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Sarum: The Novel of England

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A masterpiece that is breathtaking in its scope, SARUM is an epic novel that traces the entire turbulent course of English history. This rich tapestry weaves a compelling saga of five families who preserve their own particular characteristics over the centuries, and offer a fascinating glimpse into the future.


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A masterpiece that is breathtaking in its scope, SARUM is an epic novel that traces the entire turbulent course of English history. This rich tapestry weaves a compelling saga of five families who preserve their own particular characteristics over the centuries, and offer a fascinating glimpse into the future.

30 review for Sarum: The Novel of England

  1. 4 out of 5

    Terri

    Quantity not quality. I have to admit, I was more than a little surprised when I came to this book on Goodreads to leave a review and saw all the glowing reviews. I expected maybe a couple 4 stars and mostly 3 stars, but that is not what I found. I found all 4 stars and 5 stars. How can this be? I enjoyed the first chapter of this book so much that I was excited that there would be 1400 pages more of it. By Chapter 2 however, my excitement was blown out of the water. Rutherfurd's writing style ha Quantity not quality. I have to admit, I was more than a little surprised when I came to this book on Goodreads to leave a review and saw all the glowing reviews. I expected maybe a couple 4 stars and mostly 3 stars, but that is not what I found. I found all 4 stars and 5 stars. How can this be? I enjoyed the first chapter of this book so much that I was excited that there would be 1400 pages more of it. By Chapter 2 however, my excitement was blown out of the water. Rutherfurd's writing style has neither finesse nor elegance, both of which I had expected from a book and author that sells so many copies. This book was written in such a simplistic manner that I only got halfway through before I had to give the book away. The characters were one dimensional and without substance, and their stories were uninspiring. For a book that started so awesome it sure did flatline. I cannot remember the last time I didn't read a book all the way through. Even if I don't like a book I usually still force myself to read to the end. But I just couldn't have done that with Sarum. It was so poorly written and the short stories were becoming so boring that I found myself choosing to not pick the book up before going to sleep at night and that is just unheard of for me. I generally NEED to read for a while before I can get to sleep. I will try and finish it, 'one day', but I cannot imagine how far away 'that day' will be. Far, far, FAR away I'd say. Maybe Rutherfurd should have concentrated more on the quality of his writing and his stories instead of trying to simply write big books. This was my first Rutherfurd, and definitely my last. For those who are fussy, like me (I admit it) I don't think this book is for you.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Trisler

    Now this is a good Stonehenge book. Along with anything else that ever happened in Great Britain. This is one of those books that you have to say is 'sweeping in it's scope.' This book starts with neolithic man arriving in the Sarum area and follows certain bloodlines all the way to present day. It's huge. I learned more about British history with this book than I have with any history text book. I think its because its always presented from an individual as opposed to a national standpoint. Its Now this is a good Stonehenge book. Along with anything else that ever happened in Great Britain. This is one of those books that you have to say is 'sweeping in it's scope.' This book starts with neolithic man arriving in the Sarum area and follows certain bloodlines all the way to present day. It's huge. I learned more about British history with this book than I have with any history text book. I think its because its always presented from an individual as opposed to a national standpoint. Its one thing to hear that the Saxons invaded at such and such a time, but a completely different thing to hear how it affected the people that were being invaded. And what they wore, and how they talked and worshipped. The man also knows a ton about how they have cultivated and changed the land throughout time. The chapter on Stonehenge was great. I came away thinking 'yeah, that makes sense.' Whats really amazing is how time changes culture throughout this book and yet in each era we are given a completely believable and sympathetic set of characters.

  3. 5 out of 5

    James Walker

    Sarum is one of the most amazing books that I have ever read. It was almost magical reading. It was a book that just stuck with you so much that I actually dreamed about it. It was one of the few books I wished would never end and I felt almost lost once it was finished. It was like coming down off a high.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ty

