I was apprehensive while taking up ‘A Column of Fire’ for two reasons. I have not read ‘The Pillars of the Earth’ and ‘World Without End’ by Ken Follett, so I was not sure whether I would sync with the trilogy. Secondly, I tend to lose interest in books that are more than 400 pages long. However, this book was a breezy read and I am not the least disappointed for signing up to review it.
‘A Column of Fire’ is a tale of love, political espionage and faith, set in Elizabethan England. With the narrative set in one of darkest periods of history, it gives us an insight into the infamous time of religious conflict. Europe is divided between Catholics and Protestants and Ned Willard, eager to reunite with the love of life, must make a choice which side he wishes to join.
Ned chose to work for Protestant Princess Elizabeth, thereby bidding goodbye to his Kingsbridge connection – his friends, family and above all Margery Fitzgerald, who is married off to a Catholic man. Queen Elizabeth’s reign is fraught with religious conflicts, with the conservative Catholics decrying her liberal views. Elizabeth constitutes her first ‘secret service’ with Ned working for Sir Francis, to secure her position of power. For the next five decades, we witness Ned and Margery fight for their ideals. We are witness to the horrors of faith – how families are destroyed, cities are torn apart and lives are lost, all in the name of religious beliefs.
In his impeccable style, Follett weaves a fictional tale of religious-political clash, in the backdrop of historical events. A master of historical fiction, Follett’s thorough research, blended with his exceptional narrative technique, keeps you hooked to the pages. By interspersing fictional dramas with historical events, he gives us an example of how meticulous period dramas should be. From Bartholomew’s Day Massacre to the horrific execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, the episodes are detailed and keep egging you to read on.
I have always believed history is a subject, which if taught well, can be superbly interesting. Follett’s period drama takes us through a turbulent period of England’s history without burdening us with information, or sounding boring at any time. Yes, the length of the book is huge, but the narrative is free-flowing and not tedious.
Moreover, this book becomes relevant even more in today’s time when religious intolerance is at odds with liberal values on a global scale. In short, ‘A Column of Fire’ is a breezy read, specially for those in love with the historical fiction genre.
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars
P.S. This review is part of the Flipkart Bloggers’ Affiliate Programme
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