Author: Ken Follett
Series: The Pillars of the Earth #1
Published: 2002, 2007 by Pan in the UK.
Length: 1088 pages
Warnings: graphic violence, graphic rape, graphic sex
Other info: There is a sequel, World Without End. There was a miniseries of this. Ken has written lots of books.
Summary : The 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: The 1000 page book, overall, tells of the building of a cathedral. Included in that we have romance across all generations, tensions among family, church corruption, and drama every step of the way.
I read this book because one of my friends gets excited by it. Really excited. As in fangirling to everyone without pause for breath excited. I had to see what this was all about, especially seeing as it concerns the medieval period, which I loved studying in year 7.
You’re instantly pulled n with a hanging. You soon meet Tom and family. His wife dies after childbirth, leaving starving Alfred and Martha and Tom to carry on looking for work, leaving the child at the roadside. He gets taken in by a monk who is brother to Philip, one who has been at the church for most of his life and despairs at badly run priories (like his). Meanwhile, Tom meets Ellen, her son Jack, and travels with them. Years later, the civil war over the throne of England leads to Aliena and her brother getting kicked out of their earldom by Wililam of Hamleigh, and they travel. All these characters meet at Kingsbridge, where a cathedral is being built.
It’s all set up quickly, and the world, the setting of Medieval England is put across so well via the language and atmosphere and tone, you really feel like you’re there.
All the characters are really well developed. My favourite is Aliena, despite the fact that she is thrown out of her home and she suffers rape and torment from William, she stands up for herself, becomes a successful woll merchant, and is generally awesome. I also really liked Philip, who is a sane churchman, amongst the corrupted ones, who does the best he can for families and his church. Also Ellen, who just did what she wanted, never mind the consequences. Overall, I liked all the characters apart from William, for whom asshole just doesn’t cover it. His treatment of women, well actually everybody, was downright awful. You are warned.
Despite its length, I got through Pillars of the Earth in a week. It’s such a compelling book that you just have to keep reading-the backstory, the lack of unbearable waffling and the pace meant I got on really well with this book.
There’s a lot of timeskips, which work plotwise, but are annoying because I’m not good at mentally aging people. One character starts age 30 and ends 50. Vision issues.
Overall: Strength 5 tea to an epic historical. Must read book 2 soon. (edit:: I did.)