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The Pillars of the Earth (1989)

by Ken Follett

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
27,073752108 (4.17)926
Fiction. Suspense. Thriller. Historical Fiction. HTML:If you liked the Century Trilogy, you’ll love the “extraordinary . . . monumental masterpiece.”—Booklist, that changed the course of Ken Follett’s already phenomenal career. 

“Follett risks all and comes out a clear winner,” extolled Publishers Weekly on the release of The Pillars of the Earth. A departure for the bestselling thriller writer, the historical epic stunned readers and critics alike with its ambitious scope and gripping humanity. Today, it stands as a testament to Follett’s unassailable command of the written word and to his universal appeal. 
 
The Pillars of the Earth tells the story of Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, a devout and resourceful monk driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has known . . . of Tom, the mason who becomes his architect—a man divided in his soul . . . of the beautiful, elusive Lady Aliena, haunted by a secret shame . . . and of a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state, and brother against brother.
 
A spellbinding epic tale of ambition, anarchy, and absolute power set against the sprawling medieval canvas of twelfth-century England, this is Ken Follett’s historical masterpiece.
… (more)
  1. 112
    Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones (crgalvin, OTVTT2010)
    OTVTT2010: Molemmat mieleenpainuvia lukukokemuksia, laadukasta viihdettä.
  2. 81
    The Physician by Noah Gordon (ecureuil)
  3. 51
    The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century by Ian Mortimer (Taphophile13)
  4. 52
    Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd (mcenroeucsb, al.vick)
  5. 20
    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)
  6. 20
    The Stones of the Abbey by Fernand Pouillon (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: Novel about a 12thC medieval master builder in France
  7. 32
    The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo (bugaboo4)
  8. 10
    World Without End by Ken Follett (DelmaT.Martin)
  9. 00
    When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman (Anonymous user)
  10. 11
    The Lost Angel by Javier Sierra (albavirtual)
  11. 11
    Hild by Nicola Griffith (kiwiflowa)
  12. 00
    Das Haupt der Welt by Rebecca Gablé (MissBrangwen)
  13. 00
    Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims by Toby Clements (Stepn)
    Stepn: As good, if not better.
  14. 00
    Adam Bede by George Eliot (aprille)
  15. 01
    The Archer's Tale by Bernard Cornwell (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: Similar period, albeit more battle oriented.
  16. 02
    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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» See also 926 mentions

English (655)  Spanish (32)  Catalan (15)  French (11)  Italian (9)  Dutch (7)  German (7)  Danish (7)  Hungarian (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Finnish (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (748)
Showing 1-5 of 655 (next | show all)
Historical Fiction
  BooksInMirror | Feb 19, 2024 |
I seriously considered giving this book 5 stars because it is just such a good book and I absolutely could not stop reading. And I actually DID give it 5 stars at first. But then I had to go back and change it to 4. There were just enough things about it that keeps it from being a 5-star book in my opinion. I don't know that I think the writing was stellar all the time. There was too much redundancy, as if the author didn't know if I'd read up to there and he needed to recap the way you would in a sequel or a TV show. I also have to say that I spent a large percentage of the book being absolutely horrified by what was happening. ( )
  karenhmoore | Jan 1, 2024 |
This book reads like a Russian novel...good characters, political intrigue, the effects of historical events on people of all classes over a couple of generations. I was fascinated by the level of details about daily life, about building a cathedral, about running a village like a business. The vivid writing led me to picture the characters like they were cast for a movie. I don't know why Geoffrey Lewis (father of Juliette, Clint Eastwood sidekick) is my Prior Philip. Maybe it's the bright blue eyes and the already tonsured haircut. The evil Waleran Bigod is played by Alan Rickman (Harry Potter's Severus Snape). Who would you cast in the movie in your mind? ( )
  jennifergeran | Dec 23, 2023 |
Just as engaging & fabulous the 2nd time around! I first read this book when it was first published in hardback and fell in love with the story. I've been meaning to read the sequel, so I rea-read this one to get the characters and storylines fresh in my mind again.

Don't bother watching the miniseries. It was horrible and deviated quite a bit from the book plot. ( )
  Colleen.Greene | Dec 17, 2023 |
So I loved Ken Follett's thrillers, which I read 30+ years ago. I have been hearing about his series that starts with Pillars of the Earth, historical fiction set in an English town starting in the middle ages. The book is 1000 pages, and probably never would have been published if not for Follett's success writing spy thrillers. But I like history a lot, so I dug in.

Follett is good at writing tense adventure scenes, and there are a few of them here. And I like the level of detail regarding life in the middle ages. Characters are interesting enough too. But I thought the length of the book was due to the large sweep of the story- instead I found it to be just overwritten. As one example: There's a very long scene in which a boy breaks into a church to set a fire, and it seems to take forever for him to get inside, with pointless descriptions of trying every locked door in every corner of the courtyard- Follett needed an editor with a stronger hand.
So I picked it up today, 260 pages in, and realized that I just don't want to waste this much time on such filler. I really thought I'd like this book, and go on to read the series. Guess not. ( )
  DanTarlin | Dec 2, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 655 (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 (32 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ken Follettprimary authorall editionscalculated
Conrad, Gabrielesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grant, Richard E.Narratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kiel, AchimIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lohmeyer, TillÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lundborg, GunillaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Piggott-Smith, TimNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Przygodda, ThomasIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Röhr-Rouendaal, PetraIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosenthal, JeanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rost, Christelsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vázquez, RosalíaTranslatorsecondary 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 Doomsday Book to Magna Carta
On the night of 25 November 1120 the White Ship set out for England and 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
Preface
The small boys came early to the hanging.
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
All birds and men are sure to die, But songs last forever.
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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Wikipedia in English (1)

Fiction. Suspense. Thriller. Historical Fiction. HTML:If you liked the Century Trilogy, you’ll love the “extraordinary . . . monumental masterpiece.”—Booklist, that changed the course of Ken Follett’s already phenomenal career. 

“Follett risks all and comes out a clear winner,” extolled Publishers Weekly on the release of The Pillars of the Earth. A departure for the bestselling thriller writer, the historical epic stunned readers and critics alike with its ambitious scope and gripping humanity. Today, it stands as a testament to Follett’s unassailable command of the written word and to his universal appeal. 
 
The Pillars of the Earth tells the story of Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, a devout and resourceful monk driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has known . . . of Tom, the mason who becomes his architect—a man divided in his soul . . . of the beautiful, elusive Lady Aliena, haunted by a secret shame . . . and of a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state, and brother against brother.
 
A spellbinding epic tale of ambition, anarchy, and absolute power set against the sprawling medieval canvas of twelfth-century England, this is Ken Follett’s historical masterpiece.

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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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