Edward Hahn, January 5, 2015 (view all comments by Edward Hahn)
While I can't say Follett's historical novels are predictable, they do follow a certain pattern. The protagonists, both male and female, usually overcome huge barriers to triumph in the end. The villains almost always end up getting what they deserve except when they somehow rehabilitate themselves.
The story takes place in Victorian England opening in 1866 and ending in 1892. In this case the male hero, Hugh Pilaster, is put down by his banking family because his father took his capital out of the bank to start a business which failed leading to the father's suicide. The primary female character is Maisie Robinson, the child of Russian immigrants who leaves home at age 12 to make her own way. The major male villain, Mickey Miranda, is a South American fortune hunter and master manipulator. Augusta Pilaster is the evil matron who does her best to destroy those she dislikes in the service of putting both her husband, Joseph, and her son, Edward, ahead of others.
These four characters provide the impetus for the plot line as each go about doing what they do. It is difficult to say what it is that is so appealing about Follett's stories but nevertheless, I had a hard time putting this one down, finishing it at 2 AM. There is also a good amount of violence and sex both of which serve to keep the story interesting. I also realize that Follett does a very good job of capturing the times he is writing about especially the attitudes of his characters.
My biggest disappointment was that the ending seem to be rushed and lacked the delicious detail Follett is so good at providing. Still, all ended well and I enjoyed the book immensely. I recommend it highly to both Follett fans and those who will be encountering him for the first time.
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.