    Given that I, slow reader that I am and often in need of days long breaks from a narrative of any size was able to finish, without skimming, a 1,033 page novel, said novel must have had something going for it. Sarum certainly does on several levels. I will say, however, one should go into it completely aware of its nature, and should treat it as a marathon, not a sprint. Some books in the 800+ page range can be treated more like sprints. The latter Harry Potter books for example. While they by no Given that I, slow reader that I am and often in need of days long breaks from a narrative of any size was able to finish, without skimming, a 1,033 page novel, said novel must have had something going for it. Sarum certainly does on several levels. I will say, however, one should go into it completely aware of its nature, and should treat it as a marathon, not a sprint. Some books in the 800+ page range can be treated more like sprints. The latter Harry Potter books for example. While they by no means needed to be anywhere near that long, their fantasy and action-oriented narratives make them rather fast, on-the-go reads in spite of their length. Sarum is not such a book. That should be obvious right away, as even its subtitle, "A Novel of England" indicates the vast scope this tome will attempt to cover. And when one takes this idea into account,(that the novel is really about a country, or more specifically an area of a country that has been populated for thousands of years), tackling its 1,033 pages at a leisurely pace becomes more palatable. With that established in one's mind at the outset, several factors about the book itself also make its consumption easier. For example, Rutherford's prose is usually easy and unassuming. Descriptive without being adjective fodder, the descriptions he gives of places and people are enough to provide one with an image without putting one to sleep for much of the novel. This is especially true for the first two thirds of the piece. It also helps that the book is broken down into what actually amounts to a collection of short stories with common characteristics. It needs to be for obvious reasons if one's story spans over 10,000 years. Any one person's life is but a blink of an eye during such a time span. In fact, so is the existence of a whole family unit. So we have mostly accessible writing over the course of various short stories, all tied together by a common setting by interweaving the stories of five families and their descendants over the course of millenia, starting with just after the ice age. It is with this formula that Sarum hooks the reader, and introduces them effortlessly to historic periods that are both known to us through documentation, and those about which we can only speculate. From the period of hunter-gatherers to about the time of Cromwell, o, two-thirds of the book, the form continues to work much of the time, and I found myself getting through this percentage of the novel faster than I would have expected. That first 600 or so pages are an educational, descriptive and adventurous epic that fires the imagination. And there is even a delightful recurring device that appears throughout most of these pages which I enjoyed revisiting each time. Not that the first two thirds are without some faults. The characters are sometimes presented with less depth because of the sheer amount of historical ground that needs to be covered. Descriptions do tend to get a bit heavy and drag down the action at times. And by the time we get to New Sarum, the connections between the families, and their respective places in the town/region can become a bit confusing. (Treating each section as a totally separate story despite references to previous sections will help inoculate the reader against this.) There is also a family tree provided at the beginning to which the reader will refer frequently. Also, a bit too much time is spent in similar time frames. But in the final third of the book the author takes a bit of a turn. Aspects of the book that had been engaging earlier on begin to wear down the proceedings. Starting roughly around the time of the rising of Cromwell, pages-long dissertations on the nature of the political and economic landscape begin to take precedence over the story of the people experiencing same. What had been a book about people who lived through the changing fortunes of their world began to be more of a vehicle for historical presentation that made a sometimes too occasional use of characters as cover. Further, the final third abandoned the previously mentioned delightful recurring device, and the reader feels cheated as it had been set up as a device that one expects to see again and again. Most problematic for the final third however, is the pacing. It is as though the author must now rush to cover more history with less story in the final 400 pages, and so the amount of pages that would have covered about 70 years in the first half of the book sometimes cover close to two centuries in the second half. And in the process we move somewhat into textbook territory, where we leave characters and plot for stretches that are far too long when compared with the first parts of the book. In the final third, the slightly shallower character development, for which we can forgive the author earlier on, becomes a bit of a liability. As a result, the final third of the book is in fact less intriguing, imaginative and easy to read than the first two-thirds. Not that the latter parts lacked positive qualities. Some of the episodes and scenes were more interesting than others. When he takes his time to tell the story, (as opposed to telling the history), things still work in Sarum. But one cannot escape the rushed feeling of the final sections, and it is a shame. One would almost rather see all of the sections in the novel take on this rushed approach so they matched the latter parts in a consistent whole. Or perhaps the opposite, (and more desirable) approach: see the whole book move as leisurely as the first sections did, but have fewer sections. (As covering all of the years mentioned at the same pace as the "Old Sarum" chapters would have resulted in a book twice this size. Or in a multi-volume work.) I realize that this may have been intentional; the author may have been alluding to the fact that life and history itself moved much slower in Pre-Roman times, and hence, so does the novel. But even if that were the intention of the author, the personal intrigues of the characters themselves need not have been sacrificed as much, nor did the detail of the historical/political landscape have to be twice as meticulous in the latter chapters than it was in the earlier chapters. I also think that there was an ever so slight preoccupation with sex. It seems that even in the shallower chapters (Such as the highly rushed "Encampment"), the author dedicated an unneeded amount of detail to the bodies, orgasms, and lustful preoccupation of the sometimes otherwise flat characters than was needed. It was at no time vulgar, but after a while one begins to wonder how different sex in 1944 could be from sex in 1480, or 1290, or Roman times...etc. What I thought was going to be a visceral preoccupation with mating that the prehistoric times required turned out to be a thread throughout all of the ages that did not fade as much as I would have thought at first. Still, the love of the author for both his work, and for the area of Salisbury is obvious throughout the piece. Taken in its entirety it truly is a neat concept executed with meticulous research, casual prose, and enviable passion. It may have run out of gas near the end, but there were nonetheless enough fumes to get the book where it needed to be by the end even if some of the short-cuts prevented as much sight seeing as I would have liked. Due to its originality, the reader roots for Sarum, and that is what propelled me to finish it, and to have been happy in so doing.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    It took me a long time to read this one, it's huge but worth it. It's a history lesson disguised as fiction, and it's gorgeous. The book follows five families from prehistoric to modern day, jumping through some of the most important moments in the history of Sarum and England. The last two chapters were the most heart wrenching for me, but there are a lot of moments like that. Rutherford doesn't try to make it happily ever after, it's real life and believeable. I can't wait to get started on his It took me a long time to read this one, it's huge but worth it. It's a history lesson disguised as fiction, and it's gorgeous. The book follows five families from prehistoric to modern day, jumping through some of the most important moments in the history of Sarum and England. The last two chapters were the most heart wrenching for me, but there are a lot of moments like that. Rutherford doesn't try to make it happily ever after, it's real life and believeable. I can't wait to get started on his others, but I'm going to pick a slightly less meaty volume to work on next!

