Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd

I finally finished the beast of a book!

Sarum doesn’t really fit with the typical books I review around here – it fits firmly in the historical fiction realm in the mold of a James Michener book. So, this review will be a bit shorter than I typically write (not that most particularly long).

Sarum is the story of the region around Salisbury in southern England – we begin with its initial settlement in the Stone Age. Following the decedents of the original settlers and newcomers through time in a series of short stories, we see the coming of the Bronze Age, the Celts, the Romans, the Saxons, and the Normans. We have stories set during important events throughout English history including the War of the Roses, the beginning of the Anglican Church, the black plague, wars with the French and the Spanish, the Napoleonic Wars, and more. It is a great way to tell the history of England through the eyes of one of its oldest settlements – Sarum.

This book plagued me with the same issues I’ve encountered with Michener – it was hard to get through. Not because it was badly written or uninteresting, but because it was long. I found when I got to about the half-way point (somewhere in the 1400's) I had to break it up by reading other books in between stories. I wish some areas had been covered more (the early history of the Picts and Celts – especially in terms of religion), but that would make a long book even longer.

If you’re a fan of Michener-style historical fiction, this is a good book for you, and it’s a great way to pick up some history for someone like me who has had little in the way of European history. Anyway, on my 10-point scale I give Sarum a 6.5 – it’s good, but I had to set it aside from time to time.

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