Sarum by Edward Rutherford is an epic novel about the area of England known as Sarum. This novel, of more than one thousand pages, spans more than 10,000 years, covering the span of English history from primitive times to modern times.
This was an interesting read, I started it a couple of weeks before we took our 16 yr old granddaughter to the area. I was hoping to finish it on the plane over, or bare minimum, as we were traveling between locations. No luck. I should have started it much sooner, weighing in at a hefty 2.8 pounds, I was glad to have a digital version!
It opens in primitive times, 7,500 years before Christ. There is a very primitive society of hunters with small groups banding together and living in huts. One of the hunters, his woman, and their children migrate to the south for better hunting. They meet another family, who leads them to Sarum, where they settle. Their descendants remain in the area for centuries.
This historical novel is basically the saga of five families, some direct descendants of the first families, while others descended from the ancient Romans, Saxons and other groups that came to the area and remained. As Britain changes, the families change with their fortunes coming and going. Their lives and intertwined through events and marriage.
Sarum explains how places like Stonehenge were built as a great temple to the gods so the great chief Krona would have a male heir. During Christian times, the great cathedral at Salisbury is constructed, filling the lifetime of Osmund the Mason. The reader watches then as Porteus, a Roman soldier who marries and remains in Sarum, constructs a Roman style villa with its rich mosaics and introduces Roman farming methods to the area, which improves the quality and quantity of the estate’s output.
The reader also sees the religious and political development of Britain through Sarum. There are the days of paganism with its human sacrifices and the building of the temples and the barrows. There is the gradual transition to Christianity with the pagans practicing their rites in secret, a practice the Protestants followed many years later. There is the burning of the heretics under Mary Tudor and the Puritan burning of witches. The different Protestant sects struggled until they all came to live together peacefully.
The political development of England gradually changed from the great chiefs into a constitutional monarchy. The reader sees how the institutions like the Magna Charta, jury trials, and Parliament came into being and watches how various wars, both internal and external, are fought.
Through all of this change, life goes on for the five families, as they adapt and cope with their changing world in Sarum.
If you have an interest in Great Britain’s history and enjoy epic novels, I think you’ll find it fascinating.
At least you won’t have to research your next book anytime, soon!