Tag Archives: Ken Follett

“Eye Of The Needle”, By Ken Follett

It does not happen very often but I seem to be going back to Ken Follett again and again. I am probably finding it difficult to start a new author and Follett is still keeping me interested. “Eye of the Needle” is very typical world war II fiction story that seems very plausible and has all the elements of fast paced thriller. A German spy in England with whole might of MI5 behind him, Hitler waiting for most important information from the spy and Churchill waiting to make sure that information is not delivered. He almost succeeds in his mission but for the courage of lonely woman on storm island.

It is a story of ruthless German spy Henry Faber who has managed to evade MI5 for a long time and this time manages to get the most crucial information that could jeopardize final attack from allied forces. He is on the run with MI5 behind him and manages to reach “Storm Island” where Lucy lives with her crippled husband and son. Lucy is attracted to him but eventually realizes the truth and acts as hero in saving the war for England. In any such spy thriller chase, it is always lots of hard work for police forces but there is also a lot of coincidence and good luck that ends up working in their favor. Of course everybody likes a good ending.

I have not read this kind of thriller for some time and it reminds me of authors like Alistair Maclean, Frederick Forsyth and Tom Clancy. This is the first book of Follett I have read that is not steeped in history but is pure fictional thriller. It is quite enjoyable for a change but I think I like him more when I read historical fiction from Follett. Looks like a movie was also made based on this book and I should see that one. The book reminds me of Indian movie “Fanaa” as well.

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“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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“A Dangerous Fortune”, By Ken Follett

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.

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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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“Century Trilogy: Fall of Giants”, By Ken Follett

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.

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