fan of Ken Follett, and admire that he moves in a seemingly effortless manner between genres. However, his best work is found in the "great historical novel", and he has delivered handsomely with this latest effort.

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.
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353 of 375 people found the following review helpful By OrchidSlayer VINE VOICE on October 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I am a big fan of Ken Follett's work, but know that most authors have occasional "duds", and at over 1000 pages (the British version I bought), I was concerned this would be a bloated, rambling disappointment. I also loved "Pillars of the Earth" when I read it many years ago but had forgotten all but being fascinated by learning cathedral construction techniques, so I was hesitant to read a "sequel" in case this book was dependent on remembering the first one. Still, because I read that this was a well researched and competent book, I decided to take a chance on it.

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.
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191 of 207 people found the following review helpful By Bobbewig TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The Pillars of the Earth has been one of my all-time favorite books, and so I was a little skeptical about how good its sequel could be. My concern was totally unnecessary. World Without End, which takes place in the same town of Kingsbridge almost 200 years later and has the cathedral as its backdrop, is an excellent book and I expect that in time it will also be considered to be a masterpiece. Not having read The Pillars of the Earth will not deter you in any way from enjoying World Without End, as other than the common thread mentioned above, it reads like a stand-alone. Follett packs it all in this 1,024 page book -- love, greed, pride, ambition and revenge. Do yourself a favor and be one of the first on line to get yourself a copy of this very entertaining and memorable book. But be aware that your enjoyment won't come cheap -- the retail price of World Without End is $35. I think you'll find, however, that it is worth every penny.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Reading The Pillars of the Earth (Deluxe Edition) (Oprah's Book Club) was one of the happiest accidents in my reading career. I picked it up on a whim because of the cathedral on the cover and the word "epic" in a review. I had no idea it would turn out to be one of the best books I ever read, not on in terms of plot but completeness and the overall message of world change it puts out. So when I found out about the sequel I was thrilled. I ordered it two years in advance.

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.
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