World Without End (novel)

World Without End (novel)

infobox Book |
name = World Without End
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = Cover art of "World Without End", UK edition (2007)
author = Ken Follett
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = UK
language = English
series =
genre = Historical fiction
publisher = Penguin (US edition)
pub_date = 9 October 2007
english_pub_date =
media_type = Print (Hardback)
pages = 1024 (Paperback, US edition)
isbn = ISBN 0525950079 (Hardback, US edition)
preceded_by = The Pillars of the Earth
followed_by =

"World Without End" is a 2007 novel by Ken Follett and the sequel to 1989's "The Pillars of the Earth".

"World Without End" takes place in the same fictional town as "Pillars of the Earth" — Kingsbridge — and features the descendants of some "Pillars" characters two centuries later. [ "World Without End" -] ] The plot incorporates two major historical events, the start of the Hundred Years' War and the Black Death. [ [ "World Without End" editorial reviews -] ]

Plot summary

The novel begins in the fictional city of Kingsbridge, England in the year 1327. Four children: Caris, Gwenda, Merthin, and Ralph go into the woods on All Hallows Day. Gwenda brings her dog Hop, who Ralph shoots with Merthin's homemade bow, foreshadowing Ralph's later cruel behavior. The children witness two men killed in the forest by Sir Thomas Langley, aided by Ralph. The children then flee, with the exception of Merthin. Sir Thomas asks him to help bury a letter, and then flees to Kingsbridge and seeks refuge in the monastery where he joins the Order of Saint Benedict, becoming a monk.

Ten years later, Caris and Merthin are in love. Gwenda is sold for a cow by her father to a chapman who intends to prosititute her at a woodsmen's camp. She kills one of the men while he is raping her and escapes. While she is followed, she is able to drown her buyer while the bridge is collapsing. Soon, however, tragedy strikes when the Kingsbridge Bridge collapses, killing many, including Prior Anthony. The sacrist, Godwyn, also the nephew of Anthony, eventually outwits the possible candidates, and wins the prior's position in an overwhelming victory. Godwyn claims to be a reformer, but turns out to be as conservative as his uncle was.

Godwyn quickly begins to clash with the town on a number of issues, including building and funding a new bridge and allowing the townspeople to full wool for a growing fabric industry. Caris, who becomes the alderman de facto for her father, is a particular problem. Godwyn charges her with witchcraft, in an attempt to execute her, despite her being his cousin, in order to get her out of the way. To escape execution, Caris agrees to join the Kingsbridge nunnery, and eventually becomes prioress, forcing her out of any position to marry Merthin, who leaves for Florence to pursue his building career.

Several years later, Florence is ravaged by the plague, or "la moria grande." Merthin returns to Kingsbridge with his daughter: Laura (Lolla.) There he finds Caris unwilling to renounce her vows, and the two go through a sporadic liaison.

Meanwhile, upon returning from the French Wars, Ralph is given a minor Lordship as a reward for saving the Prince of Wales. As part of this award, he was married to the fifteen-year-old Tilly who bears him a child. He murders her to free himself from the marriage, as he never loved her.

With the Death of the Earl to the Plague and the elimination of Tilly, Ralph has become the Earl of Shiring, finally realizing his dream of both becoming an earl and marrying the widowed countess Philippa. However, she spurns him, and eventually leaves for the nunnery, where she has a relationship with Merthin and conceives a child, Roland. Afraid of Ralph's wrath at finding out she is pregnant with Merthin's child she seduces Ralph to make him believe the child is his. As a result Merthin and Phillipa cannot continue their liaison.

Gwenda, the girl from the forest, has meanwhile overcome much adversity to marry Wulfric, a handsome village boy. His lands are denied to him after his family dies on the bridge, and his beautiful wife-to-be, Annet, leaves him. Gwenda tries to win Wulfric back his lands by having sex with Ralph, who never even gives them the lands. Her first son, Sam, is not Wulfric's child, but Ralph's.

