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World Without End [Hardcover]

Ken Follett
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,138 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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

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, "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.

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: 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?

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.

From Bookmarks Magazine

The sequel to Ken Follett’s best-selling Pillars of the Earth (1989) is equally compellingâ€"and equally long. World moves the action from the 12th to the 14th century, following the descendants of the earlier book’s main characters and continuing its use of architectural details as a way to explore themes of change and continuity. Critics praised the novel’s intricately constructed plot, lively pace, and overall exuberance, if at times the complex subplots overwhelm the main theme of stasis versus change. While some reviewers criticized Follett’s characters for being no more than pawns of larger forces, most agreed with the Washington Post’s assessment that "the ups and downs of [the characters’] lives are so well engineered that their lack of dimension isn’t a major problem." Though engaging on most levels, World and its 1,000 pages may be best suited for patient readers who don’t mind a book seemingly without end.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

From Booklist

This book is a big event. In 1989 Follett published what was to become one of his most popular novels, The Pillars of the Earth, a historical epic about the construction of an English cathedral, set in the twelfth century. Now, 18 years later and with several intervening best-sellers to his credit, Follett presents his eager fans with a sequel to Pillars. According to publicity material, he spent three years writing it, and it shows, because this an amazingly well-researched, intricately plotted, richly detailed novel that, while long in pages, never sprawls or flags. It is set in the same English cathedral town as Pillars, some two centuries later, and has as its primary characters the descendants of the major characters that appeared in the previous book. Follett's technique is to follow the lives of four individuals who have varying goals in life and, in the process, build a comprehensive tapestry of medieval English life—an especially important background thread being the horrible natural disaster of that era, the black plague. Follet has complete mastery over his material, and the result is a novel destined for the best-seller lists. Hooper, Brad

Review

“A ROUSING EPIC of 14th-century England…terrifically compelling.”
—Diana Gabaldon, The Washington Post
 
“JUICY HISTORICAL FICTION.”—USA Today
 
“AN IMMENSE CAST OF TRULY REMARKABLE CHARACTERS…this is not a book to be devoured in one sitting, tempting though that might be, but one to savor for its drama, depth, and richness.”—Library Journal
 

About the Author

Ken Follett was only twenty-seven when he wrote the award-winning novel Eye of the Needle, which became an international bestseller and film. He has since written several equally successful novels, including, most recently, Whiteout. He is also author of the non-fiction bestseller On Wings of Eagles. Ken Follett lives with his family in London and Stevenage. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From AudioFile

John Lee gives a breathtaking performance of FollettÕs sequel to PILLARS OF THE EARTH. Two hundred years have passed, and fourteenth-century Kingsbridge is now a prosperous town, with its cathedral and priory still a central force. As the novel follows its four main characters from 1327 to 1361, medieval English life is slowly and thoroughly revealed. Lee gives stunning portraits of change-resistant churchmen, the hardships and superstitions of peasant life, the inequities of corrupt noblemen, and the grotesqueries of the Black Death. While creating wholly credible major and minor characters, Lee delivers FollettÕs intricate plots and subplots, making each detail fascinating, from medieval medicine and bridge-building to the surprisingly powerful role of women. Even after 36 CDs, listeners will be sorry to see this book end. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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