"World Without End,"
by Ken Follett
I loved "The Pillars of the Earth," Ken Follett's epic that delivered readers back to the 12th century to meet the people who built a great fictional English cathedral. It was a great story of achievement, of overcoming obstacles -- human and stone -- and of hope's triumph.
"World Without End" picks up the story two centuries later, delivering us to that same cathedral, now in need of repairs after two hundred years of storms.
And the characters that populate the medieval cathedral town are just as interesting and compelling in the sequel as were their ancestors in the original story, which is why this was at the top of the New York Times bestseller list.
It's a bawdy tale, I must warn you, and a gory one. Some sexual scenes are very, very explicit, and the violence is bloody, but not "chainsaw-massacre" stupid.
Remember, it's fiction
Catholics who read "World Without End" will have to keep in mind the fictional nature of this book, because elements of the Church of Rome play the black hat roles in many cases. Bishops, priests and nuns do things in the novel that we would hope bishops, priests and nuns don't do. I don't think modern-day readers can deny that incidents described in Follett's novel never happened in reality; some of the more contemporary sins by church people would be pretty good evidence that there is at least a possibility that 14th century clergy and religious were not immune from such sin.
For the most part, though, offenses of the moral kind are not held up to be celebrated; rather, the protagonists stand for what is good and right and moral despite displaying their humanity, sins and all.
It's a huge novel -- 1,014 pages in New American Library's paperback version -- and every bit a great read. -- bz