Book Review: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet

About:
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet is set in Kingsbridge, England and mainly tells about the building of the cathedral in town. The novel was published in 1989 to excellent reviews and has become widely read despite its length, listed on the BBC’s Big Read (#33) and selected for the Oprah Book Club.

  • 983 pages
  • Publisher: Signet
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451166892

Book Review The Pillars of the Earth by Ken FolletMy rating for The Pillars of the Earth4

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Thoughts:
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet is one of those books that I pushed aside due to its length, however once I started reading it I certainly understood why many people liked it so much. The novel certainly has a lot going for it, a few engaging characters, interesting plot and wonderful explanations about architecture.

I found the author’s explanation about buildings, how technology developed to make the buildings stronger, very interesting.  The historical fiction aspect of the novel, how people lived, worked and acted during the 12th Century England, was also engaging.

The narrative flew by, mostly, some parts of the book I had to trudge through, but mostly my attention was kept inside the novel. Many of the characters, especially the males, are well defined and three dimensional. The only women which the book addresses prominently seemed to be distinguishable by name only.

The villain of this story, William Hamleigh, is a nasty piece of work, actually it was almost laughable at how bad he was. A very religious man that is petrified of ending up in hell, William goes about murdering, raping, stealing and conniving. For decades!
It didn’t seem believable to me, especially compared with the wonderful characterization of the other individuals in the novel.

I also have to admit that the last part of the novel, involving the assassination of Thomas Becket,  Archbishop of Canterbury, seemed to drag on, used to make a long book even longer. The storyline did not add to the storytelling, characters or narrative, but seems like it was simply “there” because the author researched the history and wanted to include it in the book.

This is a fun read for historical fiction and architecture fans alike. While there are some flaws in the book, but the characters are compelling and interesting which makes the journey worthwhile.

Synopsis:
A redheaded man is being executed by hanging, his pregnant lover looks on and curses those who have accused him. The woman, Ellen, is thought to be a witch because of her ability to survive in the woods  and keen political mind. Ellen gives birth to Jack.

Ellen marries Tom, a builder who is dreaming of building a cathedral. Tom has two children, the oldest, Alfred, bully’s Jack and his love Aliena (a princess who fell from grace after her father was arrested). Jack, however, has mind to understand building and architecture and takes on Tom’s work building the cathedral of Kingsbridge.

Buy this book in paper or elec­tronic (Kin­dle) format*

More Books by Ken Follet

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I bought this book.
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