Ken Follett and John Lee: Master Storytellers

It finally hit me, beyond a shadow of a doubt.  I’m in love with Ken Follett.  And, for that matter, John Rafter Lee, too. So, consider me the Number One member of their fan club. In fact, I am officially declaring myself a Ken Follett/John Rafter Lee groupie.

Ken Follett

Ken Follett (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, I’m obsessed! Though, you may be thinking, why? Why swoon over the likes of Ken Follett, an author who describes himself on his website as a, “Master Storyteller and Best-selling Author?”  And, who the heck is John Lee, anyway?? Well, more about him in a moment.

First, Ken Follett really is a master storyteller. He spins a darn good yarn. Clearly, the man does his research, whether writing about five families whose lives are intertwined during World War I and World War II, or the building of a cathedral in 12th century England.  Do you have any idea how long it took those guys back then to build one cathedral? We’re talking decades. Maybe even centuries!

So far, I have read two of Follett’s books and am halfway through a third. Though technically, I haven’t really read any of his books at all. It’s because I listen to them on audio! On average, the number of pages in each of his novels ranges from 1,000 to infinity. Talk about epic! There are only so many hours in a day, which is why, without the audiobook, I would be missing out on Follett’s tomes.

These are the ones I’ve listened to: Fall of Giants and Winter of the World, Books One and Two of his Century Trilogy (which, if I interpret this correctly, means that there is one more book in the series that I can look forward to!).

And, the book I’m currently listening to is Pillars of the Earth, which Follett wrote way back when. It’s a riveting account, detailing all the drama, politics and double-crossing involved in building a cathedral. I mean, really. Who thought building a cathedral could be so intriguing, and so enthralling?

John Rafter Lee, actor and professional narrator.

John Rafter Lee, actor and professional narrator.

In audio form, each of these books is between 30 and 40 hours long. Goodness. I’d lose my voice if I had to read aloud just one chapter! Which brings me back to John Rafter Lee.

I love Lee!  And I only know him by his voice! You could say, he had me at, “Hello.” I have listened to many an audio book, but none has kept me as rapt as Lee. He narrates all of Follett’s books, and while Follett might write the books, it is Lee who truly brings them to life. I cannot say enough good things about this man’s voice. It’s clear and crisp. Best of all, Lee, who has recorded the audio for other books as well (Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak and Tai-Pan by James Clavell), is able to capture every accent and nuance of the gazillion characters or so that are to be found in a Follett saga.

Take his most recent, Winter of the World. The main characters are Russian, British German, American, and Welsh. He does all the accents pitch perfect, as far as I’m concerned. Sure, Lee is an actor first, but he’s made a solid career out of recording audio books, and now I’m determined to listen to them all.

By the way, if you happen to run into either of them, please let them know they shouldn’t be frightened of me. Not in the least. True, I’m obsessed enough to stalk them, if not for the fact that they’re in England and I’m on this side of the pond.   So, let them know they can relax. For now, that is. One of these days, they might spot a crazed woman peering at them from behind a tree, in a very clandestine sort of way. You just never know.

Finally, I want to thank Anne and Don, a very sweet couple who were kind enough to introduce me to Ken Follett. After all, if not for them, I wouldn’t be hanging on to every word he writes and Lee utters.

Now, what are you reading?

22 thoughts on “Ken Follett and John Lee: Master Storytellers

  1. I recognize the name Ken Follet and with the two photos you have posted, I will remember the actor-narrator, too. KF is divinely good looking in a Richard Gere sort of way. I will have to pick up Pillars of the Earth as I love old cathedrals.

  2. I read Ken years ago, but haven’t picked up anything of his recently. I picked up an odd little book yesterday, British author, 500 plus pages and I am almost done. Silly story, another vampire tale, but the writing is good, it takes place in the UK (around where I used to live), and I like the voice of the main character. It’s called ‘The Dark Heroine’. I finished ‘The Winter Witch over the weekend. Still deciding if I like it or not. Main character can’t speak, so the reader is in her head a lot, which I don’t normally mind, except the story is told in 3rd person. The last books I listened to, the Harry Potter stories with the kids. Loved reading them and then listening to them, such a treat.

  3. Monica, Pillars of the Earth is brilliant is it not? just brilliant. I watched the drama on t.v too. I have to admit, it was more difficult to watch. I have ‘Fall of the Giants,’ not read it yet, but it’s awaiting a nice long holiday, so I can focus completely. Ken Follett deserves my undivided attention. I think he is one of the best writers of our time. I love an epic novel, so I’m already to go. I don’t do very well with audio books or Kindle because I have an odd obsession with a live book :-)( crazy, because books aren’t alive, they come alive for me, however) but I like it for my kids. We have a long commute from school. Now that you’ve mentioned Dr Zhivago and John Lee, I can’t wait to hear how he does a Russian accent.