Eventually, after much hardship, the people of Kingsbridge are freed. Godwyn dies, and Philemon, Gwenda's brother becomes his successor, who enjoys little power before leaving. Caris renounces her vows, after finally being able to run her own hospital, and marries Merthin. Wulfric regains his father's land. Davey, Gwenda and Wulfric's child, marries Annabel, the daughter of Annet. Merthin succeeds in building the tallest cathedral, and indeed the tallest building, in England. Sam and Gwenda kill Ralph.

The major characters are Caris, ambitious daughter of the city Alderman; Ralph, son of a disgraced knight; Merthin, Ralph's clever older brother; and Gwenda, starving daughter of a poor landless laborer. The four spend their entire lives trying to understand and protect the secret they share from that fateful encounter in the forest."The story revolves around the cathedral of Kingsbridge and its priory. In the time of "Pillars", the monastery had been a pious institution that encouraged learning and innovation; in the 14th century, the monks have become conservative and discourage modernization.

Major characters

*Merthin: A descendant of Jack Jackson and Lady Aliena (POTE). Also known as Merthin Fitzgerald, Merthin Builder, and Merthin Bridger. Son of the disgraced knight Sir Gerald and Lady Maud. A clever young carpenter, builder and architect who uses his intellect to his advantage and has a life-long love for Caris. He designs a radical new bridge before leaving for Italy and becoming successful in Florence. After his wife and her family are wiped out by the bubonic plague (in Florence), he returns to Kingsbridge with his daughter, Lolla, and builds a new hospital and tower for Kingsbridge Cathedral - the tallest building in England.

*Caris: The feisty daughter of Edmund Wooler, the Alderman of the parish guild, and a direct descendent of Tom Builder. As a child, she announces that she is going to be a doctor, but Mother Cecilia informs her that only men may be physicians. She refuses to accept this, however, and aims to do whatever she can to help the sick and needy. Her determination brings her into conflict with the church, and blights her relationship with Merthin. Uses common sense and observations to write a catalogue of cures, which becomes coveted by pharmacists throughout England. Enforces hygiene practices to inhibit spread of plague. The Angel watching over the people of Kingsbridge is designed by Merthin in her likeness, as many of the people of the village view her as a saint for her work to combat the Plague.

*Gwenda: The daughter of landless laborers in the village of Wigleigh; as a small child she is taught by her father, Joby, to steal to save her family from starvation; she steals Sir Gerald's purse, containing his savings to pay a debt, and therefore being partly responsible for his disgraced status and for the destiny of his two sons; becomes estranged from her family when she refuses to let her father sell her to vagabonds (as a repeated grift); though she never escapes poverty and tragedy, she uses her wits to better her situation and escape danger; not pretty, but sensual in her appearance; she is both desired and despised by Ralph; described as 'rat-like'; she loves Wulfric, despite the fact that he is engaged to Annet; sister to Philemon; lifelong friend to Caris, despite the great difference in their social class. She eventually kills Ralph to protect the secret that Sam is Ralph's son and not Wulfric's.

*Wulfric: Attractive and hard-working; son of a landed peasants of Wigleigh; hated by Ralph Fitzgerald because he does not let Ralph intimidate him; loses his birthright when family dies during the collapse of Kingsbridge bridge and he has no means to work the land; town politics (and Ralph) keep him from earning back his family's land; becomes impoverished but happily marries to Gwenda and has two sons (although, unbeknownst to him, one of them is not his). He is eventually, much to Ralph's disgust, given back his family's land as the Plague has killed all others capable of farming the land.

*Ralph Fitzgerald: Merthin's younger (yet taller) brother and complete opposite, considered to be a rapist and a murderer. A natural-born warrior, he is selfish, ruthless, and will stop at nothing to become an Earl. He holds his brother in great esteem and looks to him for approval. Has a lifelong obsession with Lady Philippa, who becomes his second wife; hates Wulfric. Eventually is killed by Gwenda and Sam as he is forcing Gwenda to have sex with him to prevent Wulfric from knowing the parentage of Sam.