  6. 4 out of 5

    David

    This is another book that gets 5 stars for being a great big hunk of enjoyable cheese. But it's historical cheese! Sarum tells the entire history of England, from its ice-age prehistory when the first men arrived on the island to the 1980s, by focusing the passing of ages on the city of Salisbury, once known as "Sarum." Located on the edge of Salisbury Plain, at the juncture of five rivers, archeological evidence tells us it's been a trading settlement since prehistoric times (and of course, it i This is another book that gets 5 stars for being a great big hunk of enjoyable cheese. But it's historical cheese! Sarum tells the entire history of England, from its ice-age prehistory when the first men arrived on the island to the 1980s, by focusing the passing of ages on the city of Salisbury, once known as "Sarum." Located on the edge of Salisbury Plain, at the juncture of five rivers, archeological evidence tells us it's been a trading settlement since prehistoric times (and of course, it is located only a few miles from Stonehenge). Rutherfurd uses a mixture of archeology and recorded history to tell us the complete history of Sarum from the arrival of Hwll the Hunter, seeking high ground as the ice melts, to the last in the line of the Shockleys and Masons, who have entertained us with their family dramas for centuries, trying to restore Salisbury Cathedral in 1985. How historically accurate is this book? It would take a historian to criticize that aspect of Rutherfurd's storytelling, though obviously everything involving the neolithic settlers, followed by the bronze age settlers, ancestors of the Celts, and pretty much everything up to Roman times, has to be more speculation than known fact. To this day, we don't know for sure exactly when Stonehenge was built or for what purpose, and I remember an Irish history professor in college telling me "Don't believe anything anyone writes about druids - crazy people write about druids." So Rutherfurd's take on the bloodthirsty rites of these Bronze Age tribesmen is probably as likely as any other. This is not primarily a history book, though, but a multi-generational (many, many, many generations) soap opera, through which history is told. Of the many families living around Sarum, Rutherfurd invents several — the Wilsons (descended from "Will's son" though actually present as fisher-folk living on Sarum's rivers since the Ice Age), the Masons (descended from a medieval mason, who was himself descended from an old Celtic craftsman who learned architecture from the Romans, who was himself descended from the architect of Stonehenge), the Porters (descended from a Roman officer named Porteus), the Godfreys (descended from a Norman knight), the Shockleys, the Forests (a branch of the Wilsons that renamed themselves something more noble once they got money) — who frequently change names and reverse fortunes and have interwoven lives, feuds, and marriages with the passing of centuries. The family that ruled Sarum in Roman times becomes in the 19th century the tenant farmers living on land owned by another family that were Anglo-Saxon peasants in the 11th, and so on. Naturally they don't know their ancient noble (or common) origins the way the reader does, other than as family tales passed down which they believe to be largely fictitious, like Doctor Barnagel, who laughs at his family's legend of being descended from a Danish invader known for crying "Bairn nae gel!" ("Don't kill the children!"), not knowing that it's actually true. This is a historical epic told through the eyes of everyday people. Rutherfurd has each of his families passing down physical and personality traits through the generations that are more fanciful than genetic, but there is something pleasing and familiar in seeing what the scheming, "spider-like" Wilsons are up to in each century, or what form the next generation's incarnation of a buxom, Amazonish Shockley girl will take. It sprawls across all of history. How are these families affected by the Roman invasion? The Anglo-Saxon invasion? The Danish invasion? The Norman invasion? The Black Death? The Reformation? The English Civil War? The New World? The Napoleonic Wars? All the way into the 20th century, where things became a bit rushed, covering the passing of time from World War I to 1985 in as many pages as earlier were spent on a single generation in the medieval era. Stylistically, Edward Rutherfurd is a plain and unembellished writer and he often relies on cliches and tropes, particularly all the women with their "firm young bodies" from paleolithic times onward, and the aforementioned repetition of family traits, from the Wilsons' "long-toed feet," dating back to the Ice Age, to the precise fussiness of the Porters, dating back to their Roman ancestor. Chapters begin with a lot of historical exposition explaining what's going on in this era, then zooming into what our families are up to and which side they're taking. But none of this was a detriment to me; it was a long, long listen and very satisfying. The time spent to research and write an epic spanning over 10,000 years and yet get us personally invested in the lives of individual people made it well worth it. So, maybe Sarum really only "deserves" 4 stars but I'm giving it 5 because I liked it enough that I am pushing Rutherfurd's New York epic higher on my TBR list.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ensiform

    The story of the small portion of humanity that settled in and developed Salisbury (“Sarum”: being an abbreviated rendering of the Roman name Sorbiodunum) from the stone age to the 1980s. Following the struggles, fortunes, tribulations, and remade fortunes of five lineages, the novel details how waves of invaders (Cro-Magnons, Normans, Romans, Vikings) changed the landscape, economy, and culture, from Stonehenge to livestock breeding to Cathedral building, but then were in turn changed by it and The story of the small portion of humanity that settled in and developed Salisbury (“Sarum”: being an abbreviated rendering of the Roman name Sorbiodunum) from the stone age to the 1980s. Following the struggles, fortunes, tribulations, and remade fortunes of five lineages, the novel details how waves of invaders (Cro-Magnons, Normans, Romans, Vikings) changed the landscape, economy, and culture, from Stonehenge to livestock breeding to Cathedral building, but then were in turn changed by it and became part of its fabric. I had some mixed feelings while reading this book. At 897 pages, it’s a hugely ambitious project – indeed sometimes Rutherfurd casts his net far wider than Sarum itself, following some of Salisbury’s sons in the American Revolution or at D-Day. But high ambition alone does not ensure quality. Certainly it is an achievement in itself simply to tell such an epic tale. But the proof is in the telling itself. And here the prose is, at times, purple at best and clunky and awkward at worst. Some sentences are as in danger of toppling as Salisbury Cathedral’s spire, so packed are they with meandering clauses. Further, the book is astonishingly riddled with comma misuse – I found one egregious comma error literally at least every four pages, which raises the question of whether the book was proofread at all. Finally, there is Rutherfurd’s authorial style, which is preachy and intrusive, especially in the early chapters, where he feels the need to step into his fictional world and explain in sometimes lengthy paragraphs the science or geography behind what a character was doing, as if to assure the readers that he’d done his research before popping back behind the curtain again. Or he might begin a section under the rubric with, for example, 1244, only to state a few paragraphs in that in order to really pick up at that point, “we must first go back a little.” Then why did he begin in 1244? Why not just tell the thread of the story from that earlier point, or have the characters refer to the slow changes that came before? These anachronistic authorial intrusions would have worked better, if he really had to have them, as endnotes to each chapter, rather than breaking the narrative so jarringly. On the positive side, the way he charts the evolution of Sarum’s economy, for example, is astounding and commendable. But what really makes the book work is the human adventure: each time he dips into a past era, there is a poignant or dramatic or thrilling vignette, a short story involving one of his five families, that underscores the vicissitudes of fate and the indomitable spark that keeps humanity going through the fortunes and failures that time brings. With a heavy-handed, level-headed editor, this could have been a brilliant book. As it is, it’s an impressive curiosity. It was a chore to read at times, but I’m not sorry I read it all.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tara DePompei

    Oddest thing -- it is the best and most compelling book that I did not like reading at all. Don't get me wrong -- I am duly impressed by Rutherford's undertaking and his research (although sometimes flawed or biased). Further, the idea is spectacular. The problem was that I did not enjoy it -- I felt I went from story to story, from generation to generation, as more of an obligation as opposed to an interest. I frankly did not care at all about any of these people. My feeling at the last page wa Oddest thing -- it is the best and most compelling book that I did not like reading at all. Don't get me wrong -- I am duly impressed by Rutherford's undertaking and his research (although sometimes flawed or biased). Further, the idea is spectacular. The problem was that I did not enjoy it -- I felt I went from story to story, from generation to generation, as more of an obligation as opposed to an interest. I frankly did not care at all about any of these people. My feeling at the last page was -- thank God it is over. In saying this, I am truly glad that I read it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mick

