Like many people I watched the mini-series on Starz of Ken Follet's epic tale of love, intrigue and cathedral building Pillars of the Earth. While I had not read the book, I was completely drawn into the mini-series, which featured a stellar cast and a pretty decent script. Before embarking on a long drive to visit my parents in northern Michigan, I decided to download the audiobook of Follet's follow-up effort to Pillars of the Earth, called World Without End. Fifteen hours in the car and two months later, I have finally gotten to the end of the story.
World Without End follow the small English town of Kingsbridge, the same town featured in Pillars of the Earth. World Without End advances the story a couple of hundred years-the tale begins in the early 14th century. The cathedral that Tom and Jack Builder envisioned stands tall and proud, as do the monks that live and work there. On a bright autumn day during the fleece fair, four children go exploring in the woods. The stumble upon a knight, fighting for his life against two armed men. One of the children manages to kill one of the men, and the knight is saved. The knight has a secret, which he buries in the forest. This sets off a chain of events that leads to love, murder, treachery, betrayal, a bridge, an awful lot of sex, and the tallest tower in England.
As historical fiction goes, Follet's work is first-class. Given the enormous amount of detail about 14th century Follet is either really detailed in imagining his fictional settings or the book is meticulously researched. I definitely know more about medieval town politics than I ever thought I would.
Like many young girls, I decided after reading too many fairy tales that I wanted to live back in the days of kings and queens, courtly love, all that...yeah, not so much. The amount of superstition, sexism, and classism in 14th century England made me want to punch something, hard. I'm not unfamiliar with the lack of social justice back, back, back in the day, but I got sucked into Follett's characters and his fictional village such that every injustice left me frustrated and angry and swearing at various fictional people in my car. In the end, everything turned out exactly as I would have wanted, but I suppose when one book covers the better part of 50 years that's not as unbelievable as it sounds. Frankly, it just confirms my firm belief that in the end, everyone gets what they deserve.