- Hardcover: 973 pages
- Publisher: William Morrow (December 18, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0688046592
- ISBN-13: 978-0688046590
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 2.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 16,436 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #556,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Pillars of the Earth Hardcover – December 18, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
With this book, Follett risks all and comes out a clear winner, escaping the narrow genre of suspense thrillers to take credit for a historical novel of gripping readability, authentic atmosphere and detail and memorable characterization. Set in 12th-century England, the narrative concerns the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge. The ambitions of three men merge, conflict and collide through four decades during which social and political upheaval and the internal politics of the church affect the progress of the cathedral and the fortunes of the protagonists. The insightful portrayals of an idealistic master builder, a pious, dogmatic but compassionate prior and an unscrupulous, ruthless bishop are balanced by those of a trio of independent, resourceful women (one of them quite loathesome) who can stand on their own as memorable characters in any genre. Beginning with a mystery that casts its shadow on ensuing events, the narrative is a seesaw of tension in which circumstances change with shocking but true-to-life unpredictability. Follett's impeccable pacing builds suspense in a balanced narrative that offers action, intrigue, violence and passion as well as the step-by-step description of an edifice rising in slow stages, its progress tied to the vicissitudes of fortune and the permutations of evolving architectural style. Follett's depiction of the precarious balance of power between monarchy and religion in the Middle Ages, and of the effects of social upheavals and the forces of nature (storms, famines) on political events; his ability to convey the fine points of architecture so that the cathedral becomes clearly visualized in the reader's mind; and above all, his portrayals of the enduring human emotions of ambition, greed, bravery, dedication, revenge and love, result in a highly engrossing narrative. Manipulating a complex plot in which the characters interact against a broad canvas of medieval life, Follett has written a novel that entertains, instructs and satisfies on a grand scale. 400,000 first printing; $400,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild main dual selection; author tour.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
A radical departure from Follett's novels of international suspense and intrigue, this chronicles the vicissitudes of a prior, his master builder, and their community as they struggle to build a cathedral and protect themselves during the tumultuous 12th century, when the empress Maud and Stephen are fighting for the crown of England after the death of Henry I. The plot is less tightly controlled than those in Follett's contemporary works, and despite the wealth of historical detail, especially concerning architecture and construction, much of the language as well as the psychology of the characters and their relationships remains firmly rooted in the 20th century. This will appeal more to lovers of exciting adventure stories than true devotees of historical fiction. Literary Guild dual main selection.
- Cynthia Johnson Whealler, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, Mass.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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But, wanting to look cool I decided to give it a try. Honestly, it didn't sound like anything I'd be interested in... so I didn't have any expectations.
And then I started it, and whoa man. I got sucked in.
There's so much drama in this book. Right when you think one thing is resolved, something else pops up. Oh, and I cried. I don't even know how many times. I also lost a lot of sleep.
Despite the amount of pages, I flew through this book.
This takes place over an amount of decades with lots of characters. But they're all written so well, even the ones that only show up for a couple pages, that they are all distinctive. And there are so many intertwined stories, but there wasn't any times where I was confused about what was going on.
After finishing it, I brought it to my dad and told him he has to read it. I very rarely make recommendations to my father. (This is the second book I've told him to read in the last five years.)
Major thing to point out - the woman in this story are ah-may-zing. Yes, it's historical and things were different back then. But they were all written as strong, independent, and Ellen was totally the most sane character in the entire book. My only complaint is that there wasn't enough focus on her.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes drama and has any interest on 12th century England.
The Welsh author, Ken Follett, has written a tome about the building of a cathedral in the imaginary village of Kingsbridge, England, in the 1100s. He stipulates that he is not a believer and that his ambivalence about writing this historical novel lasted for years. However, at some point in his life, he became enamoured of and obsessed with cathedrals, and visited many of them prior to putting words to paper. The novel occurs within the context of ecclesiastical versus imperial power, as well as during the Civil War between King Stephen and the empress Maud. This setting is similar to the situation during which the Brother Cadfael novels occur.
As mentioned in the title and the comment above, the overarching them of the book is the decades-long building of a cathedral at the Kingsbridge Priory, amidst much corruption, political manipulation, slaughter, and evil aimed at Prior Philip's Benedictine monastery. However, Follett has created a novel that possesses stories within stories within the primary theme. In it, we meet some of the most loving, if sometimes eccentric, people, along with destructive, power-seeking, and envious ecclesiastical and political figures. Follett does not spare anyone her or his weaknesses and faults, including the most significant protagonists. Nor does he cease to decry the sheer brutality of Earl William and Bishop Waleran Bigod, the primate of Kingsbridge.
The author creates a cast of many protagonists as well as antagonists who are central to creating destructive challenges for the Prior to build the cathedral. Church corruption is made clear, as is the use of political people and men-at-arms to effect the plans of Bigod to destroy Philip. Follett has clearly done considerable research, and blends historical persons with fictional characters very well.
At times, I thought the author could begin to tie up the narrative but he elected to create yet one catastrophe after another. In the beginning of the novel, the writing could be described as simplistic, but it evened off later into a respectable and engrossing narrative. If one is interested in Medieval history, the role of Church and State during this era, and a plethora of characters, plots, and subplots, this book is recommended. One gets a sense of monastic living, the lives of serfs and peasants, and the overall life of clerics in this work. In addition, the age-old themes of good and evil underlie all the dynamics in the story.
Follett, again quoting him from the preface, said that with such a long book, he had trouble coming up with the many twists and turns for the characters to experience. To his credit, none of the character's travails seem contrived. Everything in that happens seems perfectly plausible. One critical review that I read here said that a lot of bad things happen to good people. Okay, but the book is set in the Middle Ages. Arbitrary bad things were always happening. Life was often short and brutal.
At the beginning of the book, the plot seem to be veering towards the inclusion of supernatural elements, but thankfully everything that happens is firmly grounded in the real world.
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