After “The Pillars of the Earth” and “World without End”, again I read the almost eight hundred pages of Ken Follett’s latest book, “A Column of Fire” in an incredibly short period of time, considering I’m not on holidays and only read at night and on lazy weekend mornings – whenever I can.skill trilogy begins with the construction of Kingsbridge cathedral in the UK. The first book’s story takes place in the 12th Century; it begins during the reign of King Henry I and continues through the years of the bloody civil war between his daughter Matilda and his nephew Stephen of Blois who fight for the throne; and the story of the second one takes place one hundred years after.
With his last book the author takes us to the 16th century and the bloody religious wars that were tearing Europe apart, between Catholics and Protestants. The story begins when Mary Tudor, known for posterity as Bloody Mary for the number of protestant “heretics” she burned at the stake, is queen of England. A staunch Catholic, and married to the most catholic King Felipe II of Spain, she would not accept freedom of belief in her kingdom. But most of the action takes place during her successor’s reign, Queen Elizabeth I, who wanted to establish freedom of worship in England, but ended up having to crush several rebellions that would overthrow her and set another sovereign on the throne; in this case another queen, Mary Queen of Scots, seen by Catholics as the true heir to the English throne.
Along the pages of his book Ken Follett depicts a rich tapestry of heroes, villains, damsels, knights, lords and ladies, soldiers and adventurers, fanatical priests and secretive spies, lovers and abusers, and all these characters come together in an incredibly vivid story in which probably one of the most dramatic moments is the gruesome description of St. Bartholomew’s Eve, the terrible night when Parisian Catholics massacred thousands of Protestants who had come to the city for the wedding of Catholic French Princess Margot to the Protestant King Henri of Navarre (to have a glimpse o how this happened it’s worth seeing the movie “Queen Margot” with Isabelle Adjani).
Through the eyes of the main character, Ned Willard, and his life and loves, we can see how the story unfolds; the real, historical part and the fictional one intrinsically woven together with such skill that you believe it all to be true. As a young boy he has a dream, one shared with his sovereign, Elizabeth; to live in a country that is tolerant towards all religions. In the end, deeply disappointed, he has to admit that while Queen Elizabeth did not persecute anybody for their religious beliefs, she still had to execute many Catholics – for treason, as some of them they were constantly plotting against her.
There would be so many things to tell you about this amazing book, but I will let you discover for yourselves. I’ll only tell you that you won’t really feel you are reading so many pages; each one is a new discovery, each new one holds a surprise and you are always anxious to know more. And when you turn the last page you feel sad because you would want the story to go on and on and never end.
That’s the stuff of a great book – the one you cannot put down but at the same time never want to finish. I’ll certainly be looking forward to reading new books by Ken Follett, one of my favourite authors.