    • MM, did you like the series? Was it well done? I recently bought it and am planning to watch once I finish the book. Also, like you, I am a big fan of reading actual books. In fact, until I started listening to John Lee, I found it hard to concentrate listening to audiobooks. It wasn’t the same. But Lee has me hanging on his every word. He reads as the actor that he is. He seems to know hundreds of accents. In fact, in Fall of Giants there’s a Russian family. He does the Russian accent magnificently!

  4. The commute (and the time to listen to audiobooks) is one thing we work-at-home types miss out on. And no way could I listen to a book while I’m working (or writing!). So, I haven’t had the pleasure of listening to these books. Thanks for showing me what I’m missing!

    • Guess what, Debbie? I don’t listen to audiobooks as part of my commute. I have a very short commute so it’s not worth getting into (because I get so engrossed) and then having to turn it off because I’ve arrived at work. No. I actually listen while I’m out walking Henry. Best of both worlds. I get so captivated, I take longer walks and Henry has a wonderful time smelling the flowers and whatnot. So if you and the Sheltie ever go for walks, you might want to consider listening to a book, too! Which means, now you have no excuses!

  5. I loved Pillars of the Earth! I read that one, but I do sometimes listen to audio books. They’re perfect for long car rides, housecleaning and painting walls. I’ll be on the lookout for books read by John Lee. Thanks for the recommendation.

  6. Hi Monica, I’ve only read Ken Follett once and agree he is a writer worth reading. However, I never can seem to get past the 1,000 page tome phobia. I have so many books in my reading queue that I never want to back it up with books over 500 pages. I guess you’ve convinced me that I need to give it a shot once in a while :>)

    • OMG, Susan, don’t let the number of pages in his books keep you away. If you choose one, make it Pillars of the Earth. It is stupendous. And do listen to the audio! Read my response to Valentine to learn why I think it’s worth a try.

  7. Oh yes, KF is wonderful. I read Pillars of the Earth and the one after, was it “Worth Without End?” Right now I’m reading a bit lighter fare…I loved Maeve Binchy and am reading her final novel, “A Week in Winter,” that she wrote before she recently passed away. I’m so sad about that.

    • Michael Ann, I think the other one is called “World Without End.” I hear it’s a sequel of sorts to Pillars. But I also hear it isn’t as good. Btw, speaking of, I just finished Part Three of the audio (there’s two parts left) and one of my favorite characters just died. I am so sad. It was quite a shocker of a scene. 😦

  8. I read The Third Twin on my honeymoon and I remember being unimpressed. But people speak so highly of Follet that I must give him another chance. I totally, completely respect your taste and so I will rush to the library and get me one of those books on CD. BTW, is Lee is handsome or what? Of course those headshots make everyone look good.

    • Start with Pillars of the Earth, if possible. It’s always fascinating to me to learn about a way of life in another time, century, and to discover the concerns and beliefs of people from that era. It’s so different from how we are now, and yet much is similar. If you love history, you’ll enjoy this book or the Century Trilogy, all the more.

  9. I am also a Ken Follett fan, have read several of his tomes including those you mentioned. I don’t listen to books, for some reason I am a diehard fan of reading. I want the book in hand, I want to turn the pages.

    I will read on Kindle if I am doing book reviews, but reading for pleasure this remains a real true book in hand.

    • Val, when I was little I used to go to story time at the public library. Also, I remember how in sixth grade, my English teacher would gather the class and take us outside where we’d sit under a tree and he would read to us. That was pure heaven. All of us loved Mr. Perma, how we were on the verge of going on to junior high, but we were still his children listening to him read to us. He had a wonderful voice and would keep us riveted. I think that’s what I love most about John Lee, the way I can be a kid again as he reads to me. It’s story time all over again. I recommend it heartily. Just once. Try it, just once.

      • I think that might be an issue, didn’t like being read to as a child either. Couldn’t sit still for it. Just hand me the book and I will read to myself, thank you very much. Even as a four-year-old.

  10. Ken Follett is an excellent author Monica I agree, I have read a few of his books and you can tell he has researched the subject. He is one of those authors where you know when you see the book you’re about to read has been written by him that your in for a treat.

    Eye of the needle, the Key to Rebecca and Storm Island are three I enjoyed

    At the moment I am starting to read the works of Dickens again, I did so some years ago and I think it’s about time I revisited them. The nice thing is if you dig most of his works are free for the iPad.

    Not a lover of audio books I must admit, I have tried them but they tend to send me to sleep.

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