    I took my dear sweet time reading this novel, and cherished every second. Historical fiction works, and works well, when it can be lingered over, savored; when it can be read, then re-read, as the author's glowing accounts of historical events come to life right off the page. James Michener was a master of this craft; Edward Rutherfurd aptly keeps him company, as evidenced by his sweeping novel, SARUM. Set in the author's hometown of Salisbury, England, this is a novel that tells the rich histor I took my dear sweet time reading this novel, and cherished every second. Historical fiction works, and works well, when it can be lingered over, savored; when it can be read, then re-read, as the author's glowing accounts of historical events come to life right off the page. James Michener was a master of this craft; Edward Rutherfurd aptly keeps him company, as evidenced by his sweeping novel, SARUM. Set in the author's hometown of Salisbury, England, this is a novel that tells the rich history of the valley where five rivers meet. As seen through the eyes of members of five prominent families over thousands of years, the reader witnesses an astounding array of historical abundance: from the wondrous building of ancient stonehenge to the meticulous construction of the world-renowned Salisbury Cathedral; from the influence of the Romans to the bloody invasion of the Vikings; from feudal oppression to the horrific Black Death; from civil war to Renaissance; from industry to empire. Over and over, Rutherfurd tells a rich, compelling, absorbing account of the history of the Avon Valley--the history of England. Unlike other readers, I was not particularly bothered by each family having its own inherent propensity for a certain skill, or behaviour. (For example, the Porters had an eye for detail and numbers; the Masons were inherently skilled craftsmen.) This device enables the author to maintain consistency. My only caveat is that, after a virtually breathless examination of countless centuries of events, the titanic happenings of the 20th Century are glossed over in only a handful of pages. But this, however, did not take away from my supreme enjoyment of this novel. SARUM: THE NOVEL OF ENGLAND does what historical fiction is supposed to do: entertain and enlighten. I learned, and I learned a lot, having read this book. Highly recommended.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Viv Bearne

    Sarum is my all time favorite book, coming from the south west of England myself it is my history and so much research has gone into it. Many if not all of the great structures are still standing. A great read

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I greatly enjoyed Sarum. All 1033 pages of it. Sarum is the first Edward Rutherford book I tackled, although his New York book has stared at me with longing on a shelf for years. Starting at the end of the last Ice Age, Sarum follows the generational paths of five families through time to the modern day. The book hits all the strong beats: the building of Stonehenge, the Roman Invasion of Britain and their colonization, the Dark Ages, Saxon Britain, the Norman Invasion, the War of the Roses, the I greatly enjoyed Sarum. All 1033 pages of it. Sarum is the first Edward Rutherford book I tackled, although his New York book has stared at me with longing on a shelf for years. Starting at the end of the last Ice Age, Sarum follows the generational paths of five families through time to the modern day. The book hits all the strong beats: the building of Stonehenge, the Roman Invasion of Britain and their colonization, the Dark Ages, Saxon Britain, the Norman Invasion, the War of the Roses, the High Middle Ages and the Black Death, the coming of Protestantism and Queen Elizabeth II, the English Civil War, the conquest of India and the American Revolution, Trafalgar and Waterloo, the Great Wars of the 20th Century. Sarum left me with a great sense of breadth and time and gave me an appreciation for age and the passing of time. Everything starts and everything ends -- cultures, religions, industry and business, technology, reigns great and small. That which felt eternal at the time it happened passed and soon became someone else's archeology. The highlights of the book are the grisly Stonehenge chapter (nearly a novella in itself), the building of the Salisbury Cathedral and the horrible chapter on the Black Death, followed by the Revolution and the Cavaliers in the Civil War. Of the five families, two are the main focus of the book: the horrible decedents of Tep, the river man who has always been there since before the Ice Age ended, and the Shockleys, decedents of a Saxon Thane whose fortunes rise and fall with England's. For 1500 years those two families have back and forths, constantly crossing paths until finally joining in the 20th century. The other families (Caius Porteus's decedents, the family of Nooma the Mason, and the Godefrei's) play second fiddle -- save in the Cathedral chapter -- to the others. Sometimes the chapters felt a little too short and that generation ended too soon but, generally, I read this book with Wikipedia and my (nonfiction) history of England open to flesh out some of the details where the book glossed over. Overall, I enjoyed the rich detail Rutherford supplies in with the every day lives of his inhabitants of Sarum to give grounding in the time period. No politics get injected in the background of historical period detail -- it is told, straight, to help couch the feelings and motivations of the characters. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to read some meaty historical fiction or to get an entertaining grounding in the history of Britain. Although some of the archeology in the early part of the book is a little wobbly now (book came out in 1987), the rest is solid and was backed by my reference books. Five stars.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lisa - (Aussie Girl)

    Nobody does English history epics like Edward Rutherfurd! Sarum is his first novel taking several English families from hunter/gatherers to 1985. Through the BC era to the Middle Ages it is a bit slow and each chapter time period is a like a series of novellas but it does all come together with some interesting chapters in the Tudor/Stuart and Napoleonic Wars eras. Intersecting the families through the ages is what a Rutherfurd novel is known for and he definitely must have learnt some lessons in Nobody does English history epics like Edward Rutherfurd! Sarum is his first novel taking several English families from hunter/gatherers to 1985. Through the BC era to the Middle Ages it is a bit slow and each chapter time period is a like a series of novellas but it does all come together with some interesting chapters in the Tudor/Stuart and Napoleonic Wars eras. Intersecting the families through the ages is what a Rutherfurd novel is known for and he definitely must have learnt some lessons in writing this the family connections becoming more cohesive and streamlined in his future books. One of the things that really worked in this one was his use of strong women and how they dealt with the suffocating patriarchy throughout English history. Not his best book but still an enjoyable read especially for anyone who enjoys seeing the human perspective of history. 3,5 - 4 stars.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    Kindle copy received as gift Christmas, 2017, from Trent and Tim

