Set in the magical landscape of Stonehenge and the cathedral city of Salisbury, SARUM is an epic story of five families - the Wilsons, the Masons, the Roman family of Porteus, the Saxon Shockleys and the Norman Godfreys - through the turbulent course of English history from the Ice Age to the present day. SARUM is the story of English ancestral roots. REVIEWS
The family saga sweeps across millennia of settlement. Hwll the hunter, fleeing the rising seas at the end of the last Ice Age, finds refuge on Sarum's high ground. Nooma the stone mason builds Stonehenge for the astronomer priests and witnesses a human sacrifice; thirty-two centuries later, his descendant Oswald Mason builds Salisbury cathedral with its soaring spire, and falls into each of the seven deadly sins. Roman roads, the Celtic hillfort of Old Sarum, a Saxon convent, a Norman castle, a medieval market town, a Tudor country house, Georgian townhouses, Victorian cottages - all appear and live on in perpetuity in Sarum's echoing landscape.
SARUM contains drama and adventure. Cloth merchants prosper, knights are ruined; Protestants are burned, Catholics persecuted, witches tried. In the days of British Empire, Adam Shockley fights in the American War of Independence; Peter Wilson takes part in the great naval battle of Trafalgar; Jane Shockley tries to join Florence Nightingale as a nurse, before succumbing to a scandalous romance. There is also much fascinating research. We learn how Common Law began, how the Jews of Sarum were expelled, what really happened in the Black Death; how the independent people of Sarum threw both the Royalists and the Roundheads out of town, how the Industrial Revolution came to the countryside, and how Stonehenge was sold.
From the Daily Mail:
'A heck of a story...a grand read'
From the Daily Express:
'A high-speed cavalcade of our island story...a heady and sometimes sexy brew'
From the Chicago Tribune:
'Bursts with action, encyclopedic in historic detail...supremely well crafted and a delight to read.'
From the San Francisco Chronicle:
'A richly imagined vision of history, written with genuine delight.'
From the Sunday Sun, Toronto:
'Rutherfurd's...meticulous research makes the smallest detail interesting'
From the Argus of Capetown:
'If all history books were written in the manner of this masterpiece, children would adore the subject at school. It will stand side by side with Winston Churchill's volumes on English history on bookshelves throughout the world.'
From the Bookseller:
'Mr Rutherfurd's epic approaches a thousand pages and...it's a thundering good read...Mr Rutherfurd's characters...are placed on a canvas that stretches from the last Ice Age to modern times...Yes, all the great events are here including a pretty believable stab at that old mystery, the building of Stonehenge...
It is fair to assess the book on the basis of how Mr Rutherfurd has managed to make imagination leap over all the obvious pitfalls . That's too many characters...chasing too many events...Does he skimp on character in order to parade the history? Or does the charting of great deeds dominate the folk who undertake them? Well...not enough to worry about...the links are there and a feeling of continuity is achieved...it is certainly a great achievement. A sense of history was never more easily discovered.'
From the Vero Beach Press Journal:
'The history of these misty isles and the blending of the races who made that history is a deeply involved and captivating one. Rutherfurd's style, his dialogue, his characters, make the story unfold much a whipped cream pouring from a bowl - smooth, tasty, delicious. But does he bring off his heroic task? It takes guts to challenge the Michener magic and with such an ambitious task as the entire history of England. Oh yes, by George, he does...
Does Rutherfurd out-Michener Michener? Yes, and as a Michener devotee, I hesitate to say it. . . but Rutherfurd has gone one step further than the master by injecting smaller doses of hard historical facts, rather than pages of it, before getting back to his main characters. To read SARUM is to know a lot more about England thanyou ever learned at school.'
From the New York Times Book Review:
'EDWARD RUTHERFURD'S "Sarum: The Novel of England" narrates the history of the island from the end of the last ice age to the present moment, mixing an impressive amount of factual data into the fiction. Replete with maps and family trees, the book opens with an etymological note on the name "Sarum" (a traditional misreading of the medieval abbreviation for the Salisbury Plain area). Explicitly modeled on the Michener-type historical novel, which measures chapter breaks in half-centuries, "Sarum," Mr. Rutherfurd's first novel, immediately invites comparison with such books as "Hawaii" (another island saga) or "The Source" (about Israel and the Near East). James Michener, however, seldom chooses a locale already so crowded with literary evocations as England's central plain: Leon Uris (if not Moses) may get in the way of the reader's fresh response to "The Source," but Mr. Rutherfurd has the entire history of the English novel with which to contend. . . The weight and familiarity of the canon behind him adds resonance to Mr. Rutherfurd's episodes...Hardy's darker shadings of the Salisbury area necessarily haunt Mr. Rutherfurd's landscape, Dickens's politics dog his Luddites and Smollett's comedy rattles through his Bath...
