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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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17,79654997 ()1 / 760
Title:The Pillars of the Earth
Authors:Ken Follett
Info:Pan (2007), Edition: 4, Paperback, 1100 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (1989)

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English (477)  Spanish (20)  Catalan (14)  French (9)  German (8)  Danish (7)  Dutch (6)  Italian (5)  Swedish (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (548)
Showing 1-5 of 477 (next | show all)
I would give it 3 1/2 stars. ( )
  michele.juza | Feb 25, 2015 |
I did not like this book. I finished all 870 pages because I wanted to be a good book club member. If I hadn't had that motivation, I would have dropped it pretty early on. I am going to be very specific with my complaints, so if you're really into the idea of reading this book without being spoiled first (but I really recommend you spend your time reading something else), stop reading now.

The writing is terrible. The prose is simplistic and filled with endless paragraphs of telling-not-showing. The characters are cardboard and mostly stupid. The main villain is sooo villain-y that it's painful. There are no complex antagonists whose humanity you feel all too keenly here à la Guy Gavriel Kay. No, here the main bad guy rapes and pillages and can only get aroused when he's abusing women. And in case you weren't quite sure about where he stands on the Holy Scale Of Goodness Or Badness, the author makes sure he rapes and rapes and rapes again.

Most of the other men in the book, even the "good guys," are particularly terrible. And not in ways that make them complex and interesting and relatable. They are just infuriatingly selfish and obtuse. Tom's wife dies in childbirth and his kids nearly starve to death because he refuses to settle down and work on something reliable but less exciting than his Gloriously Unrealistic Dream Job. Then within hours of his wife dying, he's banging the Manic Pixie Dream Girl Of The Forest who appeared out of nowhere and sat on his boner without preamble. Of course this was written by a man. Aliena's brother and father rope her into serving her brother's own Gloriously Unrealistic Dream Job and she spends the book being walked all over while her brother sits around huffing about how he can't be expected to wipe his own butt, because male reasons.

If it wasn't completely clear that it was a man writing this book, every sex or rape scene contains a rote description of the woman's breasts (almost unfailingly large), and her dark triangle patch of curls. And when I use those specific words, what I mean is that the author used those specific words every time. It feels like Laurell K. Hamilton's copy-and-paste sex scenes where you start to wonder if the author has ever actually been around naked people before.

Aliena is actually even more infuriating than the male characters because her whole reason for existing is to get shit all over repeatedly by men, and I think we're supposed to feel vindicated and triumphant when she finally gets to be happy, but seriously, how cliché and tiresome is the whole, "Woman gets raped and then rises above it, isn't that sooo inspiring?" storyline? And then it gets hammered home when she does finally find happiness that while she had been a successful, wealthy, independent, respected businesswoman, she had actually been empty and emotionless and cold because what she really needed was A MAN TO LOVE HER.

How many ridiculous, overdone tropes are we up to now? I've lost track.

I'm sure that someone will defend this tripe and point out what era it takes place in and cite "Historical accuracy!!!" to excuse it. And that's just a cop-out, because historical accuracy doesn't require writing clichéd, wooden prose and characters. The aforementioned Guy Gavriel Kay writes epic, beautiful books that are everything Pillars Of The Earth wants to be. So if you had been planning on reading this and ignored my spoiler warning and are now cursing my name, just go pick up one of GGK's books instead. You'll thank me for helping you dodge a bullet. ( )
8 vote BrookeAshley | Jan 28, 2015 |
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! ( )
1 vote 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 |
Showing 1-5 of 477 (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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