  14. 4 out of 5

    Richard Flewitt

    Sarum is definitely what I would describe as a marathon read - I attempted the marathon more than 10 yrs ago, and events lead me on to other things. The book clearly held a fascination for me and often called me when I walked past the book shelf! So, Northern Crete in August 2011 - I committed myself by including Sarum in my scanty allowance on a low cost airline, and the marathon began. The novel traces back the history of man living in what is now the British Isles from around 10,000 years ago. Sarum is definitely what I would describe as a marathon read - I attempted the marathon more than 10 yrs ago, and events lead me on to other things. The book clearly held a fascination for me and often called me when I walked past the book shelf! So, Northern Crete in August 2011 - I committed myself by including Sarum in my scanty allowance on a low cost airline, and the marathon began. The novel traces back the history of man living in what is now the British Isles from around 10,000 years ago. Sarum is a fictional tale built around history, which was fascinating for me because history was never a strong point for me. I feel that I now have a much more comprehensive idea of how the England of today became what it is; the mix of races, cultures, behaviours and religions. I am assuming that Rutherford did his research and the historical journey is factually correct - or as correct as it can be when taking the span of history that is involved. Of particular interest to me was the story around Henry VIII and how Archbishop Cranmer fits in - I now live in Aslockton, birth place of Cranmer, and had no idea how significant his role was in creating the Church of England as it is today - to think that he lived next door :) At times Sarum was a pleasure to read, following the cleverly intertwined lives of the Mason, Godfrey and Porter families through the generations. At other times I felt that it was a chore, a challenge, a marathon - and this time it wasn't going to beat me!!! My biggest disappointment was the feeling that the book had to be completed, so fast-forwarded through time, skating over more recent history to bring us almost up to date. If the pace of the first 3/4 of the book had continued, I think the book would have been a couple of hundred pages longer. I'm glad I read it and would definitely recommend it if, like me, you like to know where things have come from, but never took to studying history - and you have some time on your hands...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Johanne

    On the cover of the copy of Sarum that I own, The Toronto Star states that "Rutherfurd reminds us that we are all part of a long line of human experience." I couldn't agree more. This is truly a jewel of a book, the first book by Rutherfurd in his line of epic history-oriented novels that span the centuries of a whole country or a single city. For me, it's the second I read by the author (the first one being The Princes of Ireland). It is truly amazing; though, just like the scope of the storylin On the cover of the copy of Sarum that I own, The Toronto Star states that "Rutherfurd reminds us that we are all part of a long line of human experience." I couldn't agree more. This is truly a jewel of a book, the first book by Rutherfurd in his line of epic history-oriented novels that span the centuries of a whole country or a single city. For me, it's the second I read by the author (the first one being The Princes of Ireland). It is truly amazing; though, just like the scope of the storyline, I can barely start to explain why. Let me simply start then by outlining the book. As the title suggests, the main theme revolves around the city of Salisbury, or Sarum, where Rutherfurd himself was born and raised. Through an amazing 4,000 years span, we follow the days and lives of five families - the Wilsons/Forests, the Porters (Porteus), the Masons, the Shockleys, and the Godfreys - as they intersect, sometimes for the best and other times for the worst, and very often times ironically without their even knowing it, while the quiet city of Salisbury runs its course through time. I am always delighted, while reading, to find a connection between Patricia (British) and Adam (American) Shockley who, ignoring that Adam's family where half-brothers with Patricia's family before moving to America, dine out at an old fulling which neither of them knows belonged to their family back in the Middle Ages, or between Adam Shockley (a different one) and Mary Mason who marry without realizing that perhaps 100 years ago they had the same great-grand-parents. It is an extremely empowering feeling - and part of the book's charm - to watch the families grow, succeed, and fail, knowing exactly where they came from, where they are at now, and their connections, sometimes better than they do. Throughout the book, we witness the first prehistoric settlements where the five rivers meet, the building of Stonehenge, the founding of New Sarum, the building of its magnificent cathedral, and the journeys to the New World, all the way to the attempts to restore the Cathedral's Spire in 1985. Phew! The characters are, of course, fictional, but the events are, for the most part, facts. And that is perhaps what draws me to Rutherfurd's books - the subtle combination of masterful writing and history, which I love. At the end of the book, though no one could claim having become an expert in the history of the locale, one cannot help but feel that they know it a little more or a little better than they had. Not to mention the attachment to the characters, who even in their worst flaws are extremely compelling. We root for them, dream with them, hope with them, and ache with them when life decides to simply be life. For Rutherfurd always seems to give life's life-ness priority - no mushy romance and "arranged" conclusion, just plain simple everyday life and events as they may likely happen in mine, yours, and their lives. Happy ending there is, but sadder ones too. But in the end, that hardly matters, for the bigger reality of centuries creeping by and humanity in general living along is greater than one individual success or failure.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Karen ⊰✿

    Rutherfurd writes amazing family sagas over long time frames, concentrating on one geographical area (e.g. Paris, New York, Russia). In this book he focuses on one area - Sarum - which is site of the earliest settlement of Salisbury in England. Starting in pre-historic times right through to modern day, this book reads as a series of novellas, but still focusing on the same 5 families through the generations. It took me two months to read this, not just because it is so HUGE but also because the Rutherfurd writes amazing family sagas over long time frames, concentrating on one geographical area (e.g. Paris, New York, Russia). In this book he focuses on one area - Sarum - which is site of the earliest settlement of Salisbury in England. Starting in pre-historic times right through to modern day, this book reads as a series of novellas, but still focusing on the same 5 families through the generations. It took me two months to read this, not just because it is so HUGE but also because the style made it difficult to engage. Once a chapter was done, the next chapter would jump forward in time with little continuity so that is why it felt like a set of novellas and made it difficult to keep reading rather than being distracted with other books! This wasn't my favourite of his, but I'm glad to have read it and would recommend it to any history buffs.