Mr. Rutherfurd's carefully researched reconstruction from chapter to chapter of minute fiscal changes in his fictional society reveals economic history through often intriguing detail. England's economic evolution was glacially gradual, and in the book, we follow its slow turn into political history. Capitalism comes very early to Salisbury Plain (a fulling mill of 1244 is "a combination of capitalism and feudalism that was typical of the times"). Indeed it is there almost from the very beginning, in the character of the first long-toed thief, whose gene pool spawns numerous hard-headed (and hearted) merchants.
Running against the inexorable advances of the plot is the second major focus of interest for the reader: the dramatic irony of historical forgetfulness. Each successive period is almost completely ignorant of the era that has gone before. What the characters do not know, the reader is constantly being reminded of, and history begins to develop a sense of humor and pathos. Thus a poor, storm-beaten vagabond in 1480 prays for a sign from God as to which road he should take on his journey and is treated to a miraculous indicator in the form of a lightning bolt that burns an absolutely straight path across a cornfield (it points to London): "How could he know that buried underneath the cornfield, for a thousand years, a small, metalled Roman road had lain hidden, along which, since it was a perfect conductor, the huge bolt of lightning had earthed itself?" Medieval faith thus rests upon a technical fact shared by the imperial Romans and modern history...
Although the focus is pre-eminently on Salisbury Plain and its environs - which is indeed a rich field of archeological layers - an event need not happen there in order to figure as an episode. The story sweeps wide enough to encompass such historical turning points as the American Revolution and Nelson's triumph at the Battle of Trafalgar; the author simply sends a Sarumite to participate.
THE myriad individual stories are perhaps less varied than they might have been had the character types not remained (with significant deviations) so consistent within family units, or if they did not also vie with one another in fairly constant patterns. The masterly creation of the inner ring of blue stones at Stonehenge is the work of a squat stone worker who is tortured by jealousy, just as the exquisite carvings in the chapter house of Salisbury Cathedral are cut by a mason driven almost insane by lust. So, too, history repeats itself: Krona, king around 2000 B.C., forces a change in religion and tyrannizes his people because he is unable to beget a male heir; Henry VIII will later face the same problem with similar
A fundamental and profoundly conservative sense of continuity and social certainty is produced by such intricate repetition. A clever joke ends the book when a thief grabs a purse out of an unlocked car in a parking lot during a visit by the Prince of Wales to Salisbury Cathedral in 1985. This theft, at the bridge where the five rivers meet, repeats the depredations of the first prehistoric long-toed robber, from whom the modern thief has, in fact, descended. Charmingly venal, through 897 pages of English history, human nature stays reassuringly the same, and doubtless will do so until the sun finally sets on the next ice age.'
From Library Journal:
'A first novel, Rutherfurd's sweeping saga of the area surrounding Stonehenge and Salisbury, England, covers 10,000 years and includes many generations of five families. Each family has one or more characteristic types who appear in successive centuries: the round-headed balding man who is good with his hands; the blue-eyed blonde woman who insists on having her independence; the dark, narrow-faced fisher of river waters and secrets. Their fortunes rise and fall both economically and politically, but the land triumphs over the passage of time and the ravages of humans. Rutherfurd has told the story of the land he was born in and has told it well. The verbosity of a Michener is missing, but all the other elements are present, from geology and archaeology to a rich story of human life. Highly recommended.'
From School Library Journal:
'This sprawling novel follows the fortunes and losses of five families from the Stone Age through the present time. Each of the families can be identified through genetic characteristics handed down through the ages not simply physical characteristics, but attitudes and morals, too. There is plenty of action to keep readers motivated to finish the book. Rutherfurd has a style and energy all his own that should appeal to young readers of historical fiction. This book will be a hit with young adults who have the time and attention for longer
From the Washington Post:
'It's hefty. It's sweeping. And it doesn't work.
Rutherfurd's account of the creation of Stonehenge is informative and convincing, as are his descriptions of the construction of Salisbury Cathedral...The onset of the Black Plague as seen through the eyes of an infected sewer rat is also good...But these are rare occurrences in a narrative awash with gratuitous historical
Rutherfurd has stated that prior to this effort he "had been trying to write a historical novel for years, without the slightest success." This book does little to change that.'
Set in the magical landscape of Stonehenge and the cathedral city of Salisbury, SARUM is an epic story of five families - the Wilsons, the Masons, the Roman family of Porteus, the Saxon Shockleys and the Norman Godfreys - through the turbulent course of English history from the Ice Age to the present day. SARUM is the story of English ancestral roots.