The title of this book seems kind of funny to me, considering that we just completed the year in which many people thought the world would end. I finished this book last week and it was one that I literally hugged a little when I closed the cover for the last time.
I probably should give a little background about this book before I go very much farther. This is the second book in a series of two. The original book, The Pillars of the Earth, I finished a while back...and absolutely loved it. Both of these books are doozies, clocking in at over 1,000 pages each. So, these aren't books that you'd pick up casually and finish just as cavalierly.
The Pillars of the Earth takes place in the 1100s and the story surrounds the building of a cathedral. You learn all the ins and outs and minute details of the lives of the mason, future-prior and numerous other characters. There are, literally, 10-20 major characters involved in the setting of this wonderful story. In the end, the cathedral has been built and you are left in a very satisfied state as to the outcome of all of the main characters' present situations.
Apparently, this book was published in 1989 and for years readers have requested a sequel to this fantastic book. Finally, in 2007 Ken Follett granted everyone's request in World Without End. But, this is more of a sort-of sequel in that it takes place 200 years later in the same town of Kingsbridge, the town in which this colossal cathedral was built.
In many ways, I'm glad that Follett did this. It was very interesting to me to read how the townspeople positively viewed the characters of the first book, because they were their ancestors. Having known all the characters from the previous book, you're aware of their flaws and faults along with their noble accomplishments and enviably good qualities. It made me think, "Wow, this is how we view our ancestors, such as Washington, Lincoln, Franklin, Jefferson, etc." Only the "good" qualities are shared (for the most part), so people today tend to view them in starry-eyed wonder. It really made me think!
Minus that little snip-it of historical theme, World Without End follows four children who are united in one single scene that occurs in the opening pages of the book. Each child's reaction to this scene determines the path in which their life will then, forever, lead them. I loved the setting of this story, the characters, Follett's writing style...pretty much everything about this book, I guess you could say. One thing I seriously enjoy about Follett's style of writing is that it's so realistic. Everything that occurs is definitely something that could have happened; I feel many times that unless I knew this was historical fiction I might wonder if this truly did happen. Needless to say I highly recommend both books, but I almost want to say that I liked the second better. However, it might just be that I've finished it so much more recently and it's still fresh in my mind.
I will mention that I encouraged my MIL to pick up Pillars of the Earth...and she hated it, didn't even try to finish it. And the one reason that she gave me was, "it's just too violent." These books take place in the 12th and 14th centuries. Life was hard back then and there was much violence, including sword fights, rapes and other unpleasantries. I won't sugar-coat it, these books both have violent scenes. But, being one with a severely queasy disposition, I can tell you that I didn't have a problem one with most of these scenes. And it definitely didn't effect me enough to quit reading.
When I went to do a little research on a pic for this post, I found that both books have been made into television mini-series! World Without End was just recently released, in fact. I've already order Pillars of the Earth on my Netflix queue...I hope it doesn't disappoint (both series have 4+/5 star ratings), but we shall see!
I hope you pick these up because I love them so, but if you don't I'd understand. Committing yourself to 2,000+ pages can be quite a commitment! But, I promise it's worth it in the end!
*Bonus: this is book 1 completed on my resolution to read all of my own to-read pile!