  17. 5 out of 5

    June Louise

    Wow! Well, I think finishing this mammoth 1350 page tome in just 9 days testifies as to how amazing it is! This is an incredibly informative yet entertaining book which concerns itself with the history of the Sarum (Salisbury) area of England, from prehistoric times to the nineteen eighties. Each era is covered in chapters of differing lengths, which don't only portray the significant historic events of the particular time but also introduce characters who play fictional roles within these real e Wow! Well, I think finishing this mammoth 1350 page tome in just 9 days testifies as to how amazing it is! This is an incredibly informative yet entertaining book which concerns itself with the history of the Sarum (Salisbury) area of England, from prehistoric times to the nineteen eighties. Each era is covered in chapters of differing lengths, which don't only portray the significant historic events of the particular time but also introduce characters who play fictional roles within these real events. Each of these characters are succeeding generations to those who feature within the first few pages, and the author consistently uses the genetic characteristics of each generation in order to describe where they fit in. It is a very cleverly written book, and the author has my admiration for being able to keep tabs on such a huge cast of characters. Of the two main 'parts' which the book is split into ('Old Sarum' and 'New Sarum'), I personally found the first one better. The author went into more detail with regard to events, description of landscape, and building up the characters; I actually 'gelled' with those early people much more than I did with the later heirs/heiresses. My favourite characters were Nooma, and cathedral mason Osmund - especially the latter's attempts to avoid the 7 Deadly Sins. The language is very easy to read, and events (such as the wars) are not presented in a Tolstoyian philosophical fashion. The narrative hooks you in, and it was a nightmare to put the book down at times. However, having conquered the first of the Rutherfurd tomes in my bookshelves, I now look forward to reading some more of him. I have never been to Salisbury, but now I feel I need to pay the place a visit. In a nutshell, don't let the thickness of this book put you off. It's a wonderful presentation of life vignettes through the ages with some adventure, cloak-swishing, high seas action, evil villains (boo!), fair maidens, girl-power (yay!), a bit of gore, and general history all thrown together to make a superb book. Would definitely recommend. What a great book to start 2018 off with!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    I love Edward Rutherfurd, I really do. But... this book has to be one of his worst. Pros: The first 400 pages or so are amazing. But once I got into the 1300's... my interest started dwindling fast. I love historical fiction, and for the avid historical fiction reader (especially British history, or European history in general), Edward Rutherfurd is the guy for you. Cons: Like I said, after about 400 pages, I started to lose interest fast. It seemed SUPER boring to me, and I could only read about I love Edward Rutherfurd, I really do. But... this book has to be one of his worst. Pros: The first 400 pages or so are amazing. But once I got into the 1300's... my interest started dwindling fast. I love historical fiction, and for the avid historical fiction reader (especially British history, or European history in general), Edward Rutherfurd is the guy for you. Cons: Like I said, after about 400 pages, I started to lose interest fast. It seemed SUPER boring to me, and I could only read about 10 pages at a time before I practically tossed the book aside to reach for another one. Judgement: If you have a LOT of spare time, and love historical fiction, then I totally recommend this book. If not... I would recommend his shorter novel, "Princes of Ireland", or maybe just another author with shorter books. 3/5 stars. Edit: I went back and finished the book, after heavy recommendation from my AP European history teacher. She was totally right... The book DOES get better after the 1400s. Even so, this book still isn't one of my favorites by this author.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Susan (aka Just My Op)

    While I enjoyed listening to this very long book (about 45 hours), I didn't love it. It's not quite a history and not quite a novel, covering Sarum from almost the beginning of time until 1987, when it was first published. This is highly fictionalized, a string of beads strung together by geography and families. While I did get a feeling of history from it, I never got to know any of the (many!) characters well enough to really care about them. Yes, it was worth the time I spent listening to it, While I enjoyed listening to this very long book (about 45 hours), I didn't love it. It's not quite a history and not quite a novel, covering Sarum from almost the beginning of time until 1987, when it was first published. This is highly fictionalized, a string of beads strung together by geography and families. While I did get a feeling of history from it, I never got to know any of the (many!) characters well enough to really care about them. Yes, it was worth the time I spent listening to it, but it didn't engage me as much as I expected. The jury is still out about whether I read or listen to another of Rutherfurds doorstop sagas.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gerry Haines

    A really marvellous read - this one follows the format that the author uses in all his work so far, he tells the story using ordinary folk who go through the momentous times in history. In Sarum , we go back further into the past than ever before with Rutherford. we go right back to the end of the last ice Age and meet the people who get cut off from continental Europe by the rising sea levels. We also watch as the first farmers arrive and make contact with the hunter gatherers already here. The cl A really marvellous read - this one follows the format that the author uses in all his work so far, he tells the story using ordinary folk who go through the momentous times in history. In Sarum , we go back further into the past than ever before with Rutherford. we go right back to the end of the last ice Age and meet the people who get cut off from continental Europe by the rising sea levels. We also watch as the first farmers arrive and make contact with the hunter gatherers already here. The clash of culture between the moon worshipping hunters and the Sun worshipping farmers who build Stonehenge is echoed in the clash between Catholicism and Protestantism in a later age, and we also see that economics factors play a big part in that struggle as well. If history lessons were like this at school, it would have been a lot more interesting. this is social and political history combined, and although we meet kings and queens, they mostly have cameo roles or are merely mentioned in passing. The great players in this tale are the common people, the merchants, soldiers and adventurers in every era who get caught up in the great events of their day. The neolithic hunter-gatherers, the farming communities who built Stonehenge, the Roman invaders, the Saxons, Vikings and Normans all pass before us, and then their descendants slowly form the basis of our modern English society. It is a magnificent story, chronicling the rise and fall of noble families, the enterprise and acumen of certain individuals, both fictional and historical, and the social and political affairs of the days in which they lived. Even though both 'London' and 'Forest' were impressive and informative works, this was something greater than both. I would say that this was the best book by Rutherford that I have read so far.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    This book was suggested to me after I reviewed Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, both of which are set in the fictional (I think) English town of Kingsbridge. Like the Follett books, Sarum is also set in an English cathedral town, Salisbury, but that's where the similarities end. Sarum sweeps across the history of England, from the island's physical break from the continent through WWII. Five main families are followed throughout the novel, and as names and circumstances c This book was suggested to me after I reviewed Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, both of which are set in the fictional (I think) English town of Kingsbridge. Like the Follett books, Sarum is also set in an English cathedral town, Salisbury, but that's where the similarities end. Sarum sweeps across the history of England, from the island's physical break from the continent through WWII. Five main families are followed throughout the novel, and as names and circumstances change incrementally, some physical and personality traits carry across thousands of years. This book is full of history, but it isn't a "history book". It has snapshots of how historical events affected certain people in one locality. It puts a very personal face on history. I could see using certain pieces of the book as a supplement to a World History class. At the same time, because such a long time frame is covered, it wasdifficult to keep track of who the characters were or to have a connection with them. Sarum was interesting, but it was the longest thousand page book I've ever read. It seemed to take forever. I liked it, but I could put it down.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Michele

