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World Without End


World Without End Cover

ISBN13: 9780451224996
ISBN10: 045122499x
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In 1989 Ken Follett astonished the literary world with The Pillars of the Earth, a sweeping epic novel set in twelfth-century England centered on the building of a cathedral and many of the hundreds of lives it affected. Critics were overwhelmed — “it will hold you, fascinate you, surround you” (Chicago Tribune) — and readers everywhere hoped for a sequel.

World Without End takes place in the same town of Kingsbridge, two centuries after the townspeople finished building the exquisite Gothic cathedral that was at the heart of The Pillars of the Earth. The cathedral and the priory are again at the center of a web of love and hate, greed and pride, ambition and revenge, but this sequel stands on its own. This time the men and women of an extraordinary cast of characters find themselves at a crossroad of new ideas — about medicine, commerce, architecture, and justice. In a world where proponents of the old ways fiercely battle those with progressive minds, the intrigue and tension quickly reach a boiling point against the devastating backdrop of the greatest natural disaster ever to strike the human race — the Black Death.

Three years in the writing, and nearly eighteen years since its predecessor, World Without End breathes new life into the epic historical novel and once again shows that Ken Follett is a masterful author writing at the top of his craft.


"A rousing epic of 14th-century England...terrifically compelling." Diana Gabaldon, The Washington Post


"Juicy historical fiction." USA Today


"An immense cast of truly remarkable characters...this is not a book to be devoured in one sitting, tempting though that might be, but one to savor for its drama, depth, and richness." Library Journal


In 1989, Follett astonished the literary world with The Pillars of the Earth, a sweeping epic novel set in 12th-century England that centers on the building of a cathedral, and the hundreds of lives it affects. This sequel takes place in the same town of Kingsbridge, two centuries later.

About the Author

Ken Follett is one of the world's best-loved novelists. He has sold more than 130 million copies. His latest book, Fall of Giants, went straight to the No. 1 position on bestseller lists in the USA, Spain, Italy, Germany and France.

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Average customer rating based on 9 comments:

Michael Hagenbuch, April 1, 2013 (view all comments by Michael Hagenbuch)
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Pillars of the Earth because I became engrossed in the story line, characters, setting, and culture. All complimented with rich detail. As fictionalized history, Follett does his research and has greatly improved his story telling skills. This was a page turner for me as well as the sequel World Without End. I have read the first two books of his next trilogy, Fall of Giants and Winter of the World, with equal interest and intensity.
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Amy BookGirl, March 24, 2013 (view all comments by Amy BookGirl)
I loved Follett’s Pillars of the Earth and was thrilled when my husband found it has a sequel --of sorts. AWWE is also set in the fictional English town of Kingsbridge, about 150 years later in AD 1327. Several of the main characters are descendants of our heroes from Pillars.

Fourteenth Century Europe was a lively place historically speaking, but a deathly place for those that lived during that time. It was a time of the Black Death that ravaged Europe killing about half the population. It was also the beginning of the Hundred Years War between England and France. Like Pillars, this fictional story is threaded through historical events and beaded with factual details creating an utterly compelling tapestry that is at once lovely and horribly ugly. I was left with a feeling for what life was like for the people who lived (survived?) during those times. For the first time, I’m truly thankful to be alive in our modern world (medicine, judicial system, equality, welfare, economy) even with its many flaws.

Four pre-adolescent children, Gwenda, Merthin, Ralph and Caris witness a knight being ambushed by two men-at-arms in the forest near Kingsbridge village. With Ralph’s help the knight, Sir Thomas Langley, defeats the two men. Merthin helps the knight bury what turns out to be the historical Fieschi Letter. The children’s fate remain intertwined from that day forward.

The beauty of this book lies in the depth of the historical research. Through each of the main characters we learn different aspects of daily life, social structures and economy. The many dozens of minor characters fill out all 1181 pages beautifully.

Through Merthin’s eyes we see the wonders of medieval architecture and Europe. He and Caris develop a maddening and sometimes just annoying romance that lasts the duration of the story.

Through Caris, who is the daughter of a prosperous wool merchant we learn about the economy and hierarchy of craftsmen of medieval England. Such as how the craft guilds operated (and from Merthin as well) and how apprentices were used. We also see how weavers and dyers worked and how their lives and their work are one. It is no wonder they were named for their livelihood, Caris Wooler, Merthin Builder, Dick Brewer, they are very much what they do.

Also through Caris we learn about the operation and hierarchy of the church and the medicine they practiced. The prevalent use of animal dung in poultices for “bringing forth the pus” and how patients were diagnosed with evil humours which were treated by bleeding pint after pint of their life’s blood. It was common for someone to be treated for a broken arm, then later die of some unknowable infection. Innovation in medicine was heavily discouraged and anyone who tried risked being charged with witchcraft or blasphemy. A priory hospital was a truly terrifying place.

