Sarum is the sweeping epic of England, a rich history that blends the ancient and the modern, beginning with the Ice Age 10,000 years ago and transporting the reader through the worlds of Stonehenge, the Black Death, the Industrial Age, World War II, and ending in modern times. It follows the fortunes of five families: Wilson, Godfrey, Shockley, Mason, and Porteus. Witness how changes in political, social, and economic climates affect these families and witness how the landscape is transformed over time. From the unspoiled land of the five rivers to the ritual and spiritual centers of Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral to the bustling commercial and industrial centers of the modern age, Rutherfurd interweaves history with fiction to create a seamless tale that will endure across the ages.
Though several chapters seem to drag with the story and characters, you can still learn a lot about the history of England — many parts of the novel actually read like a history book — and you will learn how the country arrived at its modern state. You will understand how the social climate changed dramatically with the coming of the Black Death and how the legislative system developed over time to make England unique. I particularly enjoyed the earlier chapters, those dealing with the Stone Age, the Roman occupation, the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons, and the medieval period, which included the construction of the famous Salisbury Cathedral. I felt the stories and characters were much more entertaining than those in part two of the book, “New Sarum.” Despite the slow going of some of the chapters, Rutherford’s impressive storytelling ability does not get lost in all the history.
Definitely worth the read. Rutherfurd seems to have done his research well, though as with all historical books, I’m sure there will be debate concerning the accuracies of various parts. It’s a book you will want to read more than once, as much for the entertainment as for the history.