Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Pillars of the Earth

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Trade paperback, 973 pages
Penguin Books, 2007 edition, copyright 1985
ISBN-13: 9780451225245
very highly recommended

From the Publisher
The Pillars of the Earth sweeps through four decades of 12th Century England drawing the listener into the raw, flamboyant middle ages. It is a shining saga of good and evil, treachery and intrigue, violence and beauty. Not-so-noble knights, righteous heroes, valiant heroines and both virtuous and immoral men of God highlight this story. They manipulate, and are in turn manipulated by, the political turmoil and unrest between the reigns of Henry I and Henry II.

My Thoughts:

The Pillars of the Earth is an epic, historical saga spanning the years of 1123 -1174 during the building of the cathedral in the medieval town of Kingsbridge. It is a time of uncertainty and unrest. The novel follows the lives of several people whose lives intersect. As someone who generally does not enjoy historical novels, The Pillars of the Earth is truly a masterpiece. It is a riveting story of love, hate, faith, betrayal, revenge, and triumph. I think it will appeal to men and women. The main characters were all well developed. The story never faltered. The novel completely held my attention for all of the 973 pages. I really can't believe I avoided reading it for so many years.
Very Highly Recommended - one of the best


The small boys came early to the hanging. opening

The sheriff's bailiff opened the main gate, admitting the peasants who lived in the suburb, in the lean-to houses against the town wall. Some brought eggs and milk and fresh butter to sell, some came to buy beer or bread, and some stood in the marketplace and waited for the hanging. pg. 12

But the girl was the cause of the scream. She had sunk to her knees in front of the gallows, with her arms stretched out in front of her, the position adopted to utter a curse. The people shrank from her in fear: everyone knew the curses of those who had suffered injustice were particularly effective, and they had all suspected that something was not quite right about this hanging. pg. 15

He had worked on a cathedral once—Exeter. At first he had treated it like any other job. He had been angry and resentful when the master builder had warned him that his work was not quite up to standard: he knew himself to be rather more careful than the average mason. But then he realized that the walls of a cathedral had to be not just good, but perfect. This was because the cathedral was for God, and also because the building was so big that the slightest lean in the walls, the merest variation from the absolutely true and level, could weaken the structure fatally. Tom's resentment turned to fascination. The combination of a hugely ambitious building with merciless attention to the smallest detail opened Tom's eyes to the wonder of his craft. pg. 22

"You mean you're -" He stopped, not wanting to offend her.
"Outlaws," she said. "Yes. Did you think all outlaws were like Faramond Openmouth, who stole your pig?" pg. 36

The carter nodded at Tom's satchel of tools. "Mason?"
"Yes. Looking for work."
"You may find it," the carter said neutrally. "If not on the cathedral, perhaps on the castle." pg. 43

Some masters were impatient, abrupt or discourteous; others looked sadly at Tom's thin children and pregnant wife and spoke kindly and regretfully; but they all said the same thing: No, there's no work for you here. pg. 61

It was very sad that Peter should be like this, Philip thought. The man was dedicated to God's work, and he had a fine mind and great strength of purpose. But he seemed to have a compelling need to feel special and be noticed by others all the time; and this drove him to create scenes. pg.86

In both cases, weakness and scruples had defeated strength and ruthlessness. pg. 908

1 comment:

Neelie said...

Great review! I would love to read this book, and if I can get my hands on a copy I might tackle it this year. How long did it take you to get through it?

My mom is really into Medieval novels, so I'll have to reccomend this one to her as well!