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The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

The Pillars of the Earth (original 1989; edition 2007)

by Ken Follett

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17,84555596 (4.2)1 / 764
Title:The Pillars of the Earth
Authors:Ken Follett
Info:Pan (2007), Edition: 4, Paperback, 1100 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (1989)

Recently added bySean75, private library, HeatherMOConnor, jMitty, LoveOfMuffins4820, CarmenAguilera, GordonS
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English (483)  Spanish (21)  Catalan (14)  French (9)  German (8)  Danish (7)  Dutch (6)  Italian (5)  Swedish (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (555)
Showing 1-5 of 483 (next | show all)
Love this book, teaches you a lot of history through amazing stories. ( )
  CarmenAguilera | Mar 24, 2015 |
I experienced this book in the unabridged, audio version -- meaning that I lived with it daily for months. What a magnificent epic it is. Who could have imagined that Ken Follett (previously an author of "thrillers") could create such a world? And who would have supposed that a novel about the construction of a 12th century cathedral would become a best- seller?

I remain in awe of this work and the talent that produced it. The author's powers of imagination are seemingly boundless, and the scholarship that had to have gone into it (including an intimate understanding of cathedral architecture) is stupendous.

I found the story to be deeply absorbing; the characterization is excellent; and the multi-generational epic held my attention through to the end. Not that the work is flawless. I found some of the sex scenes excruciating to listen to; in fact, I very nearly tossed the CD set aside, when in an early episode, the main character (Tom Builder) has sex with a woman he has just, met next to the fresh grave of his newly- deceased wife. Further, according to the Wikipedia page, the book contains some historical anachronisms (though most of these strike me as trivial). Nevertheless, I hold this work in high regard, and am glad I stayed with it through to the end. ( )
1 vote danielx | Mar 20, 2015 |
“Jack was too absorbed in his work to hear the bell. He was mesmerized by the challenge of making soft, round shapes of hard rock. The stone had a will of its own, and if he tried to make it do something it did not want to do, it would fight him, and his chisel would slip, or dig in too deeply, spoiling the shapes. But once he had got to know the lump of rock in front of him he could transform it. The more difficult the task, the more fascinated he was. He was beginning to feel that the decorative carving demanded by Tom was too easy. Zigzags, lozenges, dogtooth, spirals and plain roll moldings bored him, and even these leaves were rather stiff and repetitive. He wanted to curve natural-looking foliage, pliable and irregular, and copy the different shapes of real leaves, oak and ash and birch.”

This is the story of a cathedral and the people who fight for its birth and for its destruction, all encompassed by a succession crisis in 12th century England, complicated by secrets, lies and betrayals. Throughout the book, reader’s switch between several protagonists important in the life of the cathedral, experiencing the medieval period from down in the dirt, just struggling to survive.

I appreciated how much background was given to most of the characters, including our point of view characters. Readers come to understand how much Prior Philip cares for his makeshift family after his own had been killed when he was young; they root for Aliena to win the day after everything is taken from her over and over again; they cheer Jack on in his pursuit of becoming a Master Builder even when obstacles like family and his social economic status work against him. Follett makes you care about the fate of these characters and wonder about how they’re going to extricate themselves from certain situations. I also heartily enjoyed the moment when people pulled together to try and thwart the antagonists who seemed to have entirely too many opportunities for mischief.
The story did have a few glaring problems though. The pacing is poor, creating a lack of tension for the first half of the book. While the story does a good job of setting up the plot and introducing the characters, the action didn’t pick up until the end of the book. It felt like the majority of the conflict was held in reserve for the last half while the beginning was taken up with dialogue and description. The problem is likely in the switching between protagonists which creates a stop and start effect in the narrative, interrupting the fluidity of the story.

Follett does a good job of grounding the reader in the scene, giving you a taste of the period and all its myriad smells and sights. But there is entirely too much time spent on describing the architecture within the story. It’s understandable that some time would be devoted to this as the book centers around the building of a cathedral but it took too much time away from the story. Also, it seems unlikely that the majority of readers would be familiar with the features described so it would have helped if there had been diagrams at the front of the book. It was difficult to visualize some of the descriptions which brought me right out of the story.

Overall it was an interesting story but if a thousand page story is overlong for you I would recommend the miniseries produced several years ago. Keep in mind though that they do make changes to the story. New characters and plotlines are added to flesh out the story and add tension. There are also several key changes made to characters which I didn’t agree with as it altered their entire personality. ( )
  theduckthief | Mar 13, 2015 |
The Pillars Of The Earth is a curious beast. Before writing this review, I read a few reviews others have ge posted, specially those who had rated it one star. This book made me miserable and provided me with a fleeting enjoyment, probably a feeling associated with junkies. Unlike most long books, I can't fault Follet for stretching out his story with filler and padding. In fact, most of my decision for rating the book 4 stars comes from the fact that most chapters feel integral to the book.

The major divergence with many fans is what is balefully called the collateral damage generally, in the book. There is too much suffering. The numbers are only partly the reason for my distaste. It's not also that true justice and ample revenge was late in coming - in my opinion it never did - it's also the senselessness of the violence. The fact that we're supposed to shrug this off and put our onus on the main characters' particular saga against William Hamleigh intensified this malaise. This reminded me of bloody books of the YA genre that I've read. Exampli Gratia would be the 5th Wave, where most of humanity was wiped out in days and civilization was uprooted like that. To temper the blow of savagery, maybe, the character Jack, in the presence of the monk Phillip is made to wonder about reality in the future, where everything would be better. Allow me to scoff.