*Godwyn: An older cousin of Caris and monk at the Kingsbridge Priory, Godwyn gives the impression of a reformer as he manoeuvers his election as Prior -- with the help of his scheming mother, Petranilla. Unable to imaginatively solve the Priory's financial problems, Godwyn, with continued advice from his mother, and with Philemon's loyal assistance, resorts to more conservative tactics to protect his position and advance himself politically, usually at the expense of the town and of the associated nunnery. Dies as he attempts to isolate himself and the monastery in the wilderness. Ends his life having achieved very few of his aspirations despite his cruel efforts.

Minor characters

*Mattie Wise: Kingsbridge's herbalist and midwife; leaves town abruptly when another citizen is accused of witchcraft; teaches young Caris to make herbal cures and healing practices; saves Gwenda's life when educated doctors and nuns fail to help her safely through delivering her first child; always instructs patients to pray to God, to avoid any claims of witchcraft or devil conjuring.
*Joby Wigleigh: lowest in Wigleigh social hierarchy; landless laborer; missing one hand from when caught stealing; lies, cheats, and steals to feed his family; sells his daughter Gwenda to outlaws for a cow.
*Madge Webber: Only surviving member of the Webber family, honest but poor, Caris changes the family fortunes by contracting them to weave and make dyed cloth. Husband Mark was the first Kingsbridge resident to die of the plague, her sons also died. Later she remarries and has a daughter.
*Alice: Caris' sister; resents Caris; married to Elfric, who takes Merthin as an apprentice; tries to trap Merthin into marrying her stepdaughter, Griselda.
*Griselda: Elfric's daughter from a previous marriage, seduces Merthin after her boyfriend Thurstan leaves town when he finds that she is pregnant. Attempts to make Merthin marry her to be a father for her child. Is frustrated by Caris as she finds that Griselda is several months along in her pregnancy and Merthin's liaison was only recent. Names her child Merthin out of spite, though all of the town realize that he is not Merthin's child.
*Elfric: Bitter and vindictive Master Carpenter, Builder. He sees Merthin as a challenge to his status and livelihood and does everything possible to make his life difficult. While alive resists attempts to admit Merthin to the Guilds as he never finished his apprenticeship. Dies in the first outbreak of the Plague.
*Annet: Pretty and flirtatious, but dull; uses her feminine charms to sell her family's eggs at Kingsbridge market and attract Wulfric; attracts unwanted attention from Ralph Fitzgerald and is later raped by him. Eventually breaks off her engagement with Wulfric when he is disinherited and marries another. Is never happy with life and eventually realizes the great mistake she made. Throughout life Gwenda views her as an adversary as she keeps flirting with Wulfric. Eventually at the wedding of their children the two are reconciled as Gwenda realizes that she has won.
*Buonaventura Caroli; Italian wool merchant who trades in Kingsbridge; friend to Edmund, and later to Merthin when he lives in Florence; assists Caris in developing "Kingsbridge scarlet" low-quality bright red wool fabric; brings Caris news of Merthin after he has settled in Florence.
*Lolla: Swarthy and beautiful; Merthin's daughter with his wife in Florence; survives plague in Italy as an infant; brought to Kingsbridge by her father after whole family dies of plague. Is a cause of consternation to Merthin for her rebelliousness in her early teens and eventually decides to follow in Caris' steps as a healer, apprenticing herself to Caris in her hospital.
*Bessie Bell: Tavern keeper; has a brief sexual affair with Merthin when Caris refuses him; cares for Merthin and Lolla when they return from Italy, before Merthin builds his own home. Dies in the first outbreak of the Plague and leaves the tavern to Merthin.
*Mair: A young nun and brief lover of Caris, with whom she travels to France, dies in first outbreak of the plague.
*Prior Anthony: Uncle of Godwyn and Prior of Kingsbridge at the beginning of the book. Is killed in the collapse of the first bridge.
