World Without End is the sequel to ‘The Pillars of the Earth’ and is once again set in the town of Kingsbridge, but two hundred years later. This book can be read on it’s own , you don’t need to read ‘The Pillars of the Earth’ to enjoy it.
A fairly similar set of characters feature in ‘World Without End’ as in ‘The Pillars of the Earth’, and of course, life revolves very much around Kingsbridge Priory.
The story begins on Halloween 1327. The following day, after a devastating theft of money in the Cathedral, four children meet and go to the forest. Here they witness the death of two men, and the hiding of a letter whose contents could seriously affect the crown of England. The story follows the interwoven lives of these four children, Gwenda, Caris, Merthin and Ralph.
Gwenda is from a family of extremely poor landless peasants, who are at times forced to steal to save themselves from starvation. Her father, Joby, has had one hand cut off after having been caught stealing. Gwenda’s hope is to marry Wulfric, have her own landholding and live a better life than that of her parents.
Caris is very much the parallel character to Aliena in ‘The Pillars of the Earth’. After a family tragedy she dreams of becoming a doctor, only to find out that only monks can be doctors. She fears marriage and having her life controlled by a husband and being enslaved to her children.
Merthin is the parallel character to Jack in ‘The Pillars of the Earth’, right down to his red hair. After his family lose all their money, he is apprenticed to a carpenter. This turns out to be the perfect profession for him as he is naturally brilliant and incredibly ambitious. His dream is to build the tallest building in England.
Ralph becomes squire to an Earl and sets his sights on rising through the nobility. As a complete bully, not overly blessed with intelligence, this life suits him and he is able to become a rapist and murderer, without any qualms, both in and out of war.
The time setting is during the 100 years was between England and France, under the reign of Edward II. A major component of the story is the devastation caused by the plague and how those left behind deal with its progress and aftermath. While reading, you get an excellent feeling for life at the time with all its prejudices, superstitions and the amazing medieval English class mentality.
This was a great story and very easy to get into. It was probably even better than ‘The Pillars of the Earth’. So, the 1000+ pages tended to go be surprisingly quickly. If Ken Follett decides to take us further in the life of Kingsbridge, then I’ll certainly be reading that novel.
My only real criticism was the recaps of earlier events in the book that Follett included. I found them completely unnecessary and very annoying. Maybe he always had his eye in the screen adaptation which is now in the process of being made.
A third novel has been added to the series – ‘A Column of Fire‘.
Book Published 2007