Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summer Reading

And by that I mean that it took me almost the entire summer to read it. But I finally finished Sarum: The Novel of England, and it was such a long journey that I felt like celebrating its completion publicly.

This novel - with its 1034 pages of teeny tiny print - is no small undertaking. Not something to be entered into lightly. But even though it took me just shy of forever to finish, I'd still say it was entertaining enough to be worth a read.

The story centers around the Salisbury plain, and covers the broad scope of history from prehistoric times (right before the island became separated from the mainland) right up to recent decades. The narrative is told through the lives of five families whose lineage is followed through the centuries. But it is always the place, rather than the people, that takes center stage.

It should be understood right up front that this is a work of historical fiction. (Fiction being the operative word.) Don't expect to learn the history of England from reading this book. But the occasional real historical figure is thrown in now and then, and there is enough about the actual events that were going on at the time that I often found myself wanting to learn more about the real history. (And to me, that's a sign of good historical fiction.)

When my husband first saw me with this book, he made a kind of "pffftt" noise that translated roughly into "There's no way in hell I would ever read a book that long." To his credit, he has recently learned that books can actually be read for fun, and aren't just torture devices used in schools. But for him, it still has to be a quick, exciting read in order to entertain him enough to keep going. If you also fall into this category, I advise against picking this one up.

The good thing was that every chapter jumped forward in time, sometimes a few decades and sometimes several centuries. The new characters were somehow tied to the previous ones each time, but it was really like a new story every time, that just happened to be about people that lived in the same place as the people in the last story. (I'll admit that at first this was kind of jarring, but once I got used to it I thought it worked well.)

So if you like historical fiction, and aren't turned off by really long books, you might enjoy this one as I did. And if nothing more, you'll get to feel an enormous sense of accomplishment when you finish it. :)


  1. Sounds similar to James Mitchner's work - I am a fan of his - may have to pick it up from the library, if I can find it there. 1000+ pages is quite an accomplishment - WTG :D

  2. I wasn't familiar with James Mitchner; I had to look him up. And yes, his work sounds a lot like Rutherfurd's. Next time I'm ready for an epic I might have to pick up one of Mitchner's books - thanks for the tip!

    It's funny - when I looked up Mitchner on Amazon I read reviews of a few of his books, and one of the reviewers put it perfectly: "Sometimes it's nice to read a small book, a quick 150-300 page diversion from the real world. At other times, however, it's nice to read a book with some real "meat" to it."

    That's exactly why I enjoy getting into a good 1000+ page book. You really get to sink your teeth into it and go on a sweeping journey. It's not for everyone, but I love getting lost in a book like that now and then.