This book possesses flaws from both the grimmest of realistic books, and the fluffiest of escapist ones. The suffering goes on and on, more than the hanging scenes - or rather scenery - in the Game Of Thrones books. But the invincibility of the main characters in such a feral environment, the serendipitous pairing of the two major personages, Jack and Aliena, the fulfillment of a desperate oath, the selective trait whereby most of the good guys have a high IQ, the parable like twist where the wicked are undone by the very victims they helped populate, all of this result in a book that I don't like. The reasons of my respect for this book are themselves quite unsound. The ease of the writing, the uncomplicated, two dimensional characters, and the suspenseful exposure to danger between such characters are what made me feel hypocritical to rate the book 2 stars. That's a rating I would give, but I cannot ignore the reluctant pleasure the book gave me. It's a book I will never ever touch, as it's one in a long line of disillusionment and disappointments in my recent experiences as a reader. I celebrate, hail, and acknowledge the reviews of people who have rated the book one star, and I envy their immunity to the rural and cynical charms of it. ( )
  Jiraiya | Mar 9, 2015 |
In twelfth century England a tale of pride, deceit, revenge and love finds its center around the construction of a Gothic cathedral. King Stephen's battle with Queen Maude for the English throne is mirrored on a smaller scale, as battles that span years occur in the small town of Kingsbridge. The Church, nobility, artisans and even peasants line up against each other, for and against this construction project, as they all struggle for either outright power or at least the chance to better their station in life.

Pillars of the Earth is certainly large in its scope and believable in its descriptions of life in medieval England. Plot-wise it is a strong story that is being told. The problem is that the characters are very one dimensional and for the most part lack even a modicum of complexity. The villains are totally evil, without much explanation as to why. While the main protagonists are fleshed out a little more, they don't come off as all that likable. By the end I wasn't really invested in any of the characters. As my copy of this novel was over 900 pages long, that's fairly disappointing. The dialogue of the novel is also problematic. At various points I would even have to say the writing felt forced and juvenile. So while this was by no means the worst book I've ever read, I'm honestly not sure that I could recommend this one either. Readers looking for a historical novel set in the middle ages would probably be better served by looking elsewhere. ( )
  queencersei | Mar 4, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 483 (next | show all)
Great literature? Of course not. To begin with, the plot relies far too heavily on coincidence, and the characters tend to be chiseled into predictability. The writing depends heavily on dialogue - and although it's well-done dialogue, it's the stuff of escapism, not of the ages. But so what? It's a long, rich and rewarding story, full of glory and violence told in the tradition of medieval troubadors. Few among us could turn away from a tale that begins: ''The small boys came early to the hanging.''
added by Shortride | editSt. Louis Post-Dispatch, Harry Levins (pay site) (Sep 3, 1989)
A novel of majesty and power.
added by Shortride | editChicago Sun-Times, Algis Budrys (pay site) (Aug 20, 1989)

» Add other authors (35 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ken Follettprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vázquez, RosalíaTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grant, Richard E.Narratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lundborg, GunillaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Piggott-Smith, TimNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Röhr-Rouendaal, PetraIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Le nuit du 25 novembre 1120, le Vaisseau blanc appareilla à destination de l'Angleterre et sombra corps et biens au large de Barfleur : il n'y eut qu'un survivant... Le vaisseau représentait le dernier cri en matière de transport maritime et il était muni des plus récents perfectionnements connus de la construction navale d'alors... Si l'on a beaucoup parlé de ce naufrage, c'est en raison du grand nombre de personnalités qui se trouvaient à bord ; outre le fils du roi, héritier présomptif du trône, il y avait deux bâtards de sang royal, plusieurs comtes et barons et presque toute la maison du roi... Cela eut pour conséquence historique de laisser Henry sans héritier... Cela provoqua la guerre de succession et la période d'anarchie qui suivit la mort d'Henry.
A.L. Poole, From Domesday Book to Magna Carta
On the night of 25 November 1120 the White Ship set out for Englandand foundered off Barfleur with all hands save one. ... The vessel was the latest thing in marine transport, fitted with all the devices known to the shipbuilder of the time. ... The notoriety of this wreck is due to the very large number of distinguished persons on board; beside the king's son and heir, there were two royal bastards, several earls and barons, and most of the royal household ... its historical significance is that it left Henry without an obvious heir ... its ultimate result was the disputed succession and the period of anarchy which followed Henry's death.
-A. L. Poole,
From Doomsday Book to Magna Carta
To Marie-Claire,
the apple of my eye
First words
The small boys came early to the hanging. (Preface)
Chapter 1
In a broad valley, at the foot of a sloping hillside, beside a clear bubbling stream, Tom was building a house.
The baby cried, and the sound tugged at his heartstrings like a well-loved hymn. p.89
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Norwegian translation is split into two parts: Stormenes tid I
sverdet og korset AND Stormenes tid II
Please do not combine an abridged audio with the complete work. Thank you.
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From Publishers Weekly
Set in 12th-century England, the narrative concerns the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge. The ambitions of three men merge, conflict and collide through 40 years of social and political upheaval as internal church politics affect the progress of the cathedral and the fortunes of the protagonists. "Follett has written a novel that entertains, instructs and satisfies on a grand scale," judged PW.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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A prior, a master builder, and their community try to build a cathedral to protect themselves while Stephen and the Empress Maud fight for the crown of England.

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