A Place Called Freedom

A Place Called Freedom

1995 | Thriller | 592 pages

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

A Life of Poverty
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.
A Life of Wealth
Life feels just as 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.
A Search for Freedom
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 . . .
First chapter

Snow crowned the ridges of High Glen and lay on the wooded slopes in pearly patches, like jewellery on the bosom of a green silk dress. In the valley bottom a hasty stream dodged between icy rocks. The bitter wind that howled inland from the North Sea brought flurries of sleet and hail. Walking to church in the morning the McAsh twins,
Malachi and Esther, followed a zigzag trail along the eastern slope of the glen. Malachi, known as Mack, wore a plaid cape and tweed breeches, but his legs were bare below the knee, and his feet, without stockings, froze in his wooden clogs. However, he was young and hotblooded, and he hardly noticed the cold. Continue reading

Ken's view

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.


“Gripping…a very entertaining tale.” – Chicago Tribune


“The action and the tension should keep fans happily turning pages.” – Booklist


“A compulsive, sweeping adventure.” – Today


“Follett skillfully combines tension, eroticism, and an unusual locale.” —Detroit Free Press