World Without End, by Ken Follett, is the epic sequel to Pillars of the Earth. This sweeping, multigenerational saga of love, loss, corruption, and triumph begins with four children who witness a murder, and follows those children through their lives in 14th century England, where they encounter devastating wars, corrupt church elections, trials of witchcraft, and the plague, among other disasters.
The story centers around Caris, a strong willed, independent, intelligent merchant’s daughter, and Merthin, a gifted builder and architect. As in Pillars of the Earth, the town’s cathedral and priory are the epicenter of most of the book’s conflicts, and every section is an entirely new adventure.
I was reluctant to read a 1014 page novel, but I ended up reading it faster than I have some 200 page books. The momentum Follett creates and sustains against a rich, historical background make the book impossible to put down. He kept me up until the wee hours of the morning on several nights this week. When I finished reading, I thought the books should be made into a mini-series, and it looks like I’ll get my wish.
One word of caution, however: Follet’s books are not for the faint of heart. He spares absolutely nothing in scenes of sex, violence, and war. I don’t shock easily, but several passages in World Without End were gruesome enough to make me put the book down to recover. If you can handle graphic scenes, I highly recommend this book.