Week #12 – Ken Follett – A Place Called Freedom


This week’s blurb breakdown is Ken Follett’s book, A Place Called Freedom. At the time of writing it was No. 1 in the UK’s Amazon charts.

Here’s the blurb…

Here’s the Amazon link for a closer look

The breakdown…

Opening hook: Set in an era of turbulent social changes, A Place Called Freedom is a magnificent historical fiction novel from the undisputed master of suspense and drama, Ken Follett.

At first glance, the first part of this sentence of this hook doesn’t seem to be doing much. BUT act-chew-ally it’s instantly signalling the genre, and the word ‘turbulent’ helps to set the scene. The second part – repeats the title to help it stick in readers minds, reiterates the genre, and builds the status of the author all while signalling the type of book it is. Whew, that’s a lot for one line.  

Sub head: A Life of Poverty

I like the use of subheads. It helps skim readers, and the white space breaks up the copy and frames the content of the paragraph that follows. This one, ‘A Life of Poverty’, sets the overarching theme and the background of one of the main characters. 

Body copy: Scotland, 1767. Mack McAsh is a slave by birth, destined for a cruel and harsh life as a miner. But as a man of principles and courage, he has the strength to stand up for what he believes in, only to be labelled as a rebel and enemy of the state.

By starting with ‘Scotland, 1767’,  we quickly and easily get located in time and place. It doesn’t get in the way of itself. It’s kinda like using ‘said’ as a dialogue tag.

We’re also introduced to the main character, his current situation, and his future challenges. It doesn’t get bogged down with extra details rather it stays focused on the theme of poverty. Then it sets up the kind of man he is, his character traits, this helps to build an image of him in our minds, it builds empathy, and resonates with readers—we would all like to think that we have the strength and courage to stand up for what we believe. The final sentence paints him as the underdog, and we all love to get behind the underdog. 

Subheading: A Life of Wealth 

This is the opposite side of the financial coin and helps the reader transition from one character to the next. 

Body copy: Life feels constrained for rebellious Lizzie Hallim, as she struggles with the less cruel circumstances of wealth and privilege. Fiercely independent, she is engaged to a man she doesn’t care for, a landlord’s son and heir to an exploitative business empire.

Again, we’re not overly bogged down with the finer details here, rather the focus is kept on the Lizzies financial situation and the price she pays for being born into wealth. There’s the similar structure to this paragraph as the previous one:  we’re given their name, their financial situation, then a character trait and a challenge she’s facing in her life. As before it helps to build empathy to the character’s situation. 

Subheading: A Search for Freedom

The final part of the hook ties the two other parts of the hook together. Both characters are looking for freedom of some kind. I think it also creates a little open loop inviting readers to wonder if the pair do actually find freedom.  

Body copy: Lizzie finds herself helping Mack after he becomes a fugitive. Separated by class but bound by their yearning for freedom, they escape to London. True freedom, though, lies further afield, in a new life that awaits across the Atlantic Ocean.

The third paragraph, as I say, brings both character’s lives together. It opens a few questions in the reader’s mind, firstly :how does Lizzie find herself helping Mack, and what the heck has Mack done to become a fugitive. The next sentence (separated by class, etc.) reinforces the overall plot and the conflict the two face. It also adds another open loop: why do they head to London? The next bit suggests that they’re still not safe in London and ends with the promise of adventure and discovery. 

In summary

Overall, it’s a good description, fits the genre, and sticks to the core theme of the class divide. It’s got a bit of a Romeo and Juliet vibe about it. Hasn’t it?

What do you think?

Have you got any questions about it?

Want to suggest a book description to breakdown?

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