Friday, October 1, 2010

World Without End by Ken Follett

I have enjoyed Follett's thrillers over the years but never got around to reading his historical novels. This summer, I grabbed World Without End from the sale table and became totally hooked. It took me all summer, reading off and on, to complete the over 1,000 pages of melodrama, but I loved every minute.
World Without End is, first and foremost, a soap opera. It is episodic and character driven. It is filled with passion and violence and some very graphically described interpersonal relations. You find yourself "boo-ing" the bad guys and cheering out loud when the good guys triumph--even if that success only lasts until the next twist.
That being said, it is one of the most absolutely enjoyable books I have ever read. It is a soap opera, but you truly care about the characters and what happens to them. I feel almost as if a group of friends have moved away now that I've finished the book and can no longer follow them home.
The historical component of the book was wonderful. I've been curious about the day to day life of people in Medieval times ever since studying the beautiful and technically brilliant Gothic cathedrals built during that intellectually backward time. This book filled that curiosity in spades. An interesting aside is a question to Follett from an interviewer about what required the greatest leap of imagination from our time to theirs. His answer: "It’s hard to imagine being so dirty. People bathed very rarely, and they must have smelled pretty bad. And what was kissing like in the time before toothpaste was invented?"
World Without End is a sequel, of sorts, to Follett's earlier Medieval romance, Pillars of the Earth.

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