It is a few years since I read ‘The Pillars of the Earth‘ by Ken Follett, voted into the BBC’s top 100 of Britain’s favourite novels.
I thought ‘Pillars’ was a great book with its gripping opening. A book so rich in historical atmosphere I could almost smell the locations. The settings for the twists and turns of the plot were full of detail and thoroughly captivating. There was intrigue, violence, love, history turning events, and more. It is a book I have recommended.
Not surprising then that I was eager to get a copy of ‘World Without End‘, the long awaited sequel to ‘Pillars’. I got a copy for Christmas. I was disappointed and struggled to finish it. A friend, reading his copy at roughly the same time as me, abandoned it saying it was too boring. To me it had begun to feel like a book without end!
I did manage to finish my copy. Afterwards it took me a few days to conclude why I felt it was so dissatisfying. Not for the first time have I felt that an author was not writing a novel but a proto film script.
When following the lives of the main characters in ‘World Without End’ I felt that I was reading a soap-opera. I missed the detail and the struggles involved in the saga of the building of the cathedral in ‘Pillars of the Earth’. However, I think I now know what it was that really bothered me about this book.
I felt that more and more I noticed a vacuum in the novel. While featuring Christian lives and the life-values that are shaped by a relationship with Jesus, the author appeared to have no understanding of the life of faith. Ken Follet well described the human weaknesses and downright corruption found in some of the religious figures he portrayed, but they were by no means the exception in the Christian landscape he described. I found no examples of what it is like to have met with Jesus in a way that is life-transforming and lifelong in its positive effect. He knew that many followers of Jesus gladly sacrificed their lives in the service of others, either living to serve, or dying as a result of serving, but he does not seem to understand why beyond a superficial understanding of a belief in an afterlife.
Perhaps I should not be surprised that only someone who has met with Jesus could be able to understand or describe what it is is like. It would be like someone who has never tasted an orange describing what he has heard an orange tastes like. I suppose that is why the truth is so powerful in God’s words spoken through the Psalmist when He says “O taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalm 34:8).
What a shame, and I have waited a long time for that book.
I received another book for Christmas, a copy of ‘Sovereign‘ by C J Sansom. It looks good. It is the third in a series and thought I have not read the previous ones I am enjoying it. I will post a review when I have finished it. As it is set in York in 1541, many of the locations mentioned are known to me.