Hidden by a Scottish river bank in the winter of 1767, Lizzie Hallim watches a naked figure emerging from the icy water. Mack McAsh is a slave and Lizzie is helping him escape. Mack challenges the mighty Jamisson family, which enslaves whole families to work their mine. Mack soon finds himself wrongly sentenced to death.
Rescued from hanging, he is transported to America, where he continues to struggle for freedom…
It blows my mind to think of the sheer nerve of eighteenth-century pioneers who went to America in tiny boats and set off to explore unknown territory, having not the least idea what was ahead of them.
Some people say A Place Called Freedom is rather political, but I never saw it that way. Relations between the rulers and the working class in the 18th century were so appalling that, even if you’re a modern conservative, you have to sympathise with the rebels. The main character, Mack McAsh, is a coal miner. At that time, coal miners were slaves in Scotland. Mack escapes to London and ends up in America. I set out to write an adventure story about a man coming from a very narrow environment, (a mining village in Scotland), and crossing the world to become a pioneer in America.
The prologue, about finding an iron collar in a twentieth-century garden, is quite unusual and people often ask me if it’s true. It’s not. Many 18th century novels pretended to be real and the prologue uses the same literary device. It gives the reader a sense of how much time has elapsed since the historical period of the story. People who know me realise I couldn’t possibly have found a collar in a flower bed because I’ve never done any gardening in my life.
I used a similar device at the end of The Man from St Petersburg, when I said that Charlotte is still alive and you can go see her. The idea is to remind the reader that someone who was a young woman in 1914 might still be alive today.
Listen to Ken’s view of A Place Called Freedom
Listen to an excerpt
- “A compulsive, sweeping adventure” — Today
- “Gripping historical narrative” — San Francisco Chronicle
- “Superb storytelling!” — West Coast Review of Books
- “An altogether entertaining reading experience!” — Minneapolis Star Tribune
- “History, romance and transatlantic adventure… an undeniably satisfying gallop” — Kirkus Reviews
A Place Called Freedom by Ken Follett — Crown Publishers, New York 1995.
Le Pays de la Liberte in French by Robert Laffont
Die Brücken der Freiheit in German by Lübbe
Un luogo chiamatoliberta in Italian by Mondadori
Un Lugar Llamado Libertad in Spanish by Grijalbo
De vlam van de vrijheid in Dutch by Uitgeverij Unieboek
Also published in many other languages, and available as an audiobook and as an ebook.