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4.2 out of 5 stars
Place Called Freedom
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145 of 152 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
What a very fine writer Ken Follett is! Having read "The eye of the needle" many years ago, and more recently, "Pillars of the earth" and enjoyed them both very much,I just finished reading "A place called freedom".It took only 2 days as I couldn't put it down and for 2 nights, read into the small hours.An indentured Scottish coal miner, Mack McAsh, tries to force the hand of the mine owner into treating the down trodden miners with compassion and fairness. He is railroaded by the system and tranported as a convict to Virginia. This is a tale of a mans inhuman treatment and his fight fot freedom in the New World.It's a great read,well written,exciting and unputdownable.It could well have been made into an actioner movie
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54 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This book was a change of pace for Ken Follett who has carried out some outstanding research into conditions in late 18th century Scotland, England, and the American colonies. The main character, who's ambition is the freedom to go his own way, comes up against the class structure of the times and the limited rights of the working man. This develops into a superb tale as the hero encounters first the conditions of servitude and slavery in Scotland, then the conditions of repression in England, and finally the conditions of bondage in Virginia. While it is historical fiction, the book is especially recommended for readers delving into conditions that brought people to the American colonies. Readers should be forewarned that the book has significant sexual content and some violence that would give it at best a PG-13 rating.
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54 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am a bit disappointed in the author after reading this book. I think he was trying to build on the success that he had with Pillars of the Earth but this book falls far short of that classic. This book is more like a [$] mass-market teen-age Romance novel. There is nothing new hear except maybe the name, the plot is so predictable it is sad coming from such a good author. I knew how this book was going to end before it even started. He has written much better books, I would stay away from this book unless you are looking for a long love story.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the second Follett book I've read, the first being Pillars of the Earth. Actually, this is only the third review I've written out of the 60 to 70 books I've read over the past couple years but I find myself wanting to express my opinions more and more when I get done with a great read and maybe helping people get exposed to great books they otherwise wouldn't have tried or known about.
While not as wonderful as Pillars of the Earth (I still can't get that book out of my head...definetly one of the best if not THE best I've ever read), this is still a great book. The book has rapid fire pacing but doesn't sacrifice on the details and characterization that suck you into the book. And that's what the focal point of the book is, the characters. You feel their pain, their joy, every emotion that they're going through.
From Scotland, to London, to Virginia, the reader is taken on a journey of treachery, deceit, love, loss and triumph. You feel as if you can reach out and touch the characters.
Follett is fast becomming one of my favorite authors and he's edging his way to the top of the list. You won't want to stop reading this book. I could have easily read it in a day but I decided to stretch it out over a couple days and let each section I read sink in. I don't think I've encountered another author who can weave romance, violence, humor, action and great research as effectively as Ken Follett and this book does all that.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I'll tell you upfront that this is one of my favorite books. You can tell from the reviews that A Place Called Freedom results in either love or hate, so let me tell you why I love it.

First, the story is like something from a Thomas Hardy or Charles Dickens novel. Some reviewers have called it formulaic, corny, or contrived. Sure, like a "Tess of the D'urbervilles" or "A Tale of Two Cities" it jerks the characters through quite a life of suffering and disappointments, but you will care about these characters and cheer them on in their epic journey to find freedom and each other. There is a romantic element to the story, for sure, but it's not Harlequin in nature and it's not as sappy as much of the historical fiction out there.

Second, the writing is easy and enjoyable to read, even though it uses dialect for the Scottish characters. Unlike Hardy and Dickens, Follett is neither laborious in his detail nor overly wordy. This book is a quick read and full of memorable imagery.

Third, and I'm sure somebody will ding me for saying this, you really get a feeling for the American experience-for why people came to this country, for how unprepared they were for the reality of being here back when people were trying to impose the old-world class system on an untamed country full of possibilities, for how determination, hard work, and devotion were the true mark of class.

A Place Called Freedom is more period like A Dangerous Fortune, although not quite as dark as that book. If your first Ken Follett books were about the war and espionage, then you might not like A Place Called Freedom because it is a different type of book for Follett. For those people, I'd recommend Jackdaws or The Key to Rebecca. But, if you like historical fiction, the stories of Hardy and Dickens, or the romantic feeling of adventure in Follett's Hornet Flight, you should give A Place Called Freedom a try.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The lives of Mack McAsh and Lizzie Hallim become ever more intertwined over the course of this novel, as the story progresses from the coal mining towns in the mountains of Scotland to London and finally across the ocean to the American colonies. This book provides an unflinching description of the brutal conditions of life for the working poor in both the United Kingdom and its colonies in the years leading up to the American war for independence. McAsh's passionate search for his own personal freedom parallel the colonial struggle to determine their own fate. The love story between McAsh and Lizzie seems a bit contrived, but it does provide a powerful tool for the author to contrast the way of life for the rich and poor during this period.

