9 April 2008

Reading in the car, talking books

One of the things I really like doing is listening to a novel on CDs in the car, on my way to and from work. Unfortunately I don't have a long journey, about 20 mins in the morning and 30 in the afternoon.

So the current novel is taking quite a while. I'm listening to Ken Follett's WORLD WITHOUT END read beautifully by Richard E. Grant. It is an unabridged version, 12 CDs, each a little over an hour long, and I've just started number 10.

Basically the story is set in an English cathedral town beginning about a decade before the Black Death hit England in 1348. In some ways it is about how English towns emerged from the middle ages, from the dominance of people by the church, and the changes brought not only by pestilence, but also by European traders, and by war.

I'm finding it quite difficult to write about though. Someone on one of the discussion lists I'm on pointed out that although you actually "read" the book more slowly when someone reads it to you, you also don't have the opportunity to turn back the pages to check details that you didn't take in very well the first time. I'm finding also that when the spelling of a name is not very clear to me, I am having a problem in remembering them.

Despite all that, I'm enjoying Grant's reading, the saga like qualities of the story, and the historical detail.

Ken Follett has a website and I read there what he said about the book. I hadn't realised it was a sequel to PILLARS OF THE EARTH because it is such a long time since I have read that.

I couldn’t write another book about building a cathedral, because that would be the same book. And I couldn’t write another story about the same characters, because by the end of 'Pillars' they are all very old or dead. 'World Without End' takes place in the same town, Kingsbridge, and features the descendants of the 'Pillars' characters two centuries later.

The cathedral and the priory are again at the centre of a web of love and hate, greed and pride, ambition and revenge. But at the heart of the story is the greatest natural disaster ever to strike the human race: the plague known as the Black Death, which killed something like half the population of Europe in the fourteenth century. The people of the Middle Ages battled this lethal pestilence and survived – and, in doing so, laid the foundations of modern medicine.

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