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The Pillars of the Earth (Deluxe Edition)…
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The Pillars of the Earth (Deluxe Edition) (Oprah's Book Club) (original 1989; edition 2007)

by Ken Follett (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
22,960673106 (4.17)875
Adventure saga of 12th century England, from a stone mason whose dream is to build a glorious cathedral to a man of God in a web of dangerous political intrigue.
Member:mjfrench13
Title:The Pillars of the Earth (Deluxe Edition) (Oprah's Book Club)
Authors:Ken Follett (Author)
Info:Penguin Books (2007), 973 pages
Collections:Your library, Recovered books
Rating:
Tags:None

Work details

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.
  2. 81
    The Physician by Noah Gordon (ecureuil)
  3. 51
    The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century by Ian Mortimer (Taphophile13)
  4. 20
    The Stones of the Abbey by Fernand Pouillon (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: Novel about a 12thC medieval master builder in France
  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. 32
    Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd (mcenroeucsb, al.vick)
  7. 32
    The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo (bugaboo4)
  8. 00
    Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims by Toby Clements (Stepn)
    Stepn: As good, if not better.
  9. 00
    Das Haupt der Welt: Historischer Roman by Rebecca Gablé (MissBrangwen)
  10. 00
    World Without End by Ken Follett (delma28)
  11. 00
    When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman (Anonymous user)
  12. 11
    The Lost Angel by Javier Sierra (albavirtual)
  13. 11
    Hild by Nicola Griffith (kiwiflowa)
  14. 01
    The Archer's Tale by Bernard Cornwell (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: Similar period, albeit more battle oriented.
  15. 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 875 mentions

English (589)  Spanish (24)  Catalan (15)  French (11)  Danish (7)  Dutch (7)  German (7)  Italian (7)  Hungarian (2)  Swedish (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (671)
Showing 1-5 of 589 (next | show all)
Why have I never discovered this book before? When I mentioned to friends I was reading it I was told ‘oh yes, it’s fantastic’. And fantastic it is. ‘The Pillars of the Earth’ by Ken Follett holds up a mirror to modern times. It is a historical thriller about the building of a twelfth century cathedral. The politics, governmental and religious, civil war, families torn asunder, romance, loss, courage and hope. It left me with a yearning to walk around a cathedral and study its architecture, better to understand the feat accomplished at Kingsbridge.
‘The Pillars of the Earth’ tells the story of stonemason Tom Builder and his family, who in 1135 are on the verge of starvation. When they meet Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, so begins a relationship which lasts all their lives. Philip is a pragmatic monk. He knows his poor town must find a way to survive and decides to build a cathedral. Tom becomes his master builder. But there are enemies who want to thwart this ambition, greedy, ruthless men who change political sides with will, who pillage and rape, who store riches while their peasants starve. The differences are not just political and royal, they are between brothers too.
This is a long novel and for not one moment did that matter. If you like novels that create a world for you to lose yourself in, then this will suit you. This is the medieval world; when the crown is disputed by King Stephen and Maud, when a father abandons a baby because he cannot feed it, when outlaws live wild in the forests, when the wealthy and titled can rape and steal and get away with it. Through this morally thin time, there are beacons of light. Prior Philip is quiet, gentle and Machiavellian. Determined not to be beaten by bullies, that his town and citizens shall not lose their livelihoods, he motivates his villagers so they have the belief to stand up for their rights.
Don’t be put off because this book is about a cathedral. The cathedral is the glue that holds the community of Kingsbridge together, it gives the book its narrative drive. Ken Follett packs in so much historical detail and it is all relevant to the plot; despite its 1104 pages, this is a quick read. Highly recommended.
This is the first of the Kingsbridge trilogy, next is ‘World Without End’.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
  Sandradan1 | Oct 12, 2020 |
4.5* Reads like a good story but I came away with a good sense of life in the 12th century and an understanding of the power struggle between the Church and the English monarchy. ( )
  helenar238 | Oct 8, 2020 |
I could only read the first 100 pages or so, hoping it would get better. But the writing is so plain and mediocre that I finally decided it wouldn't matter where the story went. Very disappointed, and will never attempt to read this author again. ( )
  keithostertag | Sep 14, 2020 |
I read this novel within a few years of its publishing date. Almost twenty years later the author wrote books two. I never read it because I couldn't remember book one well enough and needed to re-read it. A book three came out---I still didn't re-read. Now a fourth book is coming out in September of 2020. I finally re-read it.

