SARUM by Edward Rutherford

SarumEdward Rutherford’s SARUM is a remarkable book about the city of Salisbury and its surrounding environment that takes place over an amazing 10,000 years of time, from the end of the last Ice Age until the present day.

 

It took me a month to read it, a long time to read a book for me. But I found it to be quite the page-turner. It had a succession of strong characters and good plot twists that kept me reading.

 

The only caveat I have is that the whole premise of the novel is built on the old-fashioned view that blood runs true. So the Porteous family always has men who are stiff and socially awkward. The Shockleys include women who are strong-minded and beautiful with golden hair and blue eyes. The Forest-Wilson family consists of men who are secretive and manipulative.

 

This is an excellent literary technique for keeping the characters of each generation straight in the reader’s mind, BUT it is absolutely NOT true of the way things really are. What actually happens is that the genetic pool randomly selects traits for each person, randomly generating personalities, strengths and weaknesses for each generation. Of course, socio-economic status plays its rule, and sets these traits in a certain pattern. But the coming-to-be of a person is initially a random process. Which is why geniuses often seem to come from nowhere.

 

I wish that the author had addressed this in an Author’s Note, as the view that blood runs true has had pernicious consequences, especially in the 20th century. Five stars. A book club recommendation.

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