Ken Follett has to be one of the most inconsistent authors I’ve ever read. Pillars of the Earth is a masterpiece, while some of his other work is second rate, or patchy at best.
I recently finished The Third Twin. It started with a mix of soap opera, teenage tripe and miscellaneous rubbish before developing into a rather good novel.
A Place Called Freedom is much better, and in my view it’s the second best of his books that I’ve read so far.
It starts in 18th century Scotland, where a coal miner challenges the prevailing view that he’s owned by his employer for life. Mack McAsh confronts the Laird and begins a lifelong entanglement with the nasty Jamisson family.
He escapes, but through a series of remarkable coincidences (yes, I’m being sarcastic) he confronts the evil Jamissons at every turn, including in the wilds of Virginia.
McAsh leads a coal heavers’ strike against the shipping giants, including of course the Jamissons. He saves Lizzie Jamisson’s wife from rape before being arrested by Jay Jamisson over a contrived riot offence. As a convict sent to America he’s forced to work on a Jamisson tobacco farm. Jay self destructs, leaving Mack to steal his wife and horses and head for the frontier.
Jay pursues them, only to be killed by Indians.
Despite the unlikely storyline it’s a moderately powerful book with plenty of old-fashioned conflict between goodies and baddies. The narrative flows nicely, with none of the stilted passages that annoyed me in Third Twin and Eye of the Needle.
Follett’s work covers a wide range from historical fiction to Second World War military exploits. The man is obviously talented, albeit inconsistent.