    To call this 900+ tome a saga is selling it short because this ambition undertaking by Rutherford encompasses the history -- from the last iceage, Michener-esque style -- right up to the 1980s of present day Salisbury, England. Generations of the same handful of fictional families are traced and through them, Rutherford gives what is perhaps the most comprehensive history of this area that includes ancient Stonehenge. Not for the faint of heart. But well worth the read, especially if you plan on To call this 900+ tome a saga is selling it short because this ambition undertaking by Rutherford encompasses the history -- from the last iceage, Michener-esque style -- right up to the 1980s of present day Salisbury, England. Generations of the same handful of fictional families are traced and through them, Rutherford gives what is perhaps the most comprehensive history of this area that includes ancient Stonehenge. Not for the faint of heart. But well worth the read, especially if you plan on visiting the area. His characterizations are wonderful and his history detailed. And don't expect a family-saga just because the same families are traced through the years....frequently family lines disappear, only to reappear multiple generations later. And whatever you do, don't expect a fairy tale ending....Rutherford is good with plot twists. The novel is definitely an investment of your time. No skimming allowed in this one or you'll lose the thread of the story. Take your time, read it slowly and enjoy.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Black

    Not a great book, maybe not even "good." But I found it an interesting way to absorb the history of England. It's long and covers several millennia but still skips a few centuries here and there. Unfortunately it assumes you already know the significance of 1066 and a few other important events in English history. It's told as personal stories, following the fictitious families of different classes of people, their rise and fall from prosperity and society. For me it filled in some blanks, put o Not a great book, maybe not even "good." But I found it an interesting way to absorb the history of England. It's long and covers several millennia but still skips a few centuries here and there. Unfortunately it assumes you already know the significance of 1066 and a few other important events in English history. It's told as personal stories, following the fictitious families of different classes of people, their rise and fall from prosperity and society. For me it filled in some blanks, put other things in proper sequence and time frame, and helped me understand the English society (no wonder they all fled for the new world). Religion and class (wealth) play a huge roll, bigger than I appreciated before, and this is to the book's credit. I wish I had read it thirty years ago but, of course, it hadn't been written yet. I will probably read other books by Rutherfurd, even if somewhat grudgingly so.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Salley J Robins

    This gem was picked up in an airport just before a very long flight. First thought - it's really thick - hope it's worth the excess weight! Then...hours and hours flew by (literally and figuratively) while I was drawn in and riveted to the story. It's epic - eons of time and generations of characters and yet it is a flowing story, rich, satisfying, and full of historical detail. I became a Rutherfurd fan on that flight and the heavy book made the return trip to sit happily on our bookshelf. Disc This gem was picked up in an airport just before a very long flight. First thought - it's really thick - hope it's worth the excess weight! Then...hours and hours flew by (literally and figuratively) while I was drawn in and riveted to the story. It's epic - eons of time and generations of characters and yet it is a flowing story, rich, satisfying, and full of historical detail. I became a Rutherfurd fan on that flight and the heavy book made the return trip to sit happily on our bookshelf. Discover the story of England from prehistoric times to the present as centered on the area where Salisbury Cathedral now stands. If you love characters, passion, history, and a good read, then try Sarum.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marianna

    Mi è piaciuto molto. Lo consiglio a colpo sicuro a tutti gli amanti della storia, perché è meticoloso e preciso sia nel seguire la linea temporale degli eventi dal Paleolitico agli anni '80 del Novecento, sia nel descrivere i dettagli degli oggetti e degli usi quotidiani di ogni epoca, con uno stile fluido che scorre bene nonostante le 1100 pagine. Se non si è intimoriti dalla mole, il libro può riservare sorprese anche a chi non apprezza particolarmente la storia, ma cerca qualcosa di diverso c Mi è piaciuto molto. Lo consiglio a colpo sicuro a tutti gli amanti della storia, perché è meticoloso e preciso sia nel seguire la linea temporale degli eventi dal Paleolitico agli anni '80 del Novecento, sia nel descrivere i dettagli degli oggetti e degli usi quotidiani di ogni epoca, con uno stile fluido che scorre bene nonostante le 1100 pagine. Se non si è intimoriti dalla mole, il libro può riservare sorprese anche a chi non apprezza particolarmente la storia, ma cerca qualcosa di diverso che tratti questa disciplina in maniera semplice e accattivante: ogni filone temporale è infatti soprattutto una saga familiare, ricca di intrighi, legami e tradimenti, e in ogni "mini"-vicenda la fa da protagonista assoluto un multiforme affresco dei più disparati tipi di umanità. Pur essendo ogni quadretto legato ai precedenti da piccoli dettagli, si può dire che i vari capitoli siano ognuno un romanzo a parte, anche in ragione del fatto che alcune storie durano anche 150-200 pagine, ed ognuna è molto originale e diversa dalle altre. In particolare questa poliedricità dell'autore mi ha incuriosita molto, perché non si è limitato ad elencare le sue nozioni storiche come sarebbe stato scontato e purtroppo quasi da prassi in libri di questo genere in cui l'aspetto fittizio risulta un pretesto che appiattisce quasi il lavoro. Anzi, le notizie più da manuale sono integrate molto bene col racconto: la Storia è centrale ma non sopprime gli altri elementi di un buon romanzo, funge da ambientazione e da collante fra le varie epoche ma non appesantisce il resto. Rutherfurd ha anche saputo creare diverse trame, qualcuna per forza di cose più o meno interessante a seconda dei gusti storici del lettore, ma tutte convincenti, realistiche e mai banali né ripetitive. Ad esempio, io mi aspettavo qualcosina di più in lunghezza sulla parte della Morte Nera, ma solo perché è uno dei miei periodi storici preferiti e di conseguenza avrei voluto che fosse più approfondito, però lo ha comunque trattato bene e capisco che inevitabilmente il racconto si sarebbe prolungato troppo a scapito di chi magari non gradisce questi argomenti. Per contro, mi è venuto il latte alle ginocchia a leggere tutti i dettagli sulle guerre civili, non tanto perché non mi piace il periodo - anche se obiettivamente non è tra i miei preferiti -, ma più perché l'autore ha usato male la figura di Cromwell e si è concentrato piuttosto su particolari veramente noiosi. Capisco che lui in generale volesse dare risalto alle dinamiche delle famiglie che ha inventato, e che i personaggi storici fossero solo un contorno per contestualizzare; in parte questo è anche un punto di forza del romanzo, perché non puoi già sapere cosa succederà dopo. Però ecco, certe parti avrebbero dovuto avere un respiro un po' più ampio secondo me, e non sempre concentrato sulla piccola realtà familiare. Rimane comunque una buonissima trattazione (anche perché in un migliaio di pagine mi sono annoiata solo in quel frangente), come dicevo l'indice di gradimento dei vari capitoli varia per forza di cose in relazione all'interesse che ogni lettore prova per l'epoca storica associata. Insomma, ce n'è per tutti i gusti: è una vera e propria epopea storica. Leggerò altro dell'autore? Non so. Da un lato sicuramente la scrittura mi farebbe dire che ne vale la pena, ma il mio timore è che abbia usato la stessa formula per tutte le altre sue opere, dato che sembrano sullo stesso stile. Ma in futuro, chissà... Mai dire mai!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Thrasher

