This is really a “chick-book”, but I loved it anyway. I read it at the behest of a dear friend, expecting to have to plow through it. But was I pleasantly surprised!
It is a little piece of life in the sixties, and that period fascinates me. I missed it because I was just a tad too young and more importantly in the wrong country. I feel like I should have been born a little earlier and that too, either in the heart of it all, say Berkeley or in a sleepy heartland town like Milwaukee. I did end up in Milwaukee by the way, and so I can relate even more to this story – that is where it all happens…
When I started reading, I was a little annoyed at first by the four different streams of the story. I generally don’t like “clever” literary tricks. But in this case it worked and made my engagement with the story more thoughtful. I won’t say too much at the risk of spoiling your experience, but do let me know if the format worked for you.
The writing is really evocative and vividly brings to life a generation grappling with massive changes, yet subject to the timeless emotions, mistakes and yearnings. The people are real and believable, especially Annie Spring. The fiction is woven around real events and the culture of the times and so it really comes to life.
If you lived in the sixties (or would have liked to) you will love this book… no, it will move you. I would go out on a limb and say that this book is in the top five I have read in the last decade (and I read a lot). Highly recommended.
I just read two books by Ken Follett, which I ABSOLUTELY loved. I had no idea what the books were about when I borrowed the first one from a neighborhood library. I had read Eye of the Needle a long time ago, but I don’t even remember the story except for a vague recollection that it was a spy/intrigue thriller. I picked up World Without End and it seemed a little different, but I didn’t have time so, relying on my recognition of the author’s name. The Universe was conspiring to find me a book on historical fiction, because I had been thinking about that genre and how I wished James Michener had written more of his excellent books. Both this and Pillars of the Earth are completely different from what Ken Follett has written before or since.
If you hated history in high school and rediscovered it with some magical historical book, do tell me about it in a comment. I’d love to discover more of that genre. I do like other kinds of fiction, in fact practically any fiction, if it is immersive and well written. I find that I don’t have much patience for non-fiction anymore and I am frankly puzzled by people who have tons of these laying around their house. I wonder if they actually read those or just want to feel good about owning them.
Anyway, for lovers of historical fiction, this is a fabulous set of two books set in the 12th (The Pillars of the Earth) and 14th centuries (World Without End). The books appear to be a continuous story – a with gaps of course, because they are about 150 years apart – with references to previous characters and events in the second book. I hate to read a series out of order, but in this case it happened that way and in the end it did not matter.
Not only are the books meticulously researched – Follett has woven the story around the building and development of a particularly English style of Gothic (Church) Architecture, but masterfully constructed. The story-telling is superb, and the characters so well thought out and described that they seem to come to life! You actually being to empathize with the main characters and start to despise, no even hate the villain! You can actually use words like “gripping”, and “unputdownable” for both these books.
As historical (fictional) writing goes, Ken Follett makes Michener pale in comparison! I am not sure I could go back to Michener any more (I still have to read Alaska: A Novel). I loved these two books and I would love to read some sequels!
The Pillars of the Earth
World Without End