I tore through The Pillars of the Earth, and couldn't wait to pick this up. Set in Kingsbridge but a few centuries later, the story has a lot of similI tore through The Pillars of the Earth, and couldn't wait to pick this up. Set in Kingsbridge but a few centuries later, the story has a lot of similar elements: a cathedral that needs repair, a brilliant young builder (Merthin), a love story, a priorship up for grabs, and of course political manuevering, backstabbing and evil church officials. Also like the first one, the characters were developed well, the book was hard to put down, and yet it wasn't a deep book, just a fun one. Thank goodness I finished - it was causing me to lose sleep.
I did enjoy learning about the plague, and medieval ideas on health and medicine. Amazing that the plague wiped about a third of the human population, and how little they knew about it. Was frustrated by the lack of the Monks openness to learn new things, and how little they trusted women. For instance they believed in bleeding as a solution to everything when it actually is harmful in most cases. Also was interesting that there was no such thing as a doctor - instead nuns/monks/etc served that role. ...more
5 stars for being a un-put-downable page-turner, full of interesting and engaging characters I empathized with, and for teaching me about the politics5 stars for being a un-put-downable page-turner, full of interesting and engaging characters I empathized with, and for teaching me about the politics and religion of the middle ages. Follet is a thriller writer, and it shows.
Fascinating that in medieval times, most villages were surrounded by walls (or were inside a castle) - because you couldn't count on the law to marauding rival lords from raping and pillaging your village. And the largest buildings other than the local lords castle, were cathedrals. Why did people spend so much time an energy building these huge monuments to God that took 10-20 years to build? The book explains that bit, with the importance of the Church in society and it's relation to the crown.
I am having trouble putting my finger on what I liked about the book. To friends who asked, I can't sell it every well. But it was a epic saga of love and power, and I loved every second. I think in the end, the lesson was that creating enemies leads you to get what you deserve. This might be a good summary of the book:
(view spoiler)[ For the record, I hate William Hamleigh. I love Jack - he reminds me a bit of Howard Roark. And Aliena was inspirational. Philip was a prude but a good dude - I still can't believe he forgave Remigius. Interestingly, Waleran is once described as good person who just misunderstood his priorities - but I don't buy that. (hide spoiler)]
A fascinating story of world war one. I knew the basics, but it was fascinating to hear the story told through some of the characters involved, and seA fascinating story of world war one. I knew the basics, but it was fascinating to hear the story told through some of the characters involved, and see how it all played out.
On the surface, WW1 was started pretty stupidly. The arch-duke of Austria was assassinated, so in retaliation Austria invaded Serbia. Serbia had an alliance with Russia so they stepped in, and then Germany had an alliance with Austria, so suddenly Germany and Russia were at war. Russia and France had a treaty and since they surrounded Germany, the Germans went on the offensive in France, which dragged in Britain. And then the US got dragged in later by Britain and b/c Germans were sinking our ships.
But there was more to the story. These countries didn't have to honor these treaties - they could have found a way to not commit to a war. It's almost like they were all war hungry. Follett also tried, through some of the female characters like Maud, to indicate that if the world had been controlled by women then war would never have happened (probably true). This was a great quote:
One issue of the war I hadn't considered was the financial pressures it brought to bear once a country had committed. This was brought up artfully by Ethel's husband Bernie. Once Germany, Britain, etc had declared and spent a ton of money building their army and fighting the war, they were stuck. The people in power - the aristocracy - needed to win or they would go bankrupt and risk losing power. They were pot-committed, and too proud to turn back.
My one criticism of the book was that the character Fitz was made out to be a real simpleton. Ethel and Billy seemed to intellectually walk all over him and he never defended himself (or it was left out) - didn't seem terribly realistic.
I think my favorite part was learning about the Bolshevik revolution - that was a piece of history I really didn't know enough about, and it was described in great detail through Grigory and his story. Czar Nicholas II fell from power during the war, and the Bolsheviks staged a revolution and took over. But its hard to control a country!
The class struggles in England, Germany and Russia were clearly a major theme to the book. In each country Follett was careful to show how the aristocracy were fools and didn't know what they were doing. It really highlighted why a democracy is a better way of doing things! ...more
The Name of the Rose is a thrilling Dan Brown-esque murder mystery set in a 14th century Italian monastery. It really is two stories - the story of thThe Name of the Rose is a thrilling Dan Brown-esque murder mystery set in a 14th century Italian monastery. It really is two stories - the story of the murder mystery, and that of political climate in Italy at the time. And of course, they nicely interweave throughout.
The history the book brought was one of my favorite parts. I learned about how the church controlled so much of the world, how even then it was already starting to fall from power, why saints are so prevalent in Italy, and more. I learned about Franciscans and Dolcians and minorites, and poverity and false monks. Poverty was a big theme, which came through on several levels: rebellions by poor people and religious leaders stepping in to lead the masses, and also an a debate about the role the Church should have in society.
I took one star off because I often found myself skipping large sections that went into flowery details of something (often history) that just seemed irrelevant.
The book was also a lot about change. The monks were so set in their ways and in their dogma that you could see how it likely took generations before a viewpoint could really change. (view spoiler)[The focus on humor for instance and the dogmatic viewpoint of Jorge was in my opinion simply nothing more than fear of change. We all know that the introduction of humor and the divine comedy didn't ruin the world.
The library was one of the greatest in the world at the time. I would love to have seen it. Yet it was almost impossible to access, and that very lack of accessibility is what ultimately led to it's destruction. Seems like the message is that knowledge should be open and free and and keeping it locked up can be more dangerous than not. (hide spoiler)] ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
**spoiler alert** Great book - I liked it better than the second. I ate up the descriptions of India, and felt Stephen's pain with Diana the whole way**spoiler alert** Great book - I liked it better than the second. I ate up the descriptions of India, and felt Stephen's pain with Diana the whole way. O'Brian really makes you feel like you're learning what it must have been like to have been at sea in an 18th century English ship of the line - a most impressive feat....more
**spoiler alert** I equally loved book 2, and am definitely hooked. I did feel it took a little while for them to get to sea, but I guess we can't bri**spoiler alert** I equally loved book 2, and am definitely hooked. I did feel it took a little while for them to get to sea, but I guess we can't bring in a love interest if we aren't on the land!
My favorite thing by far was the Lively, and the descriptions of how fast she is and how much care the crew took keeping her a crack ship. Pride in what you do can be a great motivator. I also loved how Jack made them work the guns against all the batteries for practice. ...more
One of the most enjoyable stories I've read in some time. Captain Jack Aubrey was a fascinating character. You just wanted him to succeed - to captureOne of the most enjoyable stories I've read in some time. Captain Jack Aubrey was a fascinating character. You just wanted him to succeed - to capture the Spanish vessel, to gain the respect of his men, to gain the respect of the Admiral.
The book is set during the Napoleonic Wars, and it was interesting to see all the Kings ships were nothing but glorified pirates, capturing all vessels they could on the open seas.
The book also strongly reminded me of my sailing lessons from last summer - I still had to look a lot of words up, but I remembered ones like leeward and abeam. Makes me want to go sailing!...more