Lynn's Reviews > World Without End

World Without End by Ken Follett
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Oct 10, 2007

it was ok
bookshelves: british-history, historical-fiction
Recommended for: Pillars of the Earth fans
Read in October, 2007

This "companion" novel to Follett's 1989 classic The Pillars of the Earth is set in the same community, 200 years later. I'd been excited about it ever since I heard it was coming out this fall - Maybe too excited, because it just didn't live up to my expectations.

The first half of the book seemed a sort-of ho-hum retread of "Pillars". In place of Jack Builder, we have his look-alike great-great-great-many-times-over grandson, Merthin. Instead of Aliena, we get Caris (who I wanted to slap several times during the course of the story). Instead of Big Villain William, we get Ralph, Merthin's knightly (but less-than chivalrous) brother. And a bridge-building project stands in for the cathedral construction of the first book... As if anything could.

The only character I found remotely original was the first one we meet in the book, a little girl reduced to pickpocketing by her starving parents, who grows up to be hopelessly in love with a handsome, honest young farmer.

I missed Prior Philip, from the original book, who was a character who at least had some integrity and depth to him. All the clergy in "World Without End" seemed to be corrupt - including the ones we're supposed to like.

Something big happens about halfway through, to change the book's course - and it doesn't get resolved as quickly as I thought it would - but the big payoff from the opening scene never materializes. ("That's IT?" I wanted to say when I read the explanation of what happened.)

There are some good scenes, showing how war and pestilence affect ordinary folk - but the "heroes" in this book talk and think too much like people from the 21st Century to make the setting really believable. If you loved "Pillars", you might as well try this one, but it's not any great shakes.
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Reading Progress

03/10/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-27 of 27) (27 new)

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Shana I could have written this review - my sentiments exactly!


Mike I couldn't agree more! I could hardly stand Caris by the end of the book.


David Lynn, you hit the nail on the head. It was a 200 year re-hash and just didn't live up to "Pillars", but you kept reading and hoping it would get better. It never did.


Maggie Shana wrote: "I could have written this review - my sentiments exactly!"

Me too!!!


Gracee "talk and think like people from the 21st century..." that was exactly my complaint regarding "Pillars of the Earth" !! I've excused it in "World w/o End.." since in my opinion is a decent read. Oh well. :/


Bigsna Couldn't agree more. Infact, I still have about 450 pages to go and I'm wondering what else is really there to the story that hasn't happened in the first 750 pages! Pillars of the Earth was definitely the better of the two though the length of the books could have been reduced a lot. When I think about it, I really can't point out what all those pages are full of. Unnecesary details that hardly seem to help the main story.


Lady of the Lake I never read the first one which is probably why I like this one well enough... but as I've already posted I agree with you how the characters don't seem to be accurate for the time frame. The girls/women have too much free time and do as they please speak how they want...very 21st century!...the conniving of the church and monks etc I'm sure are right on as I think that went on everywhere (still does!) ... but this is audio and I like John Lee as narrator so I will continue to listen until I get fed up with the modern behavior or I find another audio to take it's place on my long drives! (Good review.)


Lady of the Lake But with all the comparisons to the first story one can say that times change but human nature remains the same... So no matter where we look throughout history people will be people... For good or bad... We can probably exchange any time frame and find human beings behaving in a similar fashion! LOL People will be people after all... :D


Heather You wrote your review perfectly. My sentiments exactly.


Samantha Exactly how I felt about it! Really missed Prior Phillip & couldn't stand Caris. Did you see the miniseries? I didn't like how Phillip was portrayed with less integrity and faith than in the novel.


message 11: by Wulfette (new)

Wulfette Noire Totally agree. Caris is annoying (making feminist looks bad on top of that) and the only character I really like in the book was that poor pickpocket girl!


Layla I completely agree. I was very disappointed.


message 13: by Lynn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lynn Did you see the miniseries? I didn't like how Phillip was portrayed with less integrity and faith than in the novel."

