Every now and then, mainstream fiction rocks my world. World Without End is such a book.
It’s not deep, heavy reading, but Mr. Follett did his research. I think he’s been criticized before for using a certain profane word that wasn’t in use way back when, but if that’s the worst historical liberty taken, I’m impressed. I’ve loved the Middle Ages and the pretty pictures chivalry and royal courts bring to mind since I first saw Disney’s Sword in the Stone. The movie was made a few years before I was born, but I distinctly remember a coloring book, and immediately thereafter, I fell in love with the musical Camelot.
I won’t bore you with the entire bibliography of my medieval facination, but it’s extensive. Add in my curiousity about the history of the Catholic Church, and I couldn’t put this book down. Yeah, I’ll admit I skimmed the pages when Merthin was thinking about architecture in painful detail. I love a beautiful, old cathedral more than many, but I am no artist nor an engineer, and after twenty sentences, my eyes glaze over.
As with Pillars of the Earth, this isn’t a cozy. There’s sex – graphic rape and more – and violence – there’s a particularly upsetting scene where a young boy shoots a friend’s dog for no good reason – but it’s all in context and it is all plot-driven. The problem with Camelot and the like is it paints a flowery picture of a time in history that was HARD for the vast majority of those living it. Even nobility suffers greatly, but since I’m striving to dogdge spoilers, I’ll leave it at that.
The author does a GREAT job of making the reader care about the characters, even the villans. I couldn’t read fast enough – and I read pretty rapidly! – to satisfy my curiousity. I needed to know if there was any redemption – or at least justice – for the villans, and I was going crazy at the end, because I didn’t know Sir-Brother Thomas’s secret. However, as with Pillars of the Earth, the ending is fair; good wins, although not without a little manipulation on its own behalf.
If Rowling’s message with Harry Potter was that we are the sum of the choices we make, Follett’s homily is that life is a fight, but if you work for the greater good, you’ll attract the resources you need to succeed.
And the title of my post? I suspect a few of you get it. Doxology actually has both a generalized meaning and serves as a title to several similar hymns, one of which ends with the same words as the book’s title. But don’t worry; even Follett’s heros are quite flawed, so I seriously doubt the religious backdrop will be off-putting to anyone, unless you have lived in a bubble and somehow missed that the Catholic Church’s history perhaps is the most corrupt tale you’ll ever hear.
Have you read World Without End? What did you think?
Now, to find a book to follow up this great read…