Tag Archives: England

“A Place Called Freedom”, By Ken Follett

Once again going back to Ken Follett in short span of time. The book “A Place Called Freedom” is a work of fiction set in 18th century England. Similar to century trilogy this book starts with story of coal miners who had the hardest and very dangerous life working in the mines. Mack McAsh is a miner in a small town where miners are forced to work in the mines due to some strange customs and they could not become free. But Mack figures out that the custom was illegal and he had the chance to be free. He escapes to London and organizes laborers like him and gets into trouble once again. Eventually he is exiled to America where he is able to taste freedom.

It is a story of a hero among the common men and how he is able to fight the system and in the process helps other people as well. Even though it is work of fiction, the story is plausible for England at that time. Of course you like the character of Mack but for me the character of Lizzie Halim was equally fascinating. She is high class girl but has her own views on everything and she keeps on helping Mack at different stages of his life. She struggles with her high class status and her perception of what is wrong with the world around her. She takes Mack’s challenge to go down in the mines and see for herself the conditions that miners face.

There is always lot to learn about history while reading Ken Follett’s books and this was no different. You learn that slavery not only affected Africans and Asians but it affected white but poor people as well. They had to work as bonded labor in the worst and most dangerous conditions and mine owners truly believed that miners lives were insignificant compared to their own pleasures. There was death penalty and that too in public for very minor offences and the balance was always biased against poor people.

I guess I will continue with my reading of Ken Follett. He has still not disappointed me.

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“World Without End”, By Ken Follett

I had read “Pillars of the earth” by Ken Follett few years ago on recommendation from a friend and really liked the book and style of the author. “World without end” is a kind of sequel to “Pillars of the earth” but it is not necessary to have read the previous book to understand this one. The story of this book occurs in the same town of Kingsbridge some 150 years after the construction of the cathedral. This is a story of 14th century England when plague swept through the Europe and there were long wars with France. The war part does not interest me much and even though it is part of the background story and influences the lives of various characters, it is not all pervasive.

The main story is about common people of small town and their interaction with monks and nuns of cathedral and royalty. It is also the story of how power and politics plays the role in life of common people. More importantly it is the story that tells us that with little common sense and intelligence, some people are able to change their fate under circumstances that are completely against them. I really enjoyed the characters of Caris, Gwenda and Merthin who are able to change their destiny and along with that change the whole town of Kingsbridge for better. They were up against some very evil characters who were determined to crush them but these characters had the intelligence and perseverance to fight back and come out as winners.

It was the time in history when people really did not understand human body and how to fight diseases like plague. Even in that situation, small group of nuns led by Caris manage to find ways to reduce the spread of disease and also provide relief to people who were dying of plague.

It was a long book but it is my favorite genre and a really well written book that I did not want it to end. I just figured out that a TV mini-series was also made on the book and is available on Netflix. I am looking forward to reading that.

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Ken Follett’s “The Pillars Of The Earth”

It is very difficult to place the genre of this book. It is a mix of history and fiction and fictional-history at the same time. The main storyline of Philip: Prior of Kingsbridge, England wanting to build a cathedral to expand his priory is fiction but this story is interwoven with the real history and characters from middle of 12th century England. There is the usual anarchy, wars, struggle between various factions of royal families, one upmanship between Church and Aristocracy, poverty of common people and various social evils that plagued (pun intended) the country at that time.

I had never read anything from Ken Follett before but one friend suggested me “The Pillars of the Earth” and I was really glad at the recommendation. Through the struggle of Philip in building the Cathedral, the 12th century England opened up for me as though I was seeing it live. The narrative is kept simple and you just flow with the storyline as it proceeds through ups and downs in the life of Philip and the stonemason Tom Builder and later on his son Jack. There are actual characters from history but somehow I was more interested in the lives of fictional ones throughout the book.

The most interesting thing in the book for me was the idea of life revolving around Church and Kings. The way town of Kingsbridge develops and how it changes fortunes of people living there is amazing. That was the time when a large construction of cathedral could change the lives of generations and help in creation of towns and cities. There was a lack of any other industry and activities of Church influenced lives of people in every possible way. The other activity affecting economy and lives of people was war which once started could go on for years and cripple the economy completely.

I have read some other books of Ken Follett as well and I will write about them later but this one is definitely the best.

You can find more information about the book at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pillars_of_the_Earth

http://www.amazon.com/Pillars-Earth-Ken-Follett/dp/0451166892

 

 

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Filed under Fiction, Fictional-History, History