Boy, I read Pillars of the Earth a long time ago, 1989, when it was first published in hardback. I like Follett's thriller-mysteries, but I recall reading the jacket and thinking that this isn't anything like Eye of the Needle or Lie Down With Lions. I love historical fiction as long as they're tomes (think Edward Rutherfurd), and Pillars was, according to the jacket, about the life of the architect of a Gothic cathedral in England in the 12th century, when Gothic architecture was still new to England. The architect has many, many European adventures before learning about Gothic design, and these adventures, this background, just riveted me, so that, when he started building the cathedral, I was so immersed in this man's life that, despite its thickness, I seriously had trouble putting this book down.
For me, it was one of those books that so envelops the reader in the era and the circumstances of the protagonist that, when it's finished, you're depressed. Not seriously depressed, but there's a loss, because of the investment in the "life and times," as it were. Characters are so thoroughly developed, and the era is so . . .so, real! It's almost as if Follett found some Medieval letters from various families in the same village, and "rewrote" the letters in novel form. (Follett, bless his soul, has written an equally engrossing successor. Part 2, as it were, called World Without End, taking place during the Black Plague, and following descendants of the main characters in Pillars.)
Let me say that Pillars is so satisfying a read, that you almost feel like smoking a cigarette afterward.
This was one of the most annoying books I've read in several decades. The writing was clunky and cliche-ridden. The characters were (mostly) wooden and unbelievable and the dialogue was an embarrassment to anyone who can speak. (one high-ranking priest says to another: "this place is a dump")On top of that the plot was clearly cranked out by a computer program. Every goal of the good guys is met with a number of obstacles -two or three- but then after either self-doubt or weakening … more
I actually hated this book. I remember at one point becoming completely fed up and throwing the book across the room. I practically always finish the books that I start, but not this one. Maybe the fact that I was so emotionally involved suggests that it is actually a good book, but one that I just couldn't stomach. The plot, setting, and characters are all good. I especially like the vivid imagery and description of life in the middle ages in … more
I used to work in a bookstore and occasionally I would see these books come through with Oprah's seal of approval, and generally I would just shelve them and forget about them. I do not take reading cues from Oprah. However, something about this weighty historical fiction caught my eye. I don't know if it was the simple, yet aesthetic nature of the book cover, or the fact that it was summer time and I was looking for something other than either mystery/crime novels or … more
This is one of those books that literally has it all: love, lust, hate, death, birth, starvation, redemption, and cathedrals. While the building of cathedrals is a main theme, don't overlook the fully-realized characters, and the way the author weaves them all into a memorable story. Very long, but definitely worth a read.
The quality of the character development in this book by Ken Follett made me think of Tolstoy. The first CD is so-so and hard to get into, but by the middle of the 31-disc set I was leaving the engine on in my car after arriving at my destination because I wanted to hear what would happen next. Why I liked it so much: Historical fiction that taught me about architecture and politics. Strong female characters you really care about. You get inside the … more
The Pillars of the Earth is a historical novel by Ken Follett published in 1989 about the building of a cathedral in Kingsbridge, England. It is set in the middle of the 12th century, primarily during the time known as The Anarchy. The book traces the development of Gothic Architecture out of the preceding Romanesque Architecture and the fortunes of the Kingsbridge priory against the backdrop of actual historical events of the time. Although Kingsbridge is the name of an actual English town, the Kingsbridge in the novel is actually a fictional location representative of a typical market town of the time.