Through Gwenda’s eyes we see what life is like for the daughter of a landless laborer. Summers of backbreaking labor in someone else’s fields and winters of picking pockets and enduring starvation. It is baby brothers and sisters dying because your mother didn’t have enough to eat to maintain her milk supply. After Gwenda marries we see life for a serf of a nobleman. How they could only grow what the lords declared, how they paid their taxes and were required to labor on their lord’s fields as well as their own. They essentially belonged to him and were treated as such. For the first time I understand why people flocked to the wilderness of the Americas simply for the promise of owning their own land.

Through Ralph’s eyes, we see the inner working of the nobility class and how one rises through the ranks. We also see the horror of King Edward III’s Battle of Crécy and Battle of Blanchetaque to reclaim Gascony. Ralph rises from squire to Earl of Shiring through equal parts dumb luck and ruthlessness.

By the story’s end in the year 1361, the bad guys are dead, the good guys are happy-ish and the buried letter is revealed, in a somewhat anticlimactic fashion.


A first I felt the characters were obvious derivatives of the Pillars characters. Merthin is clearly Jack, for whom I suspect the author has a particular affection. Caris is Aliena, Ralph is a cross between Richard and William... So much so, that I referred to Merthin as Jack in my mind to keep the names straight as I got to know the characters. However, by the end of the story, they succeeded in forming their own identity in my imagination.

He and I share a tendency to be overly verbose. However at least I am aware of it. He wastes page after page recapping past events. I DESPISE THAT! It feels condescending. He also takes an extraordinarily long time to get around to making a point; then he takes it and lays it on the sidewalk for you to step in over and over again. Dammit! I already stepped in that pile twice already! One particularly wet pile was hearing how Caris wouldn't marry Merthin for fear of spending her life as a slave to him and their future children. I think stating that once is plenty, and perhaps it could go unsaid and just revealed in dialogue or her actions. This is a technique called “show don’t tell” from which he could benefit using. As a wife and mother myself, I would have been able to sympathize with those feelings, if I wasn't so tired of wiping my shoes in the grass.

He occasionally uses modern idioms in dialogue and in his narration. In one case, he wrote of Ralph’s reluctance to invite his parents to live in with him at Tench Hall because they would “cramp his style”. (Another opportunity for use of the show-don’t-tell axiom.) A petty thing for sure, but my illusion of living alongside the people of medieval England shattered and suddenly here I was, in the 21st century reading a book. Guess I better go start a load of laundry.

Missed Opportunities for Redemption
I was disappointed when the two primary villains Godwyn and Ralph died. Their deaths were punitively gruesome, however I was hoping for some kind of growth or redemption. We spend a lot of time in each of their point of view’s and both while both did vile acts, I was still hoping for something meaningful to come out of their lives.

Godwyn, the Prior of Kingsbridge was not an evil man, but he was arrogant and prideful. I was hoping he would be stripped of those attributes through some sort of suffering or some first hand exposure to what people sacrifice for those they love. Then he'd live out his life in a very humble subservient way or perhaps he could have saved the day somehow to someone else's glory.

Ralph, I’m afraid had to go. However, I was hoping there would be some meaning to it. Throughout the story he is self-centered, self-serving and utterly without conscience. Once he discovers Gwenda’s son Sam is his own, there are flickers of something almost like love. I was hoping Follett would fan that into a flame inspiring Ralph to perhaps fall in love with Gwenda (true love, not ruthless-take-what-I-want love) and die in some altercation in which he sacrifices himself for Gwenda or Sam or both. He still dies, but we would see that man he could have been if something more than his killing instinct had been nurtured and praised.

At one point while ranting about some aspect of this book, Charley said, “I’m sorry you’re not liking this book.”

“What? No, I’m loving it!”

At times I was passionately angry with characters, his writing, the way the plot was going, because I was all in! I couldn't (willingly) put this book down. I would almost subconsciously make excuses to get a moment to read. “Took Gabs a little while longer to fall asleep tonight.” “Girls I’m a bit tired, I’m going to rest for a few moments and read a bit.” Those thousand pages were gone in a flash. The historic detail, the lifelike characters, the engaging story made the words come off the page and swirl into full color life, complete with fresh breezes lilting through trees full of the scent of grass and blossoms, stifling rooms reeking of shit and death, and the wonder of living in a time long past that is part of our composition today.
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Michael Salmon, January 1, 2012 (view all comments by Michael Salmon)
I could not put this down. In your imagination, you feel as if you are transported back in time. As good as "Pillars...". Great characterisation and description.
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Product Details

Follett, Ken
New American Library
Historical - General
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Mass Market
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 12
9.02x6.02x1.67 in. 2.00 lbs.
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
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History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

World Without End Used Trade Paper
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$9.95 In Stock
Product details 1024 pages New American Library - English 9780451224996 Reviews:
"Review" by , "A rousing epic of 14th-century England...terrifically compelling."
"Review" by , "Juicy historical fiction."
"Review" by , "An immense cast of truly remarkable characters...this is not a book to be devoured in one sitting, tempting though that might be, but one to savor for its drama, depth, and richness."
"Synopsis" by , In 1989, Follett astonished the literary world with The Pillars of the Earth, a sweeping epic novel set in 12th-century England that centers on the building of a cathedral, and the hundreds of lives it affects. This sequel takes place in the same town of Kingsbridge, two centuries later.
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