I had some mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I didn't really like how he jumped back and forth through time instead of following a more linear tI had some mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I didn't really like how he jumped back and forth through time instead of following a more linear timeline (as he does in his other books). On the other hand, I did like that the timeline he kept returning to was the period of the Belle Epoque through World War II, which is really the time when Paris was becoming the city we know today. However, I didn't understand why he didn't start earlier in time than the briefest glimpse of the 1200s. In a later chapter he briefly mentioned a former Roman settlement. That was certainly pre-1200! It seemed also like he made an effort to avoid the historical commentary that is his custom except for a brief 1 or 2 page intro. I thought that this would be a good change, leaving more time for the stories of the characters, but instead I felt like I missed a lot of information. The entire novel seemed to assume a certain knowledge of French history on the reader's part (particularly since so much was entirely skipped), and while I am more well-versed in history than many people, I struggled to place the characters in the correct setting. I only remember a few kings being mentioned (predominantly Philip IV, Charles IX, and Louis XIV-XVI), things like the Commune weren't witnessed firsthand by characters but instead talked about by their descendants, and though the epilogue took place in the pivotal year of 1968, there's really no indication that anything is out of the ordinary. Really the book wasn't bad, but I expected so much more. Enjoyable, but not earth-shattering.
I had a few small reasons that I couldn't quite give it 5 stars. 1) Having civilian characters arrive in Pearl Harbor just inAs always, a joy to read.
I had a few small reasons that I couldn't quite give it 5 stars. 1) Having civilian characters arrive in Pearl Harbor just in time for the bombing was a little too convenient and melodramatic. 2) After very little military action, the description of the Battle of Midway was just too much, and it really threw me out of the story. It didn't fit well. (Most of the characters were civilians anyway, but except for Midway, Bougainvillea, and a tiny non-beach D-day scene, there was surprisingly little military action that didn't happen "off screen," as it were.) 3) While I did like that he didn't take the easy way and have one of the main characters be Jewish, I would have liked to know what happened to the Rothmanns in the end. 4) While I appreciated the inclusion of non-white characters (and even a few positively portrayed homosexual ones), I felt like he only lightly skimmed the consequences that an interracial relationship would have. I guess that's just what happens when you have so many characters to follow, though I also thought that some horrible scenes (particularly of rape) were not written as deeply as they could have been--most of the horror game from my imagination, not Follett's descriptions.
Still, these few small things are mostly nitpicking. I am always so excited when I'm about to dive into one of his books, especially for the first time, and more than a little sad when I'm done...more
On one hand, I really like Rutherfurd's style of telling history. By following the same families through hundreds of years, it's possible to see how tOn one hand, I really like Rutherfurd's style of telling history. By following the same families through hundreds of years, it's possible to see how the country changed over time and how those changes affected generations of real people from different backgrounds. On the other hand, it is so frustrating to start feeling close to a character only to suddenly shift 40 years in the future, where that character is dead and his children are middle-aged. There were also many characters I wanted to know so much more about, particularly Garret, Conall, Deirdre, Brigid, Patrick... okay, just about everyone, really. I grew fond of the Smiths and Walshes especially. I also wanted more about many events, such as the Famine (though that part was really well written and depressing) and the Easter Rebellion. Strange to want more from such a huge book, but there you go.
I do have to also say that I didn't like this one as much as I liked The Princes of Ireland, and I think there's an easy explanation for that. There is something magical and fascinating about the Druids, Celts, Vikings, Welshmen, and others of 430-1533 who populate the first book. Compared to 1000 years of such diversity, I guess 325 years of Catholics and Protestants, Irish and English bickering with each other is just not quite the same. (It's not that the book isn't good, because it certainly is. My personal preference just leans toward the earlier history; religious bickering has always irritated me, I suppose. So I could see myself rereading Princes but probably not Rebels.)
Thank goodness for the detailed family tree at the front of the book. I probably flipped to it every 20 pages or so, at least! It really helps keep things straight. I also loved how often characters stopped at Glendalough on their way between Dublin and Rathconan because of the meditative peace of the place. Besides Dublin, that is the only place in Ireland that I've visited, and it was one of the most, if not the most, special days in my life. It is an incredible place, and it really got me that others felt the same connection to it 400 and more years ago, and it was already ancient then. Just wow.
So good book. I came to love and hate many of the characters, and I felt bereft when many of them passed on, until I came to know their descendants and the cycle started again. :)...more
Ken Follett really is brilliant. He can fill a thousand pages with the daily lives of a handful of people living 700 years ago, and it is so engagingKen Follett really is brilliant. He can fill a thousand pages with the daily lives of a handful of people living 700 years ago, and it is so engaging that I have to stay up until 2 a.m. because I can't sleep without reading the last 200 pages. On one hand, it's epic. Cathedrals, plague, disasters, intrigue... but these things really play a small part. It's more about ordinary people living lives that could be considered extraordinary for the time, facing challenges, suffering defeat and heartache, watching their loved ones and neighbors die of plague, forced to fight the will of corrupt or evil men, questioning the teaching of the Church. It's the strength and realistic nature of these characters that make Follett's work great, along with his obviously thorough historical research and gift for descriptive narrative. I know this is the kind of novel that many people find too long and even boring, but for me it's a joy to read....more