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March 23, 2011

Sarum: the novel of England

Edward Rutherford -
ISBN 0-517-56338-X

This expansive and fascinating novel pursues the 10,000 year history of England from its earliest occupation by primitive hunters, thru its varietal wars, the evolution of governments, and the industrial revolution, with coverage up to its publication in 1987. From the last ice age thru the time of Stonehenge there is no documentation, hence the events are a best guess manufacture, yet he does this intriguingly. From pre-Roman times, however, there is increasing legend and documentation; his exhaustive research shows, and the narrative is well constructed.

The area the Romans called Sarum is both title and site of the story: the Salisbury plain of south-central England, where ruins of ancient civilizations are most prominent and plentiful, beginning with Stonehenge.

Great changes were wrought by the serial invasions and occupations by Celts, Angles, Saxons, Romans and Vikings amongst others. He peruses families--five in particular--from their ancient roots to the present, and it is interesting to follow the tradesmen and nobility from these early times, observing how they preserve their familial characteristics over centuries. He explores the evolution and diversity of names, coats of arms, weapons, occupations, etc.

There is discussion the construction of Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral, of epidemics of the Black Death, and wars from those of the earliest settlers thru the Reformation, the American Revolution, and the two World Wars. As well, the industrial age, Victorian reforms, government, up to and thru modern tracts on parliamentary government . . . all of those things which most impacted British civilization as it is today.

It is a wonderful novel, and well worth the time to read. It is available in a mass market paperback (978-0-8041-0298-8), but in that format it is difficult to read. I'd suggest purchase of a used copy of the original hardbound (0-517-56338-X). You'll find many copies from $2-$7 (and up $170 for signed, first editions.)

Posted by Curmudgeon at March 23, 2011 11:45 AM