I have caught bits and pieces of the miniseries, but haven't seen it all the way through. Still, what I saw seemed very different than the book. (I kept thinking to myself, "That's not how it happened!")


Karen This review so closely matches my feelings that I am compelled to comment just to say "I agree."


message 15: by Rebe (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rebe I agree with most of this but do think Saul Whitehead was one exception to "all the clergy . . . seemed to be corrupt." Saul was like Philip, except that (spoiler!) he didn't get to be prior. Maybe that was one of Follett's attempts to differentiate WWE from Pillars.


✰  BJ's Book Blog ✰Janeane ✰ "ditto" is all I could say about this one. I have ready and reread POTE so many times over the past 20 years, so this was such a let down...


Sheldon Lehman Couldn't agree more.


Arjun Felt exactly the same :)The story was so predictable. hero travelling across Europe learning architecture. Heroine doing successfully in business. Hero and heroine cannot marry. A secret regarding the king that will be revealed in the climax. And plague kills everyone but doesn't touch single person with hero's bloodline.


Sim_peru_2015 I absolutely agree with your review. I was shocked to this that this book had such high ratings.


Martin Szabo Thank you for writing this in my stead. I liked The Pillars of the Earth much more and found its characters' characteristics way more believable (and likeable).


Alexis Owen Caris. Oy! She wasn't very likable at all!


Britt Konrad Similar feelings. I wish the book would have started at the half mark point, plunging us straight into the plague and (when necessary) making past parallels between Jack Builder/Merthin, Aliena /Caris, William/Ralph. Anyone who has read The Pillars of the Earth could easily have made the connections. This move would have left room for the new character types to be further developed (notably, Gwenda but also have some chapters written from the point of view of Thomas, Merthin's first wife, Mair, and even Gwenda's malicious brother or Jobby). However, I gave this book the same rating as The Pillars of the Earth simply for staying so true to the line of events and the depiction of the time. It is amazing how little yet how much progress was made during 200 years of the dark ages.


message 23: by Mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mark Messing I agree with Rebe about Saul, it's almost like Follett was saying "this is how things would have happened if Phillip would have died young"

I was most frustrated with Caris' character due to her apprehension towards marriage after fighting for Merthin to separate from Griselda. I thought that was unrealistic behavior that only occurred to fit the plot Follett had in his head.

As far as people acting outside the time, I've always liked that about Follett...even during the most restrictive times, there had to be women pushing the boundaries or we wouldn't be where we are today.


message 24: by Mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mark Messing I agree with Rebe about Saul, it's almost like Follett was saying "this is how things would have happened if Phillip would have died young"

I was most frustrated with Caris' character due to her apprehension towards marriage after fighting for Merthin to separate from Griselda. I thought that was unrealistic behavior that only occurred to fit the plot Follett had in his head.

As far as people acting outside the time, I've always liked that about Follett...even during the most restrictive times, there had to be women pushing the boundaries or we wouldn't be where we are today.


message 25: by Mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mark Messing I agree with Rebe about Saul, it's almost like Follett was saying "this is how things would have happened if Phillip would have died young"

I was most frustrated with Caris' character due to her apprehension towards marriage after fighting for Merthin to separate from Griselda. I thought that was unrealistic behavior that only occurred to fit the plot Follett had in his head.

As far as people acting outside the time, I've always liked that about Follett...even during the most restrictive times, there had to be women pushing the boundaries or we wouldn't be where we are today.


Stefano Cellini Absolutely the same opinion...it's a long long way to the happy ending. Scenes are very well written, Follet gives (for me) an interesting seight on the last part of Middle Age. Unfortunately there's much already seen:a difficult love, an exhausting fight with a corrupt clergy, a journey to another country. If Caris in the end had had a child, I would have been more pleased by the reading of the book. Hope the new book (2017) to be more exciting!


message 27: by Erica (new)

Erica Agreed.


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