Saturday, 16 April 2011

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Synopsis: Set in the turbulent times of the twelfth-century England when civil war, famine, religious strife and battles over royal succession tore lives and families apart, The Pillars of the Earth tells the story of the building of a magnificent cathedral.
Against this richly imagined backdrop, filled with intrigue and treachery, Ken Follett draws the reader irresistibly into a wonderful epic of family drama, violent conflict and unswerving ambition. From humble stonemason to imperious monarch, the dreams, labours and loves of his characters come vividly to life.

I actually read this almost a year ago but since World Without End is on my reading list I felt it would be right to start with this review.

Set in the 12th Century, this is an incredibly well researched, historical novel. If, like me, you love historical novels, then this is one you can get lost in. It sat on my shelf collecting dust for months as 1076 pages about building a cathedral just seemed a bit daunting to me. It is not a subject that you would expect to be very exciting; but set against a medieval backdrop of knights, earls and family politics it makes for riveting stuff.

The story follows Prior Philip as he fights a seemingly never-ending number of obstacles to keep his dream of building a magnificent cathedral in Kingsbridge. Tom Builder, the master-mason, and his gifted stepson Jack, take on this enormous and daunting task. It touches on all human emotions – love and hate, loyalty and treachery, hope and despair.

The characters are very well developed. But I found some of them, namely William Hamleigh, to be so cruel and vile I almost wanted to tear the pages from the book. Some things that occur are so unjust that it was just too much for me to bare and I had to put the book down for a few days! This story is a real struggle between good and evil. It took me a good month to read. But don’t let that put you off; it is definitely worth the time invested.

After reading it I can really appreciate how hard it was to build a cathedral like this in the 12th Century. It can take several life times. I had the incredible good luck of going to Paris last January for my birthday. When I went to visit Notre Dame this book immediately came to mind. I can’t think of a worthy word to describe how beautiful Norte Dame is. When you think about how much work went into creating a building like this… it just blew me away.

I’m giving this 4/5 stars. It loses a star because the injustices that occur were sometimes too much for me. But that is just me being soft! I invested a lot into Phillip and Tom and so it was hard for me to see them draw the short straws all the time. A brilliant novel that I would recommend to everyone.

Describe it in two words?  Monumental and Gripping 

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