As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

December 9, 2010

THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH by Ken Follett, 1989

The Pillars of the EarthFrom #1 New York Times bestselling author Ken Follett comes this spellbinding epic set in twelfth-century England. The Pillars of the Earth tells the story of the lives entwined in the building of the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has ever known-and a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state, and brother against brother.

Review by Laura Madsen, mom, veterinarian and writer

THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH by Ken Follett is one of the most memorable novels I’ve read. Mr. Follett recently won the ThrillerMaster award from the International Thriller Writers association, prompting me to reread the novel. (PILLARS is historical fiction, but Mr. Follett has written a number of thrillers.)

I first read PILLARS seven years ago on a trip to England. At the time, I knew nothing of the plot and hadn’t heard of the author. I only picked it because it was the fattest book on the shelf (the paperback is nearly a thousand pages) and I thought it would last me through the two-week trip. Once I started reading I was entranced. As we toured the great cathedrals of Ely, Salisbury, York and Westminster, the novel came to life for me.

The first line is a great hook: “The small boys came early to the hanging.” (Not a novel for the faint of heart; it was a violent time in history, after all.)

The novel is a historical fiction spanning several decades in the twelfth century. The primary protagonist is Tom, a stonemason who dreams of building a cathedral. Accompanied by his family he walks across southern England in search of a job. They are impoverished and starving when his wife dies in childbirth; Tom abandons the baby knowing that he cannot feed it.

Other plot lines follow Philip, a monk who becomes prior of Kingsbridge monastery and begins to build a new cathedral; Jonathan, the baby whom Tom abandoned; Ellen, a beautiful outlaw woman who cursed the churchmen who wrongfully executed her lover; Ellen’s peculiar son, Jack; Waleran, an ambitious abbot; William, a vicious young noble; and Aliena, penniless daughter of a deposed earl. Their stories are set against a tumultuous background of the massive cathedral construction project; the mystery of the unjust hanging of Jack’s father years before; and the bloody civil war between King Stephen and Empress Maud for the throne of England.

The writing is evocative, as in: “The gloomy interior smelled of old dirt and corruption..  And “A variety of unfamiliar smells pricked her nostrils, acrid and yeasty, sulfurous and smoky, woody and rotten.” And “A chill December morning dawned with rags and tatters of mist hanging on the trees like poor people’s washing.”

You’ll be engrossed by the intertwining stories and learn a bit about medieval ecclesiastic architecture as well.

Market: Adult fiction (historical fiction)
Sensuality: explicit
Language: moderate
Violence: explicit
Adult Themes: execution, sex, death, murder, religion, treachery, rape

Book formats:
The Pillars of the Earth (paperback)
The Pillars of the Earth (Kindle)

To learn more about the author, visit Ken Follett

1 comment:

Hannah said...

The Idea Room sent me!