Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Sarum: The Novel of England” as Want to Read:
Sarum: The Novel of England
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Sarum: The Novel of England

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  41,481 ratings  ·  1,566 reviews
A masterpiece of breathtaking scope—a brilliantly conceived epic novel that traces the entire turbulent course of English history.

This rich tapestry weaves a compelling saga of five families—the Wilsons, the Masons, the family of Porteus, the Shockleys, and the Godfreys—who reflect the changing character of Britain.

As their fates and fortunes intertwine over the course o
Hardcover, 912 pages
Published March 2nd 2004 by Gramercy (first published May 7th 1987)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Sarum, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  41,481 ratings  ·  1,566 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Sarum: The Novel of England
May 10, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Quantity not quality.
I have to admit, I was more than a little surprised when I came to this book on Goodreads to leave a review and saw all the glowing reviews. I expected maybe a couple 4 stars and mostly 3 stars, but that is not what I found. I found all 4 stars and 5 stars. How can this be?
I enjoyed the first chapter of this book so much that I was excited that there would be 1400 pages more of it. By Chapter 2 however, my excitement was blown out of the water. Rutherfurd's writing style wa
Patrick Trisler
Apr 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
Now this is a good Stonehenge book. Along with anything else that ever happened in Great Britain. This is one of those books that you have to say is 'sweeping in it's scope.' This book starts with neolithic man arriving in the Sarum area and follows certain bloodlines all the way to present day. It's huge. I learned more about British history with this book than I have with any history text book. I think its because its always presented from an individual as opposed to a national standpoint. Its ...more
James Walker
Jul 12, 2007 added it
Recommends it for: Everyone
Sarum is one of the most amazing books that I have ever read. It was almost magical reading. It was a book that just stuck with you so much that I actually dreamed about it. It was one of the few books I wished would never end and I felt almost lost once it was finished. It was like coming down off a high.
Mar 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Given that I, slow reader that I am and often in need of days long breaks from a narrative of any size was able to finish, without skimming, a 1,033 page novel, said novel must have had something going for it. Sarum certainly does on several levels. I will say, however, one should go into it completely aware of its nature, and should treat it as a marathon, not a sprint.

Some books in the 800+ page range can be treated more like sprints. The latter Harry Potter books for example. While they by no
Aug 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It took me a long time to read this one, it's huge but worth it. It's a history lesson disguised as fiction, and it's gorgeous.

The book follows five families from prehistoric to modern day, jumping through some of the most important moments in the history of Sarum and England. The last two chapters were the most heart wrenching for me, but there are a lot of moments like that. Rutherford doesn't try to make it happily ever after, it's real life and believeable.

I can't wait to get started on his
Nov 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Long-toed riverfolk, scheming farmer-peasants, impoverished descendants of Normans and Romans
This is another book that gets 5 stars for being a great big hunk of enjoyable cheese. But it's historical cheese!

Sarum tells the entire history of England, from its ice-age prehistory when the first men arrived on the island to the 1980s, by focusing the passing of ages on the city of Salisbury, once known as "Sarum." Located on the edge of Salisbury Plain, at the juncture of five rivers, archeological evidence tells us it's been a trading settlement since prehistoric times (and of course, it i
Tara DePompei
Dec 04, 2008 rated it it was ok
Oddest thing -- it is the best and most compelling book that I did not like reading at all. Don't get me wrong -- I am duly impressed by Rutherford's undertaking and his research (although sometimes flawed or biased). Further, the idea is spectacular. The problem was that I did not enjoy it -- I felt I went from story to story, from generation to generation, as more of an obligation as opposed to an interest. I frankly did not care at all about any of these people. My feeling at the last page wa ...more
Jul 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, historical
The story of the small portion of humanity that settled in and developed Salisbury (“Sarum”: being an abbreviated rendering of the Roman name Sorbiodunum) from the stone age to the 1980s. Following the struggles, fortunes, tribulations, and remade fortunes of five lineages, the novel details how waves of invaders (Cro-Magnons, Normans, Romans, Vikings) changed the landscape, economy, and culture, from Stonehenge to livestock breeding to Cathedral building, but then were in turn changed by it and ...more
Karen ⊰✿
Rutherfurd writes amazing family sagas over long time frames, concentrating on one geographical area (e.g. Paris, New York, Russia). In this book he focuses on one area - Sarum - which is site of the earliest settlement of Salisbury in England. Starting in pre-historic times right through to modern day, this book reads as a series of novellas, but still focusing on the same 5 families through the generations.
It took me two months to read this, not just because it is so HUGE but also because the
May 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I took my dear sweet time reading this novel, and cherished every second. Historical fiction works, and works well, when it can be lingered over, savored; when it can be read, then re-read, as the author's glowing accounts of historical events come to life right off the page.

