Why do I read such long books?  Arguably something like Gone with the Wind is worth the 1,000 pages.  I would say each of the Harry Potters was enjoyable even when topping over 400 pages each.  

Ken Follett, not so much.  We know he can write a long book, certainly, this one caps at a little over 900 pages.  But can he write a good one?  Of that I’m not so sure.  Which is not to say that World Without End is a bad book (or perhaps I’m just trying to justify my continued dedication to it) but Mr. Follett seems to think that his own book is too long.  Clearly he doesn’t believe any reader will continue to pay attention.  He’s constantly reminding you of characters (remember him? He was back on page 200? He’s still a hunchback, in case you forgot) and events (oh yeah, just in case you forget pages 400-476, here’s what happened, they got married and had a baby and here’s how old it is now).   

As a reader of lots of books, and longish books usually, I find this incredibly annoying.  I AM paying attention, and if I’m not it’s YOUR fault, Mr. Follett, not mine.  I have the same complaints as I did about Pillars of the Earth – too much rape, too much sex and too many inane, repetitive details (do we have to hear about that damn cat again?  Unless he turns into a pivotal character, even I don’t want the feline interludes all the time).

Moreover, it oftentimes seems like Mr. Follett just lifted material from Pillars.  He thinks he’s being sly and getting away wiht it because he’s made everyone in this book direct descendants of Jack, Ailena and Tom from his previous book.  So that makes it OK?  No, it doesn’t.  I don’t even forgive you Merithin’s red hair and natural building skills.  As a scientist, I know that doesn’t come down the genetic line that easily.  Everyone is the same as the old books – carpenters, builders, wool merchants.  Ralph is the new William, raping and pillaging and plundering through the county.  Frankly I don’t mind staying in Kingsbridge, but I’d love to talk to David Brewer or one of those ladies who runs an inn.  Now they’re interesting.

So after all that why do I keep reading.  Two words:  The plague.  It’s fascinating, particularly for this germphobe.  They had no idea about germs then, and how could they?  This unknown power decimated the population and there was nothing they could do.  Scary and haunting and good story telling.

While I’m being generous. . .To give Mr. Follett his due, this book is more about woman (Caris, Gwenda, Phillippa) than his other work.  Caris is a modern woman in the Dark Ages.  She doesn’t want to be a man’s property and so she denies herself the love of her life.  She becomes a nun but still has sex, she become not only prioress but prior.  She’s accused of witchcraft (unsuccessfully).  She even has a dalliance with a nun, which is not as edgy as it sounds, but interesting nonetheless.  

For these things the incredibly multitude of pages can be forgiven.  But I may be saying that because I’m almost done.