Follett, Ken. World Without End
New York: Dutton, 2007
Ken Follett spent three years writing this sequel to his most popular book, The Pillars of the Earth. In World Without End, 200 years have passed since the completion of the majestic cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge. During that time Kingsbridge has grown from a modest, slightly out-of-the-way town into a commercial center. However, some things have not changed at all: peasants still live a precarious existence, the nobility still takes merciless advantage of the serfs, and the Church still controls everybody and nearly everything.
One other thing has not changed much, either: This book is essentially the same as Pillars, with the substitution of a bridge for the cathedral and a very similar cast of characters facing very similar obstacles. In particular, the issue of women’s lack of rights, and particularly their subjugation to their husbands, plays a major role in the plot.
The fact that World Without End is so similar to Pillars of the Earth is not necessarily a bad thing. Both novels provide good examples to aspiring writers about how to build suspense and how to cut back and forth between several plot lines to weave a rich tapestry of human experience. Follett uses both the witch-hunts and the Black Plague that swept across Europe during the fourteenth century as plot elements in this finely imagined historical novel. The characters are well developed and the plot is well structured, a combination that makes this book, like its predecessor, an engrossing read. However, readers who have just finished reading Pillars might want to wait a while before starting World Without End because the two books are so similar. Each book stands alone, and a detailed knowledge of one is not necessary for understanding the other.
©2008 by Mary Daniels Brown