Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Book Review: Ken Follett, Pillars of the Earth

For me, one of the indicators that a fictional book is well written is when I find myself wanting more from the characters after I finish the book. Wondering what they are up to. Looking to the night table, hoping the book will still be sitting there so I can learn more. It can be frustrating. Ken Follett wrote such a book 18 years ago called Pillars of the Earth. I read it about 15 years ago (give or take 3 years) and, as a testament to the fact that useless information has taken over my brain leaving no room for anything else, I remembered little about the story.

After almost two decades, Follett is finally putting the finishing touches on the sequel. When I learned this, I realized I had to re-read the original, or I would not get the most out of the new book, called World Without End (Coming out in October). So I set out to conquer the 973 pages that had captivated me so long ago.

Pillars is the story of Prior Philip, who grows up an orphan in a Priory and rises to a position of power within the church. It is his life’s work to build a cathedral. It is the story of Tom Builder, who shares Philip’s dream of building a beautiful cathedral. It is the story of Aliena, the daughter of a powerful Earl who is overthrown, and who is forced to build up her life from nothing. And it is the story of Jack Jackson, the bastard child of the forest witch Ellen.

The story takes place over a 35 or 40 year stretch in the 12th century, and tells in great detail the story of how a cathedral was built over 800 years ago. Follett does this description in a non academic way that is never overbearing or boring. Most importantly, he weaves in powerful storylines and character depictions that weave themes of hatred and loved, greed and ambition, religion and politics in a strong, powerful manner. Once teh story starts, the almost 1,000 pages fly by and melt away as you want to keep learning more.

If you are familiar with any of Follett’s other works, this book is different than the rest. The closest comparison I could find would be A Place Called Freedom, another excellent read. While I am a fan of all his work, I would perhaps give Pillars of the Earth my biggest endorsement of all. The book is interesting yet challenging. It is a really interesting read. And best of all, the sequel is coming out in about 7 weeks, so you won’t have to wait long to see what happens next.


At 7:23 AM, Blogger Jessica said...

After reading the final Potter book, I think I need something more grown up. This books sounds heavy, but I might give it a go. Interesting review.

At 10:16 AM, Anonymous Templar said...

well,i started to give the book a try since i havent read something written by follett and i want to satisfy my curiousity about the story and also history is one of my favorites especially during the medieval period. i got lost in the book and return into reality after it ended,...


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