Take a walk in 12th century England
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Ken Follett is an always engaging writer of thrillers with a lot of brain spent on background. This mammoth (973p.) historical novel is a fully filled-out picture of life in England a couple of generations after William the Conqueror. His village setting brings together an earnest, intelligent prior, a minimally pious mason who dreams of building a cathedral, a bishop who sees wealth and power as the fulfillment of his religious vows, and a hierarchy of rulers most of whom are unregulated brutes. This is a wonderful story of fully realized men and women living through a time of deep faith, chancy welfare, savage cruelty, houses where a private room is rare, and horsemen enter the common room without dismounting. If you read this, I'd guess that you won't be able to resist the sequel, just out and 20 years in the writing.