Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 302
A Column of Fire is British writer Ken Follett's 2017 novel centered on the romance between characters Margery and Ned. It is the third book of a trilogy.
Though the relationship between Margery and Ned form the core of the story, its setting in sixteenth-century England is equally critical for Follett's tale of intrigue, statecraft, and the destructive power which social factionalism can have upon an individual's relationships and liberty. The book's most important quotes are those which orient the reader to this unique and different epoch.
When Donal Gloster, a Puritan clerk, is accused of heresy and told he is to be tried in court he is shocked. Gloster's terror has less to do with the accusation as with the potential inquisition itself. As he mulls his fate, Gloster helps draw the reader into the view of the era:
Trials rarely found men not guilty. The general view was that if a man were innocent he would not have got into trouble in the first place.
Follett carefully uses the voices of his characters to communicate to the reader notions like this, which are counter-intuitive to modern perspective. This is an era of turbulence and tumult in which contemporary concepts have not yet taken root. Follett employs internal monologue to drive this point home:
The simple idea that people should be allowed to worship as they wished caused more suffering than the ten plagues of Egypt.
And, in reference to Margery's Catholic brother Rollo Fitzgerald:
For him, there was no room for compromise. The Catholic Church was right and all rivals were wrong.
It is not just ideologies in which Follett must orient the reader, but also ways of life. This he accomplishes at various points in third-person narrative. For example:
Most people bathed twice a year, in spring and in autumn.
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