This is a tome. It's over 1000 pages, so be prepared to take some time with it. This is Edward Rutherfurd's debut novel. It's the second book I have read of his.
What I loved about Sarum is that it is clear massive amounts of research went into this book and Rutherfurd has a passion for England. I also love England and have had the privilege of visiting a few times. My favourite parts in the book were probably about Stonehenge. I was able to visit Stonehenge on my first visit to England, back when you could still walk up to the stones and touch them. Now they have a walking path with ropes to set boundaries on how close you can get. Regardless, it is fascinating and reading about Stonehenge in the book allowed me to relive my visit and helped me see it in a new way through the character's experiences of it.
I have great respect for Edward Rutherfurd and his writing. He takes on time! Sarum begins with the ice age, some 20 000 years before Christ, up until the time the book is first published in the 1980's. His novels, at least the two I've read and it seems others as well, are a way of learning the history of a particular country or city without feeling like you are reading a history textbook.
Taking on such a grand scope of time, is admirable; it can also lead to a few downfalls. There's a lot of things to cover in tens of thousands of years and because of that it can become quantity over quality. That was my experience with this particular novel. I was interested in Stonehenge, as I've said. Then for a period of time I was not engaged with the novel at all, until we got into the 1200's, then wavered again before getting into the 1800's. It became too much for me and I was not invested in any of the characters.
Rutherfurd, because of the amount of time he is covering, also writes multi-generational stories focusing on a few key families. I like the concept of a family saga. Some of the characters in Sarum are interesting. I think they had potential for so much more. I do like how he connects the families from generation to generation. Maybe this goes without saying, but I wonder for this novel, if the focus was so much on England (which I know is in the title) that the characters were sacrificed. I think I would have preferred a shorter time span with characters who had more depth and development to them.
I don't regret the read and will read more by Rutherfurd in the future. I think the important thing, if you are going to read Sarum, is to be aware of the distinction that England and its history is really the story; it is not the characters as the story within the setting of England throughout history. With this understanding, and a desire for knowledge about England, I think the reader would have a real appreciation for the book.
Bookworm Rating: 🐛🐛🐛