World Without End by Ken Follett

The intertwined lives of the inhabitants of the Kingsbridge priory and town, through the stories of four children who become keepers of a terrible secret.

I almost gave up on World Without End about halfway through. Ken Follett’s plotting is so mathematical that I felt like I could predict how all the story lines would resolve themselves. I am glad that a friend encouraged me to stick with it, because even though everything did tie itself up pretty neatly, I did find a few surprises along the way.

As in The Pillars of the Earth, I loved the historical detail in World Without End, which takes place 200 years later, in the 1300s. Follett offers a great depiction of the feudal system. For the first time, I understand the relationship between the serfs and their lords. Additionally, we got a great glimpse into church politics.

The most interesting character was Gwenda, a peasant girl whose robber father tries to sell her to a band of outlaws, only to propose that they try it again when she manages to escape at great cost to herself. Gwenda is in love with Wulfric, a peasant with great prospects who finds himself thwarted by Ralph, an ambitious man-at-arms to an earl. Gwenda was the wildest card in the deck, and I loved her spirit and ambition. She was also one of the more three-dimensional characters in the book.

I listened to the audio version and loved John Lee’s speaking voice. I’m glad I stuck this one out, though it did get tedious before the plague hit.

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