James Michener was a master of this craft; Edward Rutherfurd aptly keeps him company, as evidenced by his sweeping novel, SARUM. Set in the author's hometown of Salisbury, England, this is a novel that tells the rich histor
Susan (aka Just My Op)
While I enjoyed listening to this very long book (about 45 hours), I didn't love it. It's not quite a history and not quite a novel, covering Sarum from almost the beginning of time until 1987, when it was first published. This is highly fictionalized, a string of beads strung together by geography and families. While I did get a feeling of history from it, I never got to know any of the (many!) characters well enough to really care about them. Yes, it was worth the time I spent listening to it, ...more
Viv Bearne
Jan 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Sarum is my all time favorite book, coming from the south west of England myself it is my history and so much research has gone into it. Many if not all of the great structures are still standing. A great read
Jun 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I greatly enjoyed Sarum. All 1033 pages of it.

Sarum is the first Edward Rutherford book I tackled, although his New York book has stared at me with longing on a shelf for years. Starting at the end of the last Ice Age, Sarum follows the generational paths of five families through time to the modern day. The book hits all the strong beats: the building of Stonehenge, the Roman Invasion of Britain and their colonization, the Dark Ages, Saxon Britain, the Norman Invasion, the War of the Roses, the
Lisa - (Aussie Girl)
Nobody does English history epics like Edward Rutherfurd!

Sarum is his first novel taking several English families from hunter/gatherers to 1985. Through the BC era to the Middle Ages it is a bit slow and each chapter time period is a like a series of novellas but it does all come together with some interesting chapters in the Tudor/Stuart and Napoleonic Wars eras. Intersecting the families through the ages is what a Rutherfurd novel is known for and he definitely must have learnt some lessons in
Dec 25, 2017 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Kindle copy received as gift Christmas, 2017, from Trent and Tim
On the cover of the copy of Sarum that I own, The Toronto Star states that "Rutherfurd reminds us that we are all part of a long line of human experience." I couldn't agree more.

This is truly a jewel of a book, the first book by Rutherfurd in his line of epic history-oriented novels that span the centuries of a whole country or a single city. For me, it's the second I read by the author (the first one being The Princes of Ireland). It is truly amazing; though, just like the scope of the storylin
Richard Flewitt
Oct 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Sarum is definitely what I would describe as a marathon read - I attempted the marathon more than 10 yrs ago, and events lead me on to other things.
The book clearly held a fascination for me and often called me when I walked past the book shelf! So, Northern Crete in August 2011 - I committed myself by including Sarum in my scanty allowance on a low cost airline, and the marathon began.
The novel traces back the history of man living in what is now the British Isles from around 10,000 years ago.
This book starts with the story of the relationship between the hunters and the settler of Sarum, which refers to the place called Salisbury. Normally, I connect with characters in this author’s books very quickly, but I had a problem connecting with the tribal characters here and struggled to be engaged with this story.

I believe this was his first book and the story telling is a bit too descriptive, which I did not experience in his later books. He is certainly a master of storytelling and I en
Nov 19, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010-reads
I love Edward Rutherfurd, I really do. But... this book has to be one of his worst.

Pros: The first 400 pages or so are amazing. But once I got into the 1300's... my interest started dwindling fast. I love historical fiction, and for the avid historical fiction reader (especially British history, or European history in general), Edward Rutherfurd is the guy for you.

Cons: Like I said, after about 400 pages, I started to lose interest fast. It seemed SUPER boring to me, and I could only read about
Bruce Black
Aug 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Not a great book, maybe not even "good." But I found it an interesting way to absorb the history of England. It's long and covers several millennia but still skips a few centuries here and there. Unfortunately it assumes you already know the significance of 1066 and a few other important events in English history. It's told as personal stories, following the fictitious families of different classes of people, their rise and fall from prosperity and society. For me it filled in some blanks, put o ...more
June Louise
Wow! Well, I think finishing this mammoth 1350 page tome in just 9 days testifies as to how amazing it is!

This is an incredibly informative yet entertaining book which concerns itself with the history of the Sarum (Salisbury) area of England, from prehistoric times to the nineteen eighties. Each era is covered in chapters of differing lengths, which don't only portray the significant historic events of the particular time but also introduce characters who play fictional roles within these real e
Gerry Haines
Dec 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A really marvellous read -
this one follows the format that the author uses in all his work so far, he tells the story using ordinary folk who go through the momentous times in history.

In Sarum , we go back further into the past than ever before with Rutherford. we go right back to the end of the last ice Age and meet the people who get cut off from continental Europe by the rising sea levels.

