a column of fire

22139890_10155979753148392_673246399_oA Column of Fire is the third book in Ken Follett’s Kingsbridge series. If you have not already read, “The Pillars of the Earth” and “World Without End” then you must do so immediately. At 909 pages, A Column of Fire is packed full of lively characters, drama, history and action.  Ken Follett is such an amazing and talented writer.

The book takes place in 16th century England in a time of violence and religious turmoil. It spans from 1558 to 1606. There is always someone scheming to murder the queen or king and there is a constant battle for power between the Catholics and Protestants.  I am not a fan of historical fiction and care nothing about politics. The characters are what I loved best about this book.

Ned Willard is the hero of the book. Ned has all the characteristics of your typical hero. He is kind, honest, clever, trustworthy, determined, handsome and courageous.  He becomes a man of power and importance as he spends his life fighting for Queen Elizabeth. All Ned wants is peace between the Catholics and Protestants.  Ned: “What we did that momentous year of 1558 caused political strife, revolt, civil war and invasion. There were times in later years, when in the depths of despair I would wonder whether it had been worth it. The simple idea that people should be allowed to worship as they wished caused more suffering than the ten plagues of Egypt.  So if I had known then what I know now, would I have done the same? Hell, yes.”

The book also has many romances and a heart breaking love story.  At the beginning of the book, the woman Ned is in love with is forced to marry someone else. Margery is one of the heroines of the book. She has a willful and rebellious nature but she is “deeply pious at heart,” and she feels it is her duty to God to obey her parents. Her parents arrange her marriage to someone that will bring prestige and nobility to their family, even though Margery despises their choice.  She devotes her life to doing clandestine work for England’s deprived Catholics.  Her and Ned spend a lifetime in love with one another.

There are so many characters that I can’t begin to write about all of them and I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone else. The huge cast of hero/heroines and villains in this book do not disappoint. They endured so much loss, death, hardship, and heartbreak.  There were also many despicable characters that I just wanted to see destroyed.

“Evil men always frustrated the efforts of the peacemakers.”

“There are no saints in politics.  But imperfect people can still change the world for the better.”

Another masterpiece by Follett.   I can’t imagine how much research he had to do to be able to include so many historical details and even though I am easily bored with history, I truly enjoyed this thrilling epic saga.  Well done, Mr. Follett!

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happy banned books week

Hundreds of books have been either removed or challenged in schools and libraries in the United States over the years. In honor of banned books week, I thought I would share some of my favorite books (pictured below) that happen to be on the banned/challenged book list.


“Banning books gives us silence when we need speech. It closes our ears when we need to listen. It makes us blind when we need sight.”
Stephen Chbosky

 

 

the burgess boys

21868206_10155691102708392_1382185691_oThe Burgess Boys, Jim and Bob, along with their sister, Susan, are a true portrait of a dysfunctional family. Susan’s son Zach, throws a pig head into a mosque and is charged with a hate crime and the family comes together to be a support system for Zach and to try to prevent Zach from going to jail.

Jim Burgess is the successful man in the family. He is a famous attorney in New York and always the one in charge. The more we get to know Jim, the more we realize he is a very angry and unhappy person. His feelings start to come out as Jim has to deal with his family and the memories that resurface from being back in his hometown. “Everything to do with this family depresses me.” “It’s all gone to crap. I’m scared. I think about death a lot. I’m grieving for myself. I’m a sham.” I am a dead man going down. It’s just a matter of time. I could not keep it up.”  Buried secrets are revealed as we watch Jim unravel.

Bob Burgess is a lonely man, divorced, with no children. Bob: “Nothing lasts forever, there is nothing to be counted on.” He also lives in New York. “He thought of all the people in the world who felt they’d been saved by a city. He was one of them. Whatever darkness leaked its way in, there were always lights on in different windows here, each light like a gentle touch on his shoulder saying, “Whatever is happening, Bob Burgess, you are never alone.”

Susan Burgess is Bob’s twin. She is also divorced and lives alone with her only child, Zach.  Growing up, Susan was most often the recipient of her mother’s so called jokes and disapproval.  Her son, Zach, has become her whole life.

Zach is friendless, quiet, hesitant in all his actions, just not quite right. He was teased mercilessly in elementary school and beaten up in high school. Zach’s father, who often put Zach down, left while he was in high school.  Zach is a lonely, fragile boy who cries and never has friends over.  The hate crime he is accused of has left him even more scared and lonely.

Abdikarim is the man who was there when Zach threw the pig head into the mosque. He is an Islamic immigrant who fled from the violence in his country. He is the perfect example of what immigrants have to face in America these days. Abdikarim was a great character.  “There was a heaviness inside him.  It grew each passing month, to stay or go he couldn’t make that decision.  He felt too old for the spring of excitement to return to him. Too old to learn English.  Without that, he lived with the constancy of incomprehension. THE incomprehension was a danger.  Living in a world where constantly one turned and touched in comprehension-gave the air the lift of uncertainty and this seemed to wear away something inside him.  He always felt unsure of what he wanted, what he thought, even what he felt.”

This book touched on some of today’s controversial issues of immigrants and hate crimes but also explored what family really means. Elizabeth Strout is an amazing novelist.  She writes beautifully.