Book Review: A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

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I’ve reviewed ~575 books in the last few years and don’t often give out 5 stars. I can be a bit stingy as I want the book to just completely knock me over. Ken Follett is one of few authors who consistently impress, excite, and satisfy this thirst. The Pillars of the Earth came very close. World Without End hit the mark and is one of my top 5 all-time favorite books. In the third book in the Kingsbridge series, A Column of Fire, I am again thoroughly exhilarated and awarding 5 stars. I do think World Without End is slightly better, but this was superb on so many levels. I’m doubly blessed as I won this book through a Goodreads Giveaway and my blog followers selected it as my April 2018 Book Bucket List read. It was also a buddy read with a wonderful friend.

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At the outset, this is a book covering the impact on several families and towns throughout Europe during the religious wars in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. From Spain to Europe, Scotland to England, and even parts of Africa and the Caribbean, this book tracks the various changing of the guard under Henry VIII’s daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, as well as other claimants to the throne, Mary of Scots and James I. Some are Catholic. Some are Protestant. Who will win? History knows, and many readers familiar with these facts know. But it doesn’t spoil the beauty of this absolutely stunning series of novels by Follett. He’s crafted an amazing set of towns, families, bonds and rivalries over a period of 60 years in this particular third novel where the tides turn every 5 to 10 years, or every 100 to 200 pages (yes, it’s nearly 1000 pages long). Your heart breaks. Your eyes bulge. People could be horrible. They could be kind. Persecution in the name of religion truly happened, and while some find this book taking advantage of history to present drama… my response is basically — Umm… yeah, it’s historical fiction and that’s the point. If you want a 100% accurate book, go read a non-fiction account.

With a tome of this length, my review could go on forever. I plan to keep it shorter than that. Ned Willard is the protagonist, and the novel follows his life from a teenager to a 70-year-old man through which time he has many lovers, wives, friends, and family. He is one of the most respectable characters I’ve ever met in a book, and while he certainly does a few things that I’d consider wrong by today’s standards, he was a visionary nearly 500 years ago. His treatment of others despite their beliefs, gender, race, or status were fantastic. He acted the act when he needed to but always to achieve a goal to ultimately help people. And he suffered… more than any man should.

If you’ve never read Follett before, you are truly missing out. If you’ve not read this 3-book series, you are missing out. It’s nearly 3,000 pages in total, but you don’t have to read all 3. You can choose just one and read them out of order. They’re set about 100 years apart, so you may miss a few details and connections, but nothing to throw you off. I’m going to be in a book daze for weeks. And maybe years since I don’t expect him to write another one in the series, but if he does, it will be at least 5 years based on the last few. This makes me sad. But I can always re-read them. And I will. They are that good. Seriously… who chooses to re-read 3000 pages again?

Huge amounts of plot and drama. Sometimes you’ll think “that’s just too much” but truly…. much of this ACTUALLY happened. It may have been different characters or a slightly different order. But people were cruel back then. They killed for no reason. Religion was a mega prompt for doing bad things. (Hey, wait, that happens today, too…). So in theory, this is such a statement about people and life and the lessons we fail to learn century after century. But for the most part, I look at this as a way to step into a different world, one that fascinates me. I forget any true facts I know about the life of these monarchs and pretend it’s all new to me. It makes me smile. I rush to the book each night to devour more pages. And I gush… because this was a buddy read with my friend Noriko in Japan. I can’t wait to catch up with her about this again!

I’ll end here not because I am out of things to say, but because I have so many more books to read. And I’d rather chat about it than extend my review. So if you’ve read it, message me. Would love to discuss Follett with ya!

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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50 thoughts on “Book Review: A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

    […] the 11th entry off my Book Bucket List: A Column of Fire by Ken Follett. You can see my review here. In its place, I’ve added Our Little Secret by Roz Nay to round out the 12 options for the […]

    Liked by 1 person

    The Cozy Pages said:
    April 10, 2018 at 9:50 AM

    If you want a 100% accurate book, go read a non-fiction account…. Exactly. I never understand when folks read HF and then complain that the author took too much poetic license. Lol.

    Liked by 1 person

      James J. Cudney IV responded:
      April 10, 2018 at 10:08 AM

      Lol yes! To each his or her own, I suppose.

      Liked by 1 person

        Martie said:
        April 10, 2018 at 10:24 AM

        I really like your reviews such as this one. I am always afraid mine are too long or too much telling and not enough showing. Not sure where you find the time.

        Liked by 1 person

        James J. Cudney IV responded:
        April 10, 2018 at 10:30 AM

        Thank you, that is so kind. I’m trying to use ‘formal’ when it’s a new author or a new book genre/style. If it’s something I read a lot in, I’m more about gushing or just letting my mind wander. A fair balance. I like long reviews when it’s books or authors I know because then you can really connect with the reviewer. 🙂 As for time… I’m lucky in that I am focused on writing and networking right now, so I can spend a lot of time on it. Wont’ always be that way! I also don’t have children, so my time is more flexible as I don’t need to worry about looking out for someone else other than my partner.