We also watch as the first farmers arrive and make contact with the hunter gatherers already here. The cl
Shawn Thrasher
Jul 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I listened to the audio version of this very long book, and was (mostly) spellbound. Nadia May is a marvelous reader-aloud; I'd like her tucked inside my head from here one out reading everything for me; I'm definitely finding out audio books narrated by her. The subtitle is "the story of England;" perhaps another subtitle could be added: "including murders, attempted rapes, pedophilia, adulterous affairs, theft, burning, hanging, and at least one case of witchcraft, with various other human dep ...more
Jan 12, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: history buffs
Recommended to Kate by: Marvin
Shelves: read-in-2009
This book was suggested to me after I reviewed Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, both of which are set in the fictional (I think) English town of Kingsbridge. Like the Follett books, Sarum is also set in an English cathedral town, Salisbury, but that's where the similarities end.

Sarum sweeps across the history of England, from the island's physical break from the continent through WWII. Five main families are followed throughout the novel, and as names and circumstances c
Jun 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is undoubtedly one of the best English historical novels I have ever read.Rutherford covers the history of the Sarum/Salisbury area of England from the Ice Age to the Present Day through the eyes of five families. He moves from generation to generation with effortless skill , capturing the mood and colour of each period brilliantly. As fortunes change and new challenges are dealt with ,we share the lives of many remarkable men and women .All of this is woven into a rich tapestry which is a ...more
Jan 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I spent a fair amount of time in and around Salisbury in the early 1980's, one of my favorite areas in Britain. While I was (and continue to be) fascinated by Stonehenge, I particularly recall being totally transfixed by Salisbury Cathedral the first time I visited as an American tourist. The soaring spire, the gorgeous light in the nave, and the sense of awe at its astonishing size. It was a glorious place, and a place that I still think about all these years later. In my estimation, no other c ...more
Dec 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
I enjoyed the novel well enough, but I was expecting something of the caliber of James Michener, and this certainly didn't deliver. The writing is wordy and overly passive. The character are rather flat. And his research fell short in developing his ancient culture of England. He uses corn as one of the first crops farmed on English soil, and even has it as such an intricate part of their culture that there is a corn festival and princes. It's all ridiculous because corn is a New World species t ...more
Salley J Robins
Sep 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This gem was picked up in an airport just before a very long flight. First thought - it's really thick - hope it's worth the excess weight! Then...hours and hours flew by (literally and figuratively) while I was drawn in and riveted to the story. It's epic - eons of time and generations of characters and yet it is a flowing story, rich, satisfying, and full of historical detail. I became a Rutherfurd fan on that flight and the heavy book made the return trip to sit happily on our bookshelf. Disc ...more
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ambitious undertaking, this 1,000 pager. So very much of it is interesting covering enormous changes over historic eras with the added benefit of principal characters that brought to life the history of change. Salisbury Plain is the center and one can almost see the scholastic slides being shown as we march through the ages from paleolithic/neolithic to fund raising to repair the great cathedral spire. In fact, the book is dedicated to "those trying to save Salisbury Spire." ...more
Mr. Rutherford has done an amazing job of following the descendants of a handful of families based around Salisbury, England through time. Starting around 9000bc and progressing to 1980 and creating vignettes at important points in England's history showing how those historical events impacted the families at each point in time. Simply put, this book was magnificent. ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Hawaii
  • Here Be Dragons (Welsh Princes, #1)
  • Falls the Shadow  (Welsh Princes, #2)
  • The Sunne in Splendour
  • The Reckoning  (Welsh Princes, #3)
  • Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman l Summary & Study Guide
  • The Clan of the Cave Bear (Earth's Children #1)
  • When Christ and His Saints Slept (Plantagenets #1; Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, #1)
  • A Castle of Doomsday
  • Centennial
  • The Pillars of the Earth (Kingsbridge, #1)
  • Chesapeake
  • Devil's Brood  (Plantagenets #3; Henry II & Eleanor of Aquitaine, #3)
  • Mary Queen of Scotland and The Isles
  • Lionheart (Plantagenets #4; Richard the Lionheart #1)
  • Aztec (Aztec, #1)
  • The Evening and the Morning
  • Tai-Pan (Asian Saga, #2)
See similar books…
Francis Edward Wintle, best known under his pen name Edward Rutherfurd, was born in the cathedral city of Salisbury. Educated locally, and at the universities of Cambridge, and Stanford, California, he worked in political research, bookselling and publishing. After numerous attempts to write books and plays, he finally abandoned his career in the book trade in 1983, and returned to his childhood h ...more

Related Articles

Why not focus on some serious family drama? Not yours, of course, but a fictional family whose story you can follow through the generations of...
194 likes · 68 comments
“The bare, sweeping chalk downs of southern England, familiar today, are not a natural feature of the landscape: they were created by prehistoric man.” 2 likes
“son los destinos individuales los que trazan el devenir de los grandes acontecimientos.” 0 likes
More quotes…