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World Without End: A Novel (Kingsbridge) Paperback – October 7, 2008
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“Follett tells a story that runs the gamut of life in the Middle Ages, and he does so in such a way that we are not only captivated but also educated. What else could you ask for?” —The Denver Post
“So if historical fiction is your meat, here’s a rare treat. A feast of conflicts and struggles among religious authority, royal governance, the powerful unions (or guilds) of the day, and the peasantry . . . With World Without End, Follett proves his Pillars may be a rarity, but it wasn’t a fluke.” —New York Post
“A work that stands as something of a triumph of industry and professionalism.”—The Guardian (UK)
“The four well-drawn central characters will captivate readers as they prove to be heroic, depraved, resourceful, or mean. Fans of Follett’s previous medieval epic will be well rewarded.” —The Union (CA)
“Populated with 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
“Readers will be captivated.” —Publishers Weekly
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 the author’s most successful novel. It reached number one on bestseller lists around the world and was an Oprah’s Book Club pick.
Its sequels, World Without End and A Column of Fire, 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.
- Publisher : Penguin Books; First Printing edition (October 7, 2008)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 1014 pages
- ISBN-10 : 045122499X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0451224996
- Item Weight : 2.55 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.98 x 1.69 x 8.99 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #60,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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The main problem with this story is that there was no true hero. When you describe evil in the graphic way Follett does, you must have a hero or heroine to counterbalance it. In the first book, the author brilliantly sketched such a man: Prior Phillip. In this story, the "good guys" are more or less out for their own "dreams," not the defense of Good. The main heroine does have some idea of doing good to her neighbor, and dedicates herself to it, but she has no overarching convictions behind it: no God-consciousness, no theological convictions (save for a vague idea of helping others), and I found myself even wondering if she was truly representative of the time period. She seemed more like a 60s flower child than a medieval woman.
So in the end, I just waited around for the bad guys to die. There were no memorable moments, such as Prior Phillip leading the procession of mourners after the murder of Thomas a Becket. Lots of bad stuff--murder and rape--and the Plague. Not for kids!
While science fiction is my main genre I occasionally read other stuff. Follett's historical fiction is one of those that I read from time to time. Overall this was a great book and easy to read. It follows the patterns that seem to exist in his other books in that it follows a couple of groups of related or loosely related people as they face one challenge at the other. Sometimes it is predictable but even then it is always enjoyable. The setting and culture that the stories take place are well researched and I always feel a better appreciation for those times and places after reading one of his books. Of course Kingsbridge is a made up town it is easy to realize it could be any town in England at that time. There is now a third book in this series out. I plan on reading it at some point in the future to be sure.
Top reviews from other countries
A book of this size had plenty space to develop characters and depth in the story but this skimmed along and was unsatisfying for that reason.
At the heart of this tale is a secret document, which we do have revealed to us near the end, but those who know their history (and the rumours of the period) will already know what this regards with the death of Edward II, so to those this will be no revelation. Therefore this novel is set in the reign of Edward III, and some of the characters here do actually go to France, and thus we read of the likes of Crécy, and are reminded why British forces were so powerful with their formidable use of the longbow. Also of course we do travel to Shiring and the monks’ outpost in the forest, as well as even Florence.
With a host of characters, that are all brought fully to life this is a hard book to put down, despite its size, and we soon find ourselves fully caught up in the whole story. With machinations between the monks and nuns, there are lots of power plays that go on here, as well as those that also go on between the Church and the Town, where the merchants want a greater say and control over the town, and what they can do. With the cathedral suffering from building problems so one of the main characters here, Merthin, wants to create the highest spire in the kingdom as the pinnacle of his work. Also, there are differing opinions of the bridge that Merthin originally wants to build as the original one collapses.
With so many incidents going on here, we are also reminded of the devastation caused by the plague, and how little was known with regards to not only medicine, but also disease control. With issues arising such as what power women could hold, and lots of political manoeuvring, so the period is really brought to life. In all this makes for a book that is well worth reading and will keep you more than satisfied, with so much detail and thought going into it.
No. My issues really stem from just how similar this felt to Pillars. It's set in a completely different time period, long after all the initial characters have died, so I should not have felt like a reading de ja vew... but it did. Several of the characters could have been cut diretly from Pillars and several more felt like two dimensional clones of other characters we spent Pillars with. Whereas in Pillars you could sympathise with nearly every character to some degree however small and there was nearly always a chance for redemption, here Follett falls into the trap of having several characters who you cannot feel any empathy for. So many of the conflicts are the same or similar; indeed, virtually the same events are run through as major cataclysms for characters. Personally it felt like Follett relied far too heavily on characters and events that he has already created.
Not only was this irritating, it made the whole thing far too predictable by far. Every time it happened, I found myself rolling my eyes... and I rolled my eyes a lot. Echoes of Pillars were everywhere from the initial focus on the building of a bridge and the conflicts that arise, to relationships and even specific actions the spurned lover -amongst others - takes, to the conflict between Priory and township. There's echoes absolutely everywhere and whereas one or two might have been nostalgic amd even whimsical, there were so many here that it became tiresome and aggravating.
That said, there was a lot within this novel that I did enjoy and some absolutely stunning scenes within it. The way Follett plays with medical knowledge of ths time and the power plays within Kingsbridge are undeniably deftly handled and I particularly enjoyed the showdowns relating to the hospital. The depictions of the perilous positions of both the poor and the female are starkly depicted, their vulnerabilities harshly exposed in all their shameful glory. The plague has obviously huge implications on individuals and the community alike and Follett does am excellent job of showing humanities reactions to the terror of a silent spread of death - both mundane and extreme. There is a lot to recommend about this book... it's just a pity it annoyed me so much with its unrelenting echoes and flashbacks to its predecessor, despite the separation caused by the intervening centuries between the two books.