The characters so stress me out. Life offered little fairness and people could treat people as they pleased, especially if they had money. I enjoyed re-reading it and am looking forward to reading the entire series. ( )
  acargile | Sep 8, 2020 |
While I definitely enjoyed reading this book, I’m also of two minds about it. It’s good, solid historical fiction, well-researched, with a good cast of characters and an epic scope and through-line. Follett’s good at holding reader interest and excellent with pacing and tense scenes, and I was not only caught up with the emotions the characters were feeling, but able to feel sympathy even for the villains in places. I enjoyed seeing faith and Christianity play such a central role in the story too, and that there was a range of beliefs in God.

Follett’s also done a good job at weaving in bits of historical detail and trivia, such as different styles of architecture or the food on the table, that other writers might have passed over or taken the lazy route with, and an equally good job explaining why things were done as they were, and how certain stock features of medieval life, like town walls, came to be.

I also appreciated the underlying themes of the novel. Follett critiques power structures a lot—lord vs. peasant, man vs. woman, bishop vs. prior, king vs. subject—both saying to the reader “this is how it was” and having his characters strive against the system. There’s a lot about abuse of power and corruption, and the role of hatred, vendettas, and family honour in perverting and ruining lives. This comes out at times in a surprisingly feminist way, in that Follett’s women tend to call men out on bullshit and do their own thing, much more than the men call out each other. There is also a lot of nuance—nobody is always right or always wrong, and nobody

However, I hesitate to say that I learned anything from this, except maybe about how to build a cathedral, because, well, this isn’t a new book. What was current historical knowledge in the 1980s is not the knowledge now, and while Follett’s definitely done research into domestic life, it’s also pretty clear that he is/was more interested in the “male side” of the world (trades, feudalism, violence, etc.). I found myself pausing to reflect on other histories and medieval settings I’ve read, in a “but didn’t they say ______?” way. Follett isn’t wrong, but he’s not exactly right either.

And I also hesitate to call this a feminist or otherwise progressive novel because again, this was written in the 1980s. The male gaze is strong, and the men are pretty clear about owning women and being owed obedience. One of the villains gets off on rape. One of the things that made me pause was the age of the average bride. That said, one of the heroes is great about things like consent and female autonomy, and the woman who’s most objectified has agency, so … a mixed bag.

I’m actually glad I was warned about the maleness of the book going in, because it helped me see past it. (The last historical epic that did this stuff I ended up hating because the misogyny blindsided me.) Overall, I enjoyed the read and was kind of surprised that it took me two weeks because it really didn’t feel that long. I liked a lot about the book, and I liked the journey it took me on. A lot of the themes and characters resonated, and I’ve always been a fan of nuance. I don’t think I’ll keep reading the series because I know Follett’s style now and also the books are long, but I’m pretty happy to rec it to people as long as they know about the flaws.

To bear in mind: This was published in the late 1980s and as a result, the history and the views on gender and romance are about equally dated. Follett is clearly trying to be feminist, etc., but he does occasionally miss the mark. See: serial rapist villain, heroic women being gorgeous and villainous women being so “deformed” men can’t look at them, and other things in that vein. Also, it does the “Jews are moneylenders only” thing, has (called-out) brownface, and has a pretty accurate depiction of depression at one point.

5/10 (was probably about a 7 or 7.5 before the stuff in the warning) ( )
  NinjaMuse | Jul 26, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 589 (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.
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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 katedralen
Please do not combine an abridged audio with the complete work. Thank you.
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Adventure saga of 12th century England, from a stone mason whose dream is to build a glorious cathedral to a man of God in a web of dangerous political intrigue.

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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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