Just finished Ken Follett’s novel, A Place Called Freedom. I’m a mixed fan of Follett. He creates these amazing, sweeping historic tales that cover a lot of ground. And, yet, there’s so little emotion on the page. It’s difficult to become emotionally invested in his characters (and even for long periods to tell them apart.)
What bothered me in this novel was the character of Jay. At the front end Lizzy falls in love with him and turns down the evil brother Robert for the kinder one, Jay. I guess she’s pushed into all this by her desperate mother. Anyway, after they marry, Jay becomes exactly like Robert. It’s strange and incongruous and even shocking. Then, the Jameson family take everything from Lizzy and she barely reacts. Also, shocking to me.
The novel begins in 1766 and travels from Scotland to England to Virginia. It barely deals with the ideas of freedom in America. It only views them from Jays imperialist views. So, for someone who so often handles history well, Follett seems to skirt those simmering ideals.
What I did like was the exploration of the indentured servants and of convicts shipped to America and needing to work off their seven years. Although, this was really just an idea that was mentioned but not deeply explored. We didn’t see any of the convicts or servants come up against their releases after 7 years. This would have been interesting and a nice parallel construction to how the 1766 part begins.
Finally, Follett began with someone finding an artifact and because of the artifact the story is told. But, we never return to the original source of experience or information. That bothered me from a writer perspective. So many missed opportunities to parallel and frame and better craft the story. But, when you sell millions of books and get things made into movies, perhaps you don’t have to worry so much about craftsmanship.