28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Not quite up to the level of Pillars,
This review is from: World Without End (Hardcover)
As most people know, World Without End is a sequel to Pillars of the Earth. I read Pillars about 16 years ago, and was mesmerized by it, and it's been one of my all time favorite books ever since. When I heard there was to be a sequel I pre-ordered it right away.
I'm sure other Pillars... fans will want to know: is it as good as the original? In my opinion...almost, but not quite.
The author does manage to bring 14th century Knightsbridge as much to life as he did the 12th century Knightsbridge of Pillars. It's a couple of centuries older, bigger, more crowded, and more cumbersome; the priory is no longer run by visionaries like Prior Phillip, but by conservative, small minded men. The great cathedral is showing some cracks (literally and figuratively). There are conflicts between the merchants of the town and the monks, and there's also a new element - a convent of nuns that is wealthier and better managed than the monastery.
I guess that the more complex (even muddled) society of the 14th century is one reason why World Without End a bit less enjoyable than Pillars. The characters are in a lot more shades of grey. The building of a bridge and the repairing and renovation of the cathedral are less awe-inspiring perhaps than the building of a cathedral from the ground up. So you feel that the characters are a bit less small, a bit less challenged.
One factor that had the possibility of challenging this society in a huge way was the plague (the Black Death), but I felt that the plague part of the book was a bit rushed through, or dealt with a bit lightly. (I got the feeling that the author cared a lot more about describing the bridge construction than the parts about the plague, which may account for that feeling of uneven weightedness.) It didn't seem that earth shaking in the course of events somehow - though it does show how the plague pushed some people up the ranks of society far quicker than would have been expected, often undeservedly.
Ultimately this book pales a bit in comparison to Pillars of the Earth because it lacks the larger than life characters that dominated that book - Jack, Aliena, and in particular Prior Phillip. (There's a paler version of Jack, a different-but-equal, sort of, version of Aliena, a very similar version of William...and no equivalent really to Phillip.) The characters in World Without End are appealing, but not unforgettable.
That being said, it is still an excellent book, and I hope Mr. Follett decides to write more historical fiction.
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Initial post: Oct 18, 2008 6:28:21 PM PDT
Sean Curley says:
I would say that there is a Phillip: Saul Whitehead, the guy Godwyn tricks out of the prior's job. I almost wonder if that wasn't Follett's commentary on how these things would *really* go.
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