Author: Listening Guy
read by John Lee
I was intending to wait awhile before listening to this book, as it had only been a few months since I’d listened to The Pillars of the Earth. However, I had enjoyed that one so much, and the reviews were quite good on this one, that I didn’t want to forget about it. Also, it clocked in at over 52 HOURS…and I was in the mood to listen to something substantive. After listening, I must say…I made the right decision.
I’m not sure if one of these books is better than the other. They are both grand, sweeping epics…filled with love stories, political machinations, grand tragedies…all set against the background of a world very unlike our own…and yet, with many very human things in common.
Stated as simply as possible, this story begins in 1327 in the fictional town of Kingsbridge in the UK…the same town Follett used as the backdrop for Pillars of the Earth. Four children (two brothers – Merthin and Ralph, a young rich girl – Caris and a younger beggar girl – Gwenda) go off into the forest and see something they shouldn’t see. The story follows these four through the next 40 years or so, as they grow up, fall in love, achieve, suffer crushing defeats and fight to survive. The story incorporates unthinkable tragedies…some local, and some world-famous…such as The Plague.
While these books probably have a bit of the “bodice-ripper” to them, they have plenty of violence as well. There’s also quite a bit of sex. So it’s an interesting blend. Follett tells a wonderful story…and I must say, I’ve never heard a better narrator than John Lee…and I do a bit of that kind of work myself…so my standards are pretty high. Lee is amazing…52 hours of reading, and he is consistent from the first to the last…slipping comfortably between accents and dialects, without ever losing the passion of the story. Quite remarkable!
There are other characters…the church itself, as a religious and (sadly) political institution…revealed most in the person of its leaders…the prior and prioress, the subprior, the bishops… and the culture…what they wore, what they ate, how they made their living. It’s quite a sprawling canvas…and yet, the story never gets lost…only enhanced by it.
Like Pillars, this one gets an unqualified thumbs up from me…I enjoyed it on so many levels that I simply can’t express them all.
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