The author has clearly done a great deal of research, and at least in his descriptions of colonial Virginia, has gotten his details correct. In particular, his descriptions of Williamsburg were spot on. This book is both an entertaining diversion and a powerful glimpse into history.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is another good book by Follet. Though not in the league of "the pillars of the earth","night over water"etc....
it still holds you.A story from a bye gone era.. This enthralls you, read it if you are a follet fan.
I dont miss his books at all, as i am a die ... of Follet. Anything he writes i will devour religiously.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Follett is a master at creating characters that give the reader an emotional bond. You can't help but love the heroes and hate the villians.

The story did become a hair predictable, especially in the second half. Follett did SO WELL in the first half of the book, in his home country of Scotland that it did carry me, but when the USA portion of the book came, I think there was something missing. Why I'm giving this book 5 stars is the description that was used for the miners and then later when Mack was in London looking for work. One can literally feel the exhaustive labor and horrible struggle these poor people had to live. It is so descriptive and so haunting that I really had issues with the times. People were clearly overworked with no leisure whatsoever which I feel is wrong. By the time you were 5 years old, you were working down a coal mine to help the family get ahead. Evil barons held everything and it just wasn't fair. Mack fought against that and you can not help but admire him for that. The story is a winner and a good read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 28, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
After one chapter, I knew how the story would end, but that didn't change my enjoyment of A Place Called Freedom. Follett explores the life of lowly coal miner Mac who longs to be free and free-spirited Lizzie who has a disdain for the social classes of her time.
Still she marries Jay Jamison and she truly loves him. Jay Jamison is an interesting Follett character. This book compares with a Dangerous Fortune in plot and scope, but that book had clearly defined good and evil characters. Jay and Lizzie were in love, and through actions of their family, their love was destroyed. Still, to the end Jay always cared for Lizzie. Still, his devotion to power and greed and to please his family mattered more.
Follett is great at developing characters and educating the reader on the certain time period. Follett details the day to day life and the character's interaction with social norms very well.
I haven't read too many of Follet's WWII novels or spy novels and look forward to moving on to those. I've read six Follett books, and only the Third Twin was bad.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 11, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Ken Follett channels John Jakes. That was my thought while reading the book. It's Follett's take on the historical fictional epic that Jakes has done so well with the last 30 years or so. Follett is a superior writer, but many of the elements, including a broad sweep of locations, the appearance of the main characters at various pivotal events and the overwrought passions of the lovers.

The book follows a poor Scottish miner in the 1770's (Mack) and a gentrified lady (Lizzie) who lives near the mine. He's young, headstrong and determined to chisel out a better life of freedom for himself and those close to him. Lizzie is young, headstrong and determined to live a life with more choices than usually offered to a lady in her position. Lizzie and Mack's paths cross continously throughout the book. It starts in the mines of Scotland, and Follett paints a vivid portrait of the horrific lives these virtual slaves led in that time. We can feel the danger and the huge exhaustion they must all have felt.

Mack escapes to London, where he tries to make a place for himself, but becomes a leader in the stevedores labor movement, almost by default. Naturally, this lands him in trouble, and eventually he ends up in Virginia, under not very nice circumstances.

I don't want to say a lot more, because this is a story driven by plot. Although the characters are vivid, and there are lots of heroes for us to root for and villians to hiss at, its what happens that makes the book enjoyable. We learn a bit about the culture and society of the times...particularly the just emerging yearning of workers (be they in Scotland, London or America) to have a bit more say in how they're treated.

Follett once wrote the three best spy novels ever: EYE OF THE NEEDLE, KEY TO REBECCA and TRIPLE. They were unbelievably exciting, rich in detail, featured sympathetic villians and some very hot sex scenes. His LIE DOWN WITH LIONS and MAN FROM ST. PETERSBURG were nearly as good, but with NIGHT OVER WATER, his work began to suffer a bit. I suspect he was just beginning to go through the motions some. He also wrote the fantastic historical novel PILLARS OF THE EARTH and showed he had the chops for such work as well. But his recent efforts have simply felt a bit pedestrian. I miss the Follet of old.

But A PLACE CALLED FREEDOM is good clean fun. It's a fast read, builds some suspence when its called for, and manages to inform your view of the world. It won't stay in my memory the way EYE OF THE NEEDLE has, but I do give it a modest recommendation.
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