        Liked by 1 person

        Martie said:
        April 10, 2018 at 2:55 PM

        I’m struggling to get better at this. Thanks for you help. Regards to you and your partner. BTW: I did get “Father Figure” hope to start it ASAP. What is the genre?

        Liked by 1 person

        James J. Cudney IV responded:
        April 10, 2018 at 2:57 PM

        Thank you! It’s contemporary fiction with mystery and a bit of romance. Some teen angst. Some suspenseful cliffhangers. A lot of analytical questions about life.

        Reviews can be really hard. Especially when you feel repetitive. I do that a lot and sometimes just let it go!

        Liked by 1 person

        Martie said:
        April 10, 2018 at 3:05 PM

        Other than romance (I’m afraid I am not a big fan of that genre,,) all else sounds right up my alley. I don’t mind a love story though. Hope that made sense.

        Liked by 1 person

        James J. Cudney IV responded:
        April 10, 2018 at 3:11 PM

        Yes, and it’s really more love story if anything. Small arc in the story. Definitely not a romance like novel!

        Liked by 1 person

        Martie said:
        April 12, 2018 at 10:56 AM

        I’m going to try to remember this. It so hard because I always feel that I’m not putting real work into my reviews. I’m just having fun. BTW: at age 62, I’m on physical disability (which sucks) my kids are 32 and 36 and I don’t have grandkids so I have all the time in the world.

        Liked by 1 person

        James J. Cudney IV responded:
        April 12, 2018 at 11:33 AM

        Sorry about the physical disability. Time is good tho… I’m glad we connected. Reviews change over time… I’m sure you have nothing to worry about in terms of how good they are. Your posts are always ones I read.

        Liked by 1 person

        Martie said:
        April 12, 2018 at 1:10 PM

        Thanks. Favor,I think my “Robin” review is too long with too much “telling.” If you have a free moment, could you give me some feedback. Pls don’t worry about hurting my feelings. BTW: I started “Father Figure” so far so good. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        James J. Cudney IV responded:
        April 12, 2018 at 1:40 PM

        I’m so glad you like it! 🙂 On way way to re-read.

        Like

    Stephanie said:
    April 10, 2018 at 10:41 AM

    Fantastic review! This one is planned for a summer read (because of its length), but I’m anxiously awaiting it!! I’ve had it since publication day, so it’s been hard not to pick it up. Tudor England is my favorite era, so I know I’ll enjoy it, and Follett never disapoints. I’m so excited now!! Counting down to mid June, lol! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

      James J. Cudney IV responded:
      April 10, 2018 at 11:08 AM

      I completely understand… I’ve had it since the Fall. I think I cried a few times when I knew I couldn’t pick it up til now. It took me about a week reading 150 pages each night, along with 2 other books during the day, so it’s a lot. But worth it. And you’ll hopefully have a lighter summer to be able to read!

      Liked by 1 person

        Stephanie said:
        April 10, 2018 at 12:28 PM

        Yes, I know that feeling! It definitely is a lot to read. I guess I could have read it since I just read Stephen King’s 800 plus page 11/22/63 and Jo Nesbo’s 512 page Macbeth at the same time over a week and a half, plus 2 other books during that time. But I want to savor this one since it’s a Tudor book 🙂 I should have a lighter summer! I’ll be in London for 3 weeks teaching a study abroad seminar about English folklore and the myths the mid may till the beginning of June, which I’m VERY excited about..I might just stay and not come back!! But then it’s a summer filled with weeks at the beach house, lounging by the pool, and maybe a trip to the mountains…it could be worse 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        James J. Cudney IV responded:
        April 10, 2018 at 1:55 PM

        Love everything about this message. I’m In London too. 5/14 thru 5/18. We should stay!!!

        Like

        Stephanie said:
        April 10, 2018 at 4:34 PM

        Seriously!! I’m there 5/12 thru 6/4!! We should stay forever! I’m teaching classes from 9 to 2 and we have to chaperone them some afternoons and evenings to sights in the city and plays, but I will have some free time. I’m planning a weekend to Paris while there and one just around England. Will you have any free time while your in the city?

        Like

        James J. Cudney IV responded:
        April 10, 2018 at 4:35 PM

        yes! I’m meeting Claire for part if it… let’s chat offline to coordinate! FB messenger? Email at jamesjcudney4@gmail.com or Twitter messenger?

