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A Column of Fire (Kingsbridge) Hardcover – September 12, 2017
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Recommended reading by * The Washington Post * USA Today * New York Post * The Christian Science Monitor * The Philadelphia Inquirer *
“Deeply researched . . . compelling . . . A Column of Fire is absorbing, painlessly educational, and a great deal of fun.”
—The Washington Post
“Follett’s historical epics, including this one, evoke the Romantic adventures of Alexandre Dumas. Derring-do and double-crosses . . . A Column of Fire burns bright throughout.”
—The Christian Science Monitor
“Full of adventure and suspense, A Column of Fire is an inspiring and thrilling portrait of one of Europe’s most perilous times in history.”
“Fans of Follett's epic sagas The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, set in the Middle Ages in the fictional city of Kingsbridge, will be thrilled by this latest installment.”
—New York Post
“[Follett is a] master of the sweeping, readable epic.”
—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“English-history mavens will find much to savor in Follett’s third Kingsbridge novel.”
—AARP The Magazine
“A fiery tale set in the latter half of the sixteenth century . . . As always, Follett excels in historical detailing, transporting readers back in time with another meaty historical blockbuster.”
“An immersive journey through the tumultuous world of 16th century Europe and some of the bloodiest religious wars in history. Follett’s sprawling novel is a fine mix of heart-pounding drama and erudite historicism.”
About the Author
Ken Follett is one of the world’s best-loved authors, selling more than 160 million copies of his thirty books. Follett’s first bestseller was Eye of the Needle, a spy story set in the Second World War.
In 1989 The Pillars of the Earth was published and has since become Follett’s most popular novel. It reached number one on bestseller lists around the world and was an Oprah’s Book Club pick.
Its sequel, World Without End, proved equally popular and the Kingsbridge series has sold 38 million copies worldwide.
Follett lives in Hertfordshire, England, with his wife Barbara. Between them they have five children, six grandchildren, and three Labradors.
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Two things first: Ken Follett gets back to Kingsbridge, his fictional town in England, for the third time, ten years after “World Without End” and 28 (!) years after “The Pillars of the Earth”. But it is not really a sequel. Yes, he makes a lot of references. But the plot is individual and you can read absolutely this book without even seeing the two others.
Second point: This is not a medieval novel, as some say. It plays in Modern History, right after the reformation by the German monk Martin Luther (these days exactly 500 years ago). It plays a little later in the 16th century when in England first the Catholics burnt the Protestants and then the Protestants burnt the Catholics on the stake. When France was devastated by terrible wars of religion. And when Spain reached the heyday of its power – and gave it away to an awakening England, powered by religious tolerance (kind of) and the beginning of democracy (kind of).
Main character is Ned Willard (I almost wrote Ned Flanders). He has a great future as a merchant. And because this is a Follett we would become of course an honest merchant with values that match perfectly our values in the 21st century. But there are evil villains, sexist and racist, very bad according to these our values and these guys giving him a hard time.
And that’s the problem with this Ken Follett like with (almost) every Ken Follett else: The good guys are almost perfect; the bad guys are just mean and without any good quality. Everything is black or white, good or evil. But experience told us that the world is gray and evil characters are more interesting if they are complicated.
If this is NOT your first Ken Follett novel you probably know what I mean. And if this is not your first Ken Follett novel you will also read this one. Because they are real page-turners. Because Follett is such a good writer that you never lose track, also there are so many persons and plots. This guy can write and he never stops thinking about his readers. Und you read this books because you can learn so much about history. Here as well: The most important events of the 16th century are described with many details. Yes, I love history. But with books like that everyone can experience the glamour of history. And after about 1150 pages you are sad that this is over. Not the common reaction to a history book.
You like that review? Than I am grateful for a vote. If not please leave a comment. Because to help other readers is the sole purpose of this review. And sorry for the English, not a native speaker (German).
THIS NOVEL IS JUST PLAIN EXCELLENT and sadly, very timely. The overall theme is tolerance vs. bigotry. Centered in Elizabethan England and peopled primarily with English characters, it portrays the conflicting views (not all that many when you come down to it) between Catholics and Protestants and the ensuing horrible bloodshed through much of the 16th century. A significant portion of the novel is set in France, with smaller episodes in Spain and the Netherlands.
Protagonist Ned, after witnessing Catholic excesses (triggered more by greed and hopes of material gain than by religious belief) decides to devote his life to promoting tolerance and fighting excesses. Joining up with Princess/Queen Elizabeth he works in multiple capacities to support her policy of comparative tolerance. Evil Pierre, whose entire being is permeated by greed rather than religion, conspires with supporters of Catholicism in France (who are power-hungry rather than religious believers), triggering multiple episodes of bloodshed.
Ned and Pierre are juxtaposed against one another as are the two women in Ned's life. English Margery is a true believer in Catholicism and is ready to do what she can to preserve the faith, legal or not. French Sylvie is Protestant and ready to do whatever it takes to assist other Protestants. Both become involved in illegal activities because of their beliefs. They are essentially alike.
A host of other characters, some historical and others fictional, take the reader from the coronation of Elizabeth to the Guy Fawkes plot and hopefully remind readers that religious (and racial, too, for that matter) differences are really superficial and that a great deal more unites people than divides them. Take notice: World of 2017!