Going back to the author Ken Follett in quick succession after recently finishing “World without end”. Normally I try not to return to same author unless it is a sequel but I guess the mood was not for any new author and “A dangerous fortune” seemed like a good bet. When I started reading, I realized that I had started this book few years ago but stopped when I came across a brutal description of game called “ratting” that involved gambling for the victory of dog versus rats in a closed cage till death. This time I skipped over that portion completely. Other than the ratting part, the book is a great thriller set in 19th century London.
The story is about a banking family and how they go from success to failure due to internal family intrigues and conspiracies. It is a story of good versus evil as most of the stories are. What makes it interesting is the backdrop of banking industry and lifestyle of London in that era. It was great to read about traffic jams in the horse carriage driven era. I liked the character of Maisie who goes from runaway poor child to richest wife in town and then back to finding her own calling.
I thought the book went into lots of details in the beginning but towards the end the author was trying to finish the story quickly. Coming back to the description of “ratting”, I wonder what prompted the author to get into gruesome details in a book that is more or less a pleasant reading.
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.
I have enjoyed reading Ken Follett with his book “Pillars of the earth”. I don’t know why it took me so long to go back to reading another one of his books. Century Trilogy is truly an epic book covering whole of history of 20th century. The first part “Fall of Giants” covers beginning of the century, Russian revolution and the first world war.
The world events are chronicled through the eyes of few families in US, UK, Russia and Germany. All these families are fictional characters but their interplay with actual historical characters is woven beautifully. There are times when I actually went and searched for some names to figure out whether they were fiction or real. Some of the families were already in aristocratic position but what is surprising is the role of common people who contributed to the history and their own advance through the century. This book reminds us once again that lot of things that we take for granted today like voting rights for women have come into picture only a century ago.
I remember very little of history from my school days and this was a kind of refresher course for me. I think history should be taught to students in this kind of storytelling way rather than expecting them to learn dates and events in isolation. This way of history teaching will also tell you how the events in history affected general population and what was the social impact of major political event.
I also think that lot more was happening around the world in other countries that is not covered by this book. But the events leading to world war and aftermath did shape the nations in the most decisive way for the century.
There is lot more to cover about other books and more importantly the social and family aspects of 20th century but that will have to wait for another time.
I return back to one of my favorite genres of fictional history though in this case it is more of history and more of non-fiction based on archeology, astronomy and study of various myths, monuments and cultures around the world. “Fingerprints of the Gods”, questions the established history of the world and tries to prove that some highly advanced civilization existed more than 10000 years ago that perished due to natural calamities but they have left part of their knowledge in various myths, monuments and cultures throughout the world.
The style of author Graham Hancock is really thought-provoking and very similar to Jared Diamond who had written “Guns, Germs and Steel”, but the subject matter is quite different. He has done extensive research on the archeological evidence found in Mexico, Peru and Egypt and asks several questions about unexplained mysteries if we were to believe in the currently established history. There are several references to Indian mythology as well and his thoughts are that these are not really myths and such civilization was in existence at that time and we may find the proof of such civilization if we dig deep in the ice sheets of Antarctica.
He has dealt with the Pyramids of Egypt in great detail and the main question is that none of these Pyramids were built to protect the dead bodies of Pharaohs, but their purpose was entirely different. The scientific precision and alignment to stars that is used in making of these Pyramids points to a different purpose and probably they were built to preserve the scientific knowledge of the past. I was also thinking that maybe these Pyramids were the Noah’s Ark and were meant to indicate when the next catastrophe will take place and then to protect the civilization at that time.
The problems with these theories is that you can never tell for sure whether they are just stories or have facts in them. But it is definitely worth considering them since they might affect our future.
We have all heard of people like Birbal, Mullah Nasruddin and Tenali Raman. All of these are historical figures and worked as court jesters at different points of time in history. Tenali Raman worked in the court of Vijayanagar Empire in 16th century. Sri Krishna Deva Raya ruled the kingdom at that time and his court had many intelligent advisors but Tenali Raman is the most famous one. This book is a collection of short stories about Tenali Raman and how he managed to outwit everybody through his intelligence, shrewdness and ingenuity.
Many of the stories involve Tenali Raman taking on the King resulting in King getting angry with him but in the end it was Tenali Raman who always prevailed and managed to make the King understand his point of view. Some of the stories are very simple but many of them are with very deep meaning. In one story, Tenali Raman serves Sharbat (A kind of cold-drink) to courtiers in different types of cups. All of them try to take the best looking ones and the simple cups were left behind. Now the idea here was to enjoy the Sharbat but we all end up getting worried about the cups. It is so true in our lives as well.
It is really amazing that all these stories have survived. I am not sure whether they were written down or whether they have just been passed on from one generation to another through word of mouth. All the stories have feel good ending and make so much sense after we finish reading them. It is a coincidence that immediately after Tenali Raman, I am reading stories of Mullah Nasruddin but I will write about that some other time.