        Liked by 1 person

        Stephanie said:
        April 10, 2018 at 6:01 PM

        Awesome! Can you messenge me on Twitter whenever you get a chance, and I’ll get back to you when I get a can? It’s that crazy time of night right now with dinner, bathtime, and bedtime about to happen over the next 3 hrs…fun, fun! I’m horrendous at answering emails since I don’t think I’ve checked my email unless it was work-related in several months, lol (I’m honestly afraid too). But I’ll keep your address and add it to the contacts in my phone 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        James J. Cudney IV responded:
        April 10, 2018 at 6:12 PM

        yes!

        Like

    Beware Of The Reader said:
    April 10, 2018 at 4:37 PM

    I agree with you Jay! Follet is a master! I loved this series and Pillars of the Earth was the first book I’ve read in English (non school book I mean). Ambitious I know but I adored it so much! He can write history (I loved The Fall of the Giants) or contemporary thriller. Anything really.

    Liked by 1 person

      James J. Cudney IV responded:
      April 10, 2018 at 4:53 PM

      Yes! I’m considering Fall of Giant next. Night Over Water will always be my favorite of his, but wow. Master. Do you speak more than English and French, btw?

      Like

    lisarey1990 said:
    April 10, 2018 at 6:20 PM

    This sounds really interesting. I’ve never read any Ken Follett books. I must get around to doing so at some stage. Great review.

    Liked by 1 person

    America On Coffee said:
    April 10, 2018 at 8:53 PM

    Loved your indepth review! Certainly this will be. for me, a cozy Fall read choice .

    Liked by 1 person

      James J. Cudney IV responded:
      April 11, 2018 at 7:15 AM

      Great! I look forward to discussing. And thank you. Did you read the first two?

      Like

        America On Coffee said:
        April 11, 2018 at 8:06 PM

        No I have not but have heard so much about this author from others and you, so, i must check out his reads. Thanks Jay for the most enticing review.

        Liked by 1 person

        James J. Cudney IV responded:
        April 11, 2018 at 9:22 PM

        Glad to help!

        Like

    inspirationpie said:
    April 11, 2018 at 4:33 PM

    I haven’t read any Follet books before. I’ve been tempted to pick one up, but the length is a little intimidating lol!

    Jo-Ann

    Liked by 1 person

      James J. Cudney IV responded:
      April 11, 2018 at 4:35 PM

      I totally understand. Night Over Water is much shorts, I think under 500 if I remember correctly. That may be a good place to start. It’s mid 20th century post war drama with lots of tension and family / relationship drama.

      Like

    Ken Follett is one of my go to authors for historical fiction so this was already on my tbr. Now I want to throw the whole list away so I can just focus on this!

    Liked by 1 person

    rugby843 said:
    April 11, 2018 at 5:48 PM

    I liked the first one best, but other books of his I’ve read: World Without End, Eye of the Needle ❤️, on Wings of Eagles, The Key to Rebecca.

    Liked by 1 person

      James J. Cudney IV responded:
      April 11, 2018 at 5:50 PM

      He’s so prolific. I adore Night Over Water.

      Liked by 1 person

        rugby843 said:
        April 11, 2018 at 5:58 PM

        Oh I forgot that one. I read most of them when I read all the time, years ago. Not so much now. I would find an author and read everything I could find by them and then move on.☺️

        Liked by 1 person

    Noriko said:
    April 13, 2018 at 9:13 PM

    Phew! I finally finished this book and had my thoughts up… I avoided reading your thoughts before putting down mine. Brilliant review, Jay! It’s been a privilege to buddy read with you (to some point lol)!

    Liked by 1 person

      James J. Cudney IV responded:
      April 13, 2018 at 10:38 PM

      Thank you. It was a privilege to read with you and I can’t wait to discuss it more this weekend. Off to read your review and then bed!

      Liked by 1 person

        Noriko said:
        April 13, 2018 at 10:40 PM

        You are welcome! Having read your fantastic review, I’m almost ashamed of mine hahaha!

        Liked by 1 person

        James J. Cudney IV responded:
        April 13, 2018 at 10:46 PM

        Please!!!! They’re very similar. We were on a common wavelength.

        Liked by 1 person

        Noriko said:
        April 13, 2018 at 10:46 PM

        😛

        Liked by 1 person

    booksandstuff431 said:
    April 21, 2018 at 5:52 PM

    Great review! I loved this one too.

    Liked by 1 person

    RobbyeFaye said:
    April 30, 2018 at 12:41 PM

    Great review!
    I read several Follett books years ago. Perhaps I’ll read this one (if I have time after all the ones I’m already committed to reading have been read!).

    Liked by 1 person

      James J. Cudney IV responded:
      April 30, 2018 at 12:41 PM

      Thx. TBRs are always so unkind to us. Lok

      Liked by 1 person

        RobbyeFaye said:
        April 30, 2018 at 12:45 PM

        You are welcome!
        Yes, they are! No matter haow fast you read, it’s not fast enough! I couldn’t read all the books I REALLY want to, if I had 10 lofetimes to do it in, LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

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