*Prior Saul Whitehead: Nephew of the Earl of Shiring, Prior of Saint-John-in-the-Forest, is initially chosen by the Earl to be the new Prior of Kingsbridge, but convinced not to run due to the manipulation of Godwyn.
*Tilly: young aristocrat; educated by Kingsbridge nuns; married to Ralph in her early teens, gives Ralph one son before she is murdered; seeks refuge in nunnery.
*Bishop Henri of Mons: A good man, he is an unlikely ally of Caris' from her days as Prioress of Kingsbridge. Although the two have differences of opinion, he realizes that Caris is bright and successful. Has a relationship with his subordinate, Canon Claude that Caris is aware of, but never divulges. Fights against Philemon when possible.
*Thomas Langley: Man-at-arms that arrives in Kingsbridge at the beginning of the book. Together with Ralph, he kills two of the Queens' men after they attack him. Is injured in the fight and eventually loses his arm. Together with Merthin, he buries a message at the base of the tree. Becomes a monk to avoid retribution and tells Merthin that if he hears of Thomas' death, to bring the letter to a priest. Is a friend to Merthin and Caris and a foil to many of Godwyn's actions. He captures Ralph and brings him to justice for his many crimes, although Ralph is later pardoned by the king. Eventually dies an old man after the second outbreak of the Plague, suffering symptoms of advanced Alzheimer's. The secret is revealed after his death that the King Edward II was not killed, but rather he escaped and was alive in exile. The Queen and her lover had tried to kill him but had failed. This secret is eventually traded to the King in exchange for the promotion of Canon Claude to Bishop and the promotion of Philemon to Royal envoy to the Pope, permanently removing Philemon from the town of Kingsbridge.
*Philemon (Holger of Wigleigh): Ambitious monk, son of Joby and brother of Gwenda. For years he is Godwyn's loyal assistant. When the monks start to be wiped out by the Plague, he escapes and disappears for a long time. Eventually he succeeds Godwyn as Prior after he returns, when the Plague has run its course. Is dishonest and shamelessly self promoting. Has a penchant for stealing trinkets and keeps them in a secret hiding place. Aspires to become Bishop of Shiring, but is rejected after Merthin bargains with the King's man with his letter from Thomas Langley. In the end he becomes the royal emissary to the Pope and leaves Kingsbridge.
*Petranilla: Mother of Godwyn and sister of Edmund Wooler and Prior Anthony. She is very cunning. Her first husband dies before the events of the book take place. Closely advises Godwyn, sometimes against his will, and her plan leads to him winning the Prior election. Strongly dislikes her niece Caris. Dies in the first outbreak of plague.
*Edmund Wooler: Alderman of the Parish Guild and father of Caris and Alice. Brother of Petranilla and Prior Anthony. Carries on the family wool business after his father dies and his brother joins the Church. Often at odds with the Priors of Kingsbridge due to the fact that they don't often side with the interests of the townspeople. Dies in the first plague outbreak.
*Lady Philippa: Noblewoman and wife of Lord William of Caster, later Earl William of Shiring. She strongly dislikes Ralph for all of his life and, ironically, is forced to marry him after her husband William and both of their children die in the first plague outbreak. Late in her life she conceives a child with Merthin during a brief romantic stint while she is separated from Earl Ralph.
*Mother Cecilia: Prioress for much of the book. Very caring and loved by the entire town. Saves Caris from being executed by suggesting she join the nunnery. Dies in the first plague outbreak.
*Elizabeth Clerk; Foil to Caris, bright and educated, beautiful; wants to marry Merthin and nearly seduces him, but is frustrated by Merthin's unrequited obsession with Caris; enters nunnery when Merthin refuses her; politically opposed to Caris in nunnery politics, based on prior grudge.


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