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

by Ken Follett

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
17,85954796 (4.2)1 / 759
Member:Daftboy1
Title:The Pillars of the Earth
Authors:Ken Follett
Info:Pan (2007), Edition: 4, Paperback, 1100 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (1989)

  1. 92
    Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones (crgalvin, OTVTT2010)
    OTVTT2010: Molemmat mieleenpainuvia lukukokemuksia, laadukasta viihdettä.
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    The Physician by Noah Gordon (ecureuil)
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    The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century by Ian Mortimer (Taphophile13)
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    The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo (bugaboo4)
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    Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd (mcenroeucsb, al.vick)
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    The Corner That Held Them by Sylvia Townsend Warner (nessreader)
    nessreader: CTHT is another medieval-set, multiple generation, religous institution novel, about a minor convent in England, sprawling over multiple generations and giving a sense of time passing, lightly touching on the lives of the nuns, but with the institution as the main character.… (more)
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    Hild by Nicola Griffith (kiwiflowa)
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    When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman (Anonymous user)
  9. 01
    The Jester by James Patterson (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: The Jester and The Pillars of Earth are intricately plotted, suspenseful tales set in the Middle Ages. These books focus on the treachery and drama of the period.
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English (475)  Spanish (20)  Catalan (14)  French (9)  German (8)  Danish (7)  Dutch (6)  Italian (5)  Swedish (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (546)
Showing 1-5 of 475 (next | show all)
The Pillars of the Earth is a novel of the Middle Ages, taking place during the tumultuous reign of King Stephen of England, an era of civil war among the potential successors of King Henry I. The majority of this book takes place in the town of Kingsbridge, where a cathedral is being built, and the surrounding county. It starts off rather slowly and I wasn't that into it for the first hundred pages or so -- we're introduced to the main cast at this time but the writing felt really flawed here as though the author was figuring out how to write a novel this long and I think the book would have benefited from extra editing in the first section. You would read about 50 pages then there'd suddenly be an incongruous paragraph of summarizing what you just read. Fortunately this problem did not prevail through the entire story!

This is historical fiction as it should be. It was so incredibly easy to become completely immersed. This story mostly avoids one of the most common pitfalls of historical fiction, jarringly modern terminology and thinking. I don't pretend to know much about this period but it felt accurate enough and I never felt like the author was peppering in contemporary vocab or items.

The major strength of this work however were the characters! Sure the villains are a bit one-dimensional, existing mostly to throw a wrench in the works but even they're given some motivation that keeps them from being completely flat and lets the reader happily despise them the whole way through. The "good guys" were wonderfully written -- flawed and believable, growing as people throughout the years instead of remaining static. Not one of them was a perfect human being and their own mistakes drove the plot as much as the machinations of the "bad guys". Prior Philip, my favorite character, is very practical and kind but still suffers from some of the narrow-mindedness of clergyman at this time. Tom Builder is presented as a great guy, literate and passionate about his work, but still makes some poor judgement calls. Aliena is a teen at the beginning and a bit of a brat but grows with her her trials and tribulations into a very self-reliant woman -- but still makes her own mistakes and is occasionally hampered by the past. It was really interesting to see them and the rest of the characters evolve throughout the book.

Definitely recommended to anyone that likes historical fiction and isn't afraid of tackling a longer book. The 950+ pages go by surprisingly fast! ( )
  parasolofdoom | Jan 8, 2015 |
Noioso!!! ( )
  Orsobalooo | Jan 4, 2015 |
Long, epic historical fiction novel that spans roughly three generations? Yes, please. This is my go to type of novel. And Follett did it well. I felt like I was in the Middle Ages (I read a review that noticed "modern sensibilities" in the characters, and maybe I'm not sophisticated enough to catch it, but I didn't feel that way). Yes, it was close to 1,000 pages, but I could have read more. I didn't want to leave the characters. There was a little too much architecture information, and towards the end, I did find myself thinking, ok, we have gotten through all the conflicts, it's time to resolve everything, but I still loved this book. I can't wait to start the sequel. ( )
  carebear10712 | Dec 31, 2014 |
If you love mixing your fiction and history then this a book you will love. Set in feudal England and France in the 1100's, the story at it's most basic level, revolves around the building of the Kingsbridge Cathedral.

Entwined within that story is the saga of Tom Builder and his family, itinerant stone masons who travel from one cathedral town to the next seeking work; Ellen, assumed to be a witch and her son Jack; Jacques Cherbourg jongluer who finds himself at the mercy of feudal politics and regal infighting and Brother Phillip, a man of religion who must also use wits to defeat the powers that be.

The story is rich in history telling the story of the civil war between King Stephen and Henry II. It touches on the story of Thomas Becket but only tangentially at the end of the book. The details of feudal life in and around a cathedral town are richly detailed - so much so, that one can easily transport to the time and place as soon as they pick up the book.

For those that enjoy architecture and architectural details, this is a story for you. From the laying of the foundation, to the use of flying buttresses and stained glass, there are many historical and engineering details describing how cathedrals were constructed and the number of craftsmen and their own detailed jobs that bring the construction site to life. From simple tools and drawings are great things made and as you read the story of the construction, you begin to appreciate how difficult the projects were.

Unlike other novels with great history and great factual details, the story or epic saga itself does not suffer. The characters are well crafted and you care about the good guys and despise the bad ones in just the right proportions. The story helps carry the details so that at no time are you so mired in minutiae that you start to just wish this book would end. Which is a very good thing because at almost 1,000 pages, this is not a book for the fainthearted. ( )
  ozzieslim | Dec 28, 2014 |
Here's another book that everyone liked except me. I bought this, and tried so many times to read it I lost count. Every time, down I would bog. Then I would hear how wonderful it was, and think, gotta give that another chance. Down I would bog again. Finally I just started skipping pages and reading at random, hoping it would finally grab me and I would go back to the beginning and off I'd go. Nope! It got worse! Finally it went into the library donation pile. Maybe I'll try to watch the miniseries someday.....(maybe not) ( )
  SusanListon | Nov 30, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 475 (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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Epigraph
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
Dedication
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.
Quotations
The baby cried, and the sound tugged at his heartstrings like a well-loved hymn. p.89
Last words
(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
katedralen
Please do not combine an abridged audio with the complete work. Thank you.
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Book description
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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