Strict Picks that are less, "Here's a cool book coming out," and more, "If you haven't heard this is coming out this week, you may need to see if you've been under a rock." But that's okay. I'm insanely excited about both books, so I'm going to take a minute to indulge in exploring why.
It's a worthy question. What makes an author, or a series, worth essentially camping out for?
With Ken Follett, it is absolutely his ability to throw you into the world of his characters. I once was critiquing a query on Absolute Write for a historical fiction, and my comment was to compare the book to FALL OF GIANTS, which I was reading at the time. My note was, "Your query is all about the history. We know the history. I'm not reading FALL to find out how World War I ended. I know the Allies won, the League of Nations was formed, etc. etc. What I don't know is, did Maud and Walter get together? Did Billy Williams come home from the trenches? Did Ethel settle for something less than pure passion? Did Grigori ever find Lev?"
Those are the questions history can't create...but that Ken Follett can.
I remember when someone loaned me PILLARS OF THE EARTH. For the life of me, I don't remember what on earth they said when they loaned it, but I read it. And I was hooked. Yet every time I turned a page, I found myself going, "How on earth is it possible that I am this engrossed in a novel about building a cathedral?"
Follett is a master at creating characters who make you want to follow their stories. I admit fully that I haven't finished FALL OF GIANTS yet (I've been having format problems--do I want it in e-book? It's expensive in e-book, and for that price, I'd kind of rather have it on my shelf. But I don't like mass markets, which is the only inexpensive option. And the hardcover is HUGE. Plus there are two more in the series, and I'll have to wait awhile to get matching books if I don't get hardcovers... So I've been borrowing the ebook from the library and have to go to the end of the line each time I return it). But the fact is, each time I pick it up, I am excited to be thrown right back into the midst of the characters I care so deeply about. His characters grow and change, they have faults that you can see, you can predict where they're going to stumble, but also cheer them on when they don't.
And no matter how many times I pick up a Follett book, I don't lose track of the people in it.
To me, that is a sign of a fantastic book. Where each page takes you further on the journey of each character, and where you find yourself, in the absence of the story, wondering what happens to them while you're not reading. When you reach the end of a book and think, "Hmmm. I wonder how these families go on?"
And the beauty of Follett's Century Trilogy is that these questions are going to be answered.
So because he's made me want to stay on the ride for two more books, no matter how thick, today's Strict Pick is Ken Follett's WINTER OF THE WORLD, book two of The Century Trilogy. I won't reach it for a little while yet--I finally got FALL OF GIANTS back from the library and am tearing through it, but I'll certainly post a review when I do.
Stay tuned for next week, when I'll speculate on why I'm chomping at the bit to buy a book that crosses genres and audiences from anything I've ever known a particular author to write, with J. K. Rowling's THE CASUAL VACANCY.
Winter of the World at Indiebound
Winter of the World at B&N
Winter of the World at Amazon
Jessica S. Schley was once a pusher of very important papers for a small commercial nonfiction house. Nowadays, she divides her time between bookselling, being a grad student, and writing contemporary fiction for young adults.
- ▼ September (6)