Publisher: Pan Books
Length: 1076 pages
What the blurb says:
'Set in the turbulent times of 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. 'The Pillars of the Earth' is, without doubt, a masterpiece- and has proved to be one of the most popular books of our time.'
Opening Line: 'The small boys came early for the hanging.'
What's good about this novel?
Sometimes when you read the 'blurb' of a novel, the hype never quite matches the contents of the pages inside. However with 'The Pillars of the Earth', I think that this did.
The characters are fantastically constructed. They were believable, engaging and even though there are numerous characters within this novel, I felt that Follett paid equal amount of attention, to ensuring that all of his characters were formed fully.
What I particularly liked about the characters, was that Follett does not just divide them into 'good' and 'bad'. He writes in a way that shows the multi-facated and sometimes grisly, nature of the human race.
For example, the character Prior Phillip is not only a religious, good natured man, but he is also driven by ambition and has a slightly calculating nature, even though his actions were for the good of his people. I found William to be the most interesting because he was the most complex. In essence, he's pure evil, but Follett explores weakness and fear with this character too.
The story line is brilliant too. Previous to reading any of Ken Follett's novels, the only other author which I have felt could successfully use a multi-layered plot has been Kate Atkinson. Ken Follett, in my opinion, takes it to another level. Not only can he handle a numerous amount of characters within 'The Pillars of The Earth' without confusing his audience, but he writes the story in a way to make the different stories within the novel, seamless, but still providing many twists in the plot. At no point during this novel, was I ever able to predict what was going to happen and I was carried along on a very enjoyable journey.
What's wrong with this novel?
Even though I know that this added to the authenticity of the novel, I found that the parts in which Ken Follett described the concept of architectural techniques and descriptions of the cathedral, to be a little tiresome. I'm not a reader that likes a lot of description, so I have to admit that a couple of times at the first portion of the novel, I skipped some of the building descriptions. I was pleased that, as I read the novel, the descriptions became less frequent and there was more action. I also don't know what to make of the last few pages of the novel.
I also found this novel slightly slow at the start and it took me a while to get into 'The Pillars of the Earth'. However, I'm so glad that I persisted with this novel, because it's brilliant.
Is this worth a read?
If you are a patient reader, then yes. Some of the scenes within this novel are quite graphic, so if you are easily offended, this book might not be for you. I do think that these scenes were necessary however.
'The Pillars of the Earth' is compelling, extremely well written and even though this is a mammoth read, it's definitely worth persisting with. It's one of the best books I have read.