World Without End
7th September 2009
The sequel to Follet's earlier work, Pillars of the Earth, is another tale of the builders and monks in the city of Kingsbridge, set two hundred years after the original, in the mid 14th Century. Despite being a sequel there is absolutely no need to have read the original, as the plots are completely separate.
If I was publishing this book, I would have titled it something more along the lines of 'The Randy 14th Century' - particularly for the first third, where there seems to feature more sex than speech. Freud would have a field day analysing this. Other than that it's a complicated mix of storylines that, while seemingly unconnected, cross in interesting and sometimes overly convoluted ways.
The good characters are highly loveable - and that makes the middle third less bearable, as one of them does not feature for some time and others go off on a pointless side story that seems to lead no-where. The bad characters on the other hand are utterly detestable, to the extent that some seem comically unbelievable. It is interesting that the monks in this novel seem to generally be the bad characters, whereas in the original novel they were at worst neutral.
Despite being set around a cathedral, the book has a distinctly anti-religious feel to it, with the religious characters being shown as selfish, greedy, power-hungry and hypocritical, while the characters who choose to challenge or disbelieve are generally the more likeable. I'm glad, as the other way round would have been tedious - though it possibly goes a little too far in making some of the monks seem incredibly annoying.
I wouldn't call this the best book ever, but it's certainly a nicely lengthed novel and it doesn't leave you wanting any more by the end - although another sequel set a couple of hundred years later again wouldn't go amiss.