    I listened to the audio version of this very long book, and was (mostly) spellbound. Nadia May is a marvelous reader-aloud; I'd like her tucked inside my head from here one out reading everything for me; I'm definitely finding out audio books narrated by her. The subtitle is "the story of England;" perhaps another subtitle could be added: "including murders, attempted rapes, pedophilia, adulterous affairs, theft, burning, hanging, and at least one case of witchcraft, with various other human dep I listened to the audio version of this very long book, and was (mostly) spellbound. Nadia May is a marvelous reader-aloud; I'd like her tucked inside my head from here one out reading everything for me; I'm definitely finding out audio books narrated by her. The subtitle is "the story of England;" perhaps another subtitle could be added: "including murders, attempted rapes, pedophilia, adulterous affairs, theft, burning, hanging, and at least one case of witchcraft, with various other human depravity thrown in for good measure." But admit it - it's those exact incidents that usually make a book delicious. Towards the end, I did get a bit bored - to be perfectly honest, witchcraft and Cavaliers and even cathedral building are more interesting than changing farm practices. But Rutherfurd's writing style was quite interesting and kept me going anyway until the very end. Every chapter is like a novella, loosely connected by place, history and genealogy; every chapter covers an era, and often those chapters use different narrative techniques. Although he never uses first person, he does often use different conceits; for example, the chapter on the medieval building of Salisbury Cathedral uses the seven deadly sins committed by the master mason of the cathedral (very important in the middle ages) as a mechanism to move the story along. I lament the passing of the Michener-esque novel. They are most definitely rara avis in these times. Sarum is coming on 30 years old pretty soon, and big sweeping historical epics like it are gone with the wind. Hopefully they will rise again!

  27. 5 out of 5

    James

    I spent a fair amount of time in and around Salisbury in the early 1980's, one of my favorite areas in Britain. While I was (and continue to be) fascinated by Stonehenge, I particularly recall being totally transfixed by Salisbury Cathedral the first time I visited as an American tourist. The soaring spire, the gorgeous light in the nave, and the sense of awe at its astonishing size. It was a glorious place, and a place that I still think about all these years later. In my estimation, no other c I spent a fair amount of time in and around Salisbury in the early 1980's, one of my favorite areas in Britain. While I was (and continue to be) fascinated by Stonehenge, I particularly recall being totally transfixed by Salisbury Cathedral the first time I visited as an American tourist. The soaring spire, the gorgeous light in the nave, and the sense of awe at its astonishing size. It was a glorious place, and a place that I still think about all these years later. In my estimation, no other cathedral compares. Although it was more than 25 years ago, I recall eagerly anticipating the publication of Sarum, and couldn't wait for it to appear at my local bookseller's. It didn't disappoint. Once I had it in my hands, I devoured it. I vividly remember not wanting to put it down, and read nearly non-stop until I reached the end. Rutherfurd was brilliant at bringing the history of the area, and particularly the cathedral's history, to life. I was transported through history and felt as though I had witnessed the construction of Stonehenge, and then much later, the actual building of Salisbury's magnificent cathedral. Naturally, it's all a fiction, but Rutherfurd's writing put me on the ground, illuminated the human condition, and made me feel as though I'd been a part of it all. This is still one of my favorite books of all time, and one that stands out as one of my most pleasurable reading experiences, ever.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ronald

    I enjoyed the novel well enough, but I was expecting something of the caliber of James Michener, and this certainly didn't deliver. The writing is wordy and overly passive. The character are rather flat. And his research fell short in developing his ancient culture of England. He uses corn as one of the first crops farmed on English soil, and even has it as such an intricate part of their culture that there is a corn festival and princes. It's all ridiculous because corn is a New World species t I enjoyed the novel well enough, but I was expecting something of the caliber of James Michener, and this certainly didn't deliver. The writing is wordy and overly passive. The character are rather flat. And his research fell short in developing his ancient culture of England. He uses corn as one of the first crops farmed on English soil, and even has it as such an intricate part of their culture that there is a corn festival and princes. It's all ridiculous because corn is a New World species that only came to Europe after 1492. He probably thinks potatoes came from Ireland--they came from the Americas as well, as did tomatoes. Michener would never have made such an egregious error. Michener also gets you, the reader, more into his characters. Rutherfurd isn't bad, but comparing him to Michener is an insult to Michener.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    Ambitious undertaking, this 1,000 pager. So very much of it is interesting covering enormous changes over historic eras with the added benefit of principal characters that brought to life the history of change. Salisbury Plain is the center and one can almost see the scholastic slides being shown as we march through the ages from paleolithic/neolithic to fund raising to repair the great cathedral spire. In fact, the book is dedicated to "those trying to save Salisbury Spire."

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    This is undoubtedly one of the best English historical novels I have ever read.Rutherford covers the history of the Sarum/Salisbury area of England from the Ice Age to the Present Day through the eyes of five families. He moves from generation to generation with effortless skill , capturing the mood and colour of each period brilliantly. As fortunes change and new challenges are dealt with ,we share the lives of many remarkable men and women .All of this is woven into a rich tapestry which is a This is undoubtedly one of the best English historical novels I have ever read.Rutherford covers the history of the Sarum/Salisbury area of England from the Ice Age to the Present Day through the eyes of five families. He moves from generation to generation with effortless skill , capturing the mood and colour of each period brilliantly. As fortunes change and new challenges are dealt with ,we share the lives of many remarkable men and women .All of this is woven into a rich tapestry which is a must for anyone who likes historical novels

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