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Sarum: The Novel of England Mass Market Paperback – June 12, 1988

4.3 out of 5 stars 525 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

YA This sprawling novel follows the fortunes and losses of five families from the Stone Age through the present time. Each of the families can be identified through genetic characteristics handed down through the agesnot simply physical characteristics, but attitudes and morals, too. There is plenty of action to keep readers motivated to finish the book. Rutherford has a style and energy all his own that should appeal to young readers of historical fiction. This book will be a hit with young adults who have the time and attention for longer works. Mary A. Williams, Harris County Public Library
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

A first novel, Rutherfurd's sweeping saga of the area surrounding Stonehenge and Salisbury, England, covers 10,000 years and includes many generations of five families. Each family has one or more characteristic types who appear in successive centuries: the round-headed balding man who is good with his hands; the blue-eyed blonde woman who insists on having her independence; the dark, narrow-faced fisher of river waters and secrets. Their fortunes rise and fall both economically and politically, but the land triumphs over the passage of time and the ravages of humans. Rutherfurd has told the story of the land he was born in and has told it well. The verbosity of a Michener is missing, but all the other elements are present, from geology and archaeology to a rich story of human life. Highly recommended. BOMC alternate. Andrea Lee Shuey, Dallas P.L.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 1056 pages
  • Publisher: Ivy Books (June 12, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804102988
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804102988
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.4 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (525 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #938,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
This overview of English history, full of characters to love and hate, begins with the earliest settling of the Salisbury Plain by primitive hunters and farmers. As civilization develops and flourishes, so the story, evolving into a saga of five families who shape and are shaped by the events of this bit of the British historical story.
The creation of Stonehenge will invade your imagination. Christianity comes and the Salisbury Cathedral is a result. Lives and loves of men and women with their triumphs and disappointments evolve against the parade of ages -- kings and their wars and kingdoms, plagues, revolutions, until we get to Queen Victoria and an age that developed faster than ever. The reader gets the impression of a snowball rolling downhill -- time begins with few people and slower development but one bit of progress inspires 30 more and on it goes, bigger and faster ad infinitum.
Rutherford's research is thorough but it doesn't impede his story. With narrative under strict control, his style is clear, descriptive and tight. Relationships wax and wane through the generations as families grow and change with the times.
Rutherford has said about this book that he admires James Michener and deliberately set out to accomplish for England what Michener did for Hawaii, Texas and others. I think he did it better.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book is a rough read, but it is well worth the effort. The novel begins in prehistoric, ice age England and continues through the present day, as seen through the eyes of a number of English bloodlines. An ambitious project such as this is bound to have flaws, and this is not a perfect book. But it is an outstanding book, and truly gives the reader a "feel" for England and its history.
Some parts of the book are easy reads, and some aren't. The best parts are the parts dealing with stone age England, the Black Death era, Roman era England, and the times around the American Revolution. Some of the intervals in between the foregoing get pretty bogged down, and are tough sledding. But this is a book that is worth reading, worth finishing, and worth reading again.
Oddly, the book largely ignores the Napoleonic War era, one of Britain's most heroic times. It also does not dwell much on the British Empire at its height. It spends more time on histories of old English cathedrals than most of us care about. But what the heck, with a subject as ambitious as this one, criticism is inevitable.
This book will not disappoint, but it does require effort.
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Format: Paperback
I love this book! I have since the first time I read it, and I've read it several times since then. I've been a fan of this genre of historical fiction, since James Michener's "Chesapeake" made the history of the area in which I was raised, not only palatable, but interesting and relatively easy to follow. My interest in that particular book was its' ability to teach me about my home. Well, as much as I am from the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., I am also a passionate anglophile. This book not only played well to that passion, it actually whetted my appetite for even more information about that lonely isle off the northwest coast of the European continent.
Edward Rutherford begins his tale in a time, before recorded time, as the last ice age retreated from northern Europe and severed Britain from the rest of the continent. Rooting two fictional family trees in characters from this era, he then takes broad strides through the history of Sarum, an ancient name for the area in and around modern Salisbury, England; right up through World War 2 and into the 1980's. Routinely rooting additional fictional families in characters, which arrive over the progression of ages, Rutherford floats a very human dramatic narrative of individuals, families, personalities and geneology on the real timeline, currents and subtleties of the true history of a fascinating region, country and people.
While focusing on a relatively compact region of England, this book offers some deep insight into the very unique, historically multi-cultural and yet, deeply reserved people that are the English. The history in this book is rich, while not overwhelmingly scholarly.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Other reviewers have dealt with the plot, characters and themes, so I am going to concentrate on how to cope with this book.
At 1330 pages, it's very long. Allow 2 months to read it, and if you cannot clear at least 35 pages a day, don't pick it up that day. Run some contrasting short books alongside it (I read some Carson McCullers, for example) so that you won't feel bored/depressed/guilty while scrabbling along.
Is it worth reading? Definitely. It has its faults, but is an immensely worthy book. Is that enough? Sure. You will get some good stories and a lot of history.
Rutherfurd subtitled it "The Novel of England", asserting that "Sarum is a novel and to see it as anything else would be a mistake." 22,000 years of love, lust, envy, hatred, success, failure are chronicled in pot-boilerish narrative. It's mostly skilful, sometimes frankly two-dimensional. A couple of chapters run to as much as 150-200 pages, luckily with internal breaks. They have been compared to discrete novellas, but the fictional families unify the novel.
Rutherfurd sets his imaginary families "amongst people and events that either did exist, or might have done." People have questioned his selection of dates, but each enshrines a landmark of English history. Concerned with his characters' physical survival above all, there is admittedly too much on drainage and masonry.
But this is a minor quibble. Rutherfurd provides a terrific canvas of political, social, religious, cultural, and industrial events. Along the way, he brings in important figures like Charlemagne and major literary works, e.g., Beowulf. You might question some of the relevance, but it's mostly rewarding - and I assure you, there's plenty to be learned from this book.
Finishing it was a struggle, but I'm glad I did. Highly recommended.
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