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Sarum: The Novel of England Mass Market Paperback – 1 Jul 1992
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|Mass Market Paperback, 1 Jul 1992||
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"A heck of a story...a grand read" (Daily Mail)
"A cavalcade of our island story...a heady and sometimes sexy brew." (Daily Express) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The towering story of five families through 100 centuries of turmoil, tyranny, passion and prosperity. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
- My favourite thing about the book was the way the families lives interweaved, and how their fortunes rose and fell. Also the little mentions of character or physical traits, passed down the generations were, although slightly implausible after thousands of years, a nice reminder back to the first chapter and how everyone in the area is descended from the three characters that first appear. It made me wonder if all my great-great whoevers had hair that was impossible to control too...
- I enjoyed the realism. In fact hardly anyone lives happily ever after, and even if they do its only after overcoming serious problems! This is what real life was like unfortunately and it's refreshing to find a historical novel that doesn't shy away from the non-glamourous, unsexy reality.
- I'm a heritage student so I'm much more interested in how people lived rather then learning dates and politics, so this book was enjoyable in that sense as I loved following how events that I knew about from history affected the fictitious (and no doubt real) people of Sarum. I'm also obviously keen on preserving the past, so I felt a real (albeit slightly odd and embarrassing) tug of the heartstrings when things that were so important to people were forgotten about by their descendants, such as old Godfroi's mizmaze in this book. The bittersweet similarities between past and future are also surprisingly moving.
However this is as far as it goes when it comes to the book moving me as a reader. The characters and some of the chapters were rather uninspiring, which brings me on to the negatives.
- Ok so I'm very impressed that someone even thought of attempting to cover so great a timescale in one novel, but it does have it's drawbacks. By the end, the male members of the families (as there aren't many female protagonists) have all sort of blended into each other - the descriptions are simple, 'he had blonde hair and blue eyes' for example. Not helpful when the previous two male characters from this family also had 'blonde hair and blue eyes' and seemingly nothing else. This made it hard to come up with clear images of individuals and I was often left trying to remember who belonged to which time. The personalities aren't exactly thrilling either - Rutherfurd has clearly sacrificed human empathy for historical accuracy. Sure it's nice to learn about history but sometimes you feel like you're being lectured at and actually reading a non-fiction historical account. Surprisingly the chapters concerning the periods of history I knew least about and was less interested in I ended up enjoying more as these periods are less documented factually so Rutherfurd could concentrate on characters and description more. I admit I skim-read quite a few sections of the later chapters so I could get back to the people. Leading me on to my next point...
- By the time you get back to the people, the chapter ends - just as their story was starting to get interesting. You're then whizzed on a few generations with no explanation or conclusion - annoying! The chapters are basically short stories concerning one generation each, which doesn't make for a smooth read. The writing style is... varied for want of a better word. It's basic and not exactly sparkling but does the job. Some chapters are great and contain truly epic moments. But at the very end, where you'd expect the most moving, memorable, EPIC moment/image that will stay with you forever, of all, you get... well I won't ruin it for you but it's naff. The whole story has built up to this final moment, all 10,000 years of the areas history, and it really is a cop out. I don't know whether Rutherford was going for 'subtle' but he ended up with 'oh is that it?'
- I'm not exactly an ardent feminist, but you can really tell that this book was written by a man. I know, I know, for thousands of years women were viewed as inferior to men, but the constant references to men 'taking their women,' thinking of their 'hard young bodies'... yeah yeah we get it. It gets slightly better when we move forward in time, but even then the female characters are either pointless and boring or seemingly only described as how good they'd be in bed. The only female character that has a happy ending is, tellingly, a prostitute!
- Finally a tip for Kindle users. Do not, repeat, DO NOT BUY THIS AS A KINDLE EDITION. At the front of the book are maps of the area and family trees (which I found crucial to keep up with the story sometimes as there are so many characters and you forget who hates who and who is the grandfather of so and so etc. etc.) which if you had the paperback would be easier to flick to if you wanted, and not interrupt your reading much at all. However on the Kindle you need to go through all this faff - press menu, press go to, press contents, highlight maps or family tree, have a look to remind yourself (trust me you'll need to), go back to the page you were on - oh but wait, due to the formatting the page number you had to remember and type in to return to it has changed and you've gone 'back' to a completely different part of the book! Plus when you get to the family tree you can't zoom in so unless you hold the thing up to your eye and look like a complete numpty on the train like I did you can't see a thing. Part of it is cut off too. This is on the old 3G Kindle, so I can imagine on the new model without the keyboard its even more fiddly to get to. I do love my Kindle as it's a great space-saver, but for this book I wish I'd just got a nice shiny traditional paperback!
So that's it - a well-intentioned book with some great moments, but far too many flaws to make it the classic or masterpiece which I'd heard it was. I will read it again, but not anytime soon - I'm a fast reader, but this took me a month, and it really does require your attention, it's not a 'light' read. I think those of us that make it to the end should get some sort of prize to make up for the truly disappointing ending after all our effort!!