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I devour books That is my euphemism for being so OCD that I can t put it down and live my life until I finish it For shorter books, that s generally not a problem, but for the 974 page Pillars of the Earthwell, let s just say we ran out of food, my children clung to my legs asking for food, and the floors did not get vacuumed for a good five days while I whittled away at this book.CLIFF HANGER This book is not a cliff hanger at the end of every chapter kind of book, which makes it easier to read it in multiple sittings However, Follett does such a masterful job of character development, that I found myself wanting to know what was going to happen next whether the end of the chapter contained a cliffhanger ending or not.CHARACTER DEV T Each character is so beautifully defined and fleshed out, that they become almost real I felt that I knew them personally, that I could accurately predict how they would react in different situations None of them were 100% good or bad, just like in real life Some priests were holy, others evil some were rich people with big hearts, others with small minds and evil intentions some poor farmers were judgmental, w narrow minded attitudes, others opened their doors to strangers.PLOT PACE Foreshadowing was a very powerful convention that Follett skillfully weaved in and out of every chapter It gave subtle hints, but never so overt as to suggest that the reader may be an imbecile Backstories meander and come to closure at such a nice pace, that it always feels like something is happening and things are being resolved, for better or for worse.THEMES My favorite theme was that natural consequences followed the actions of the characters I m still a bit out of sorts after reading the deus ex machina riddled Breaking Dawn, where all the natural consequences of three books worth of actions were completely erased ugh There was a natural ebb and flow of triumph and misfortunes in Pillars of the Earth Good things happened to bad people and bad things happened to good people, just like in real life Follett does not try to save his characters from themselves, or from each other, and I enjoyed that very much.STRONG WOMEN I absolutely adored the strong women in this book What a joy to read about Aliena, carving out her own future after her world had been turned upside down Life knocked her down plenty, but each time, she got up, made a plan, and triumphed eventually Ellen, and Agnes in her own way, were also strong women OVERALL IMPRESSION As strange as it sounds, with all of the despair and misery that took place, the overarching take home for me, was HOPE In the face of overwhelming adversity, these characters triumphed The road was hard and the journey was long, but they CHOSE hope They CHOSE faith And in the end, that was all that mattered.Pillars of the Earth will be on my favorite books list for a very long time. 7.2 MILLION STARS Did I just read one of the most amazing books I have ever read Yes, yes I did I cannot say enough about this book, the story, the writing, the characters, etc etc etc Everything is perfect If someone had said to me, Here is a 1000 page book about the building of a cathedral 1000 years ago in England I probably would have fallen asleep before the end of their sentence But, do not judge a book by its description it is a 1000 page book about the building of a cathedral, but Follett does an amazing job of crafting a historical fiction story around it that will keep you engaged from page one until the very end.With 1000 pages, there has to be filler, right There is not Every sentence, every word all of it adds to the story And, events on page 25 may have ramifications on the events of page 825 How the author kept the storyline together, intertwined, and fully applicable throughout is amazing I picture him referencing a very complicated flowchart covering his entire wall while writing this book Sounds confusing it is not Despite the intricacies, it was very easy to follow.Do you love to hate evil characters and feel passionate emotions for the ones you love READ THIS I don t think I have ever wanted to reach into a book and strangle a character than I did with this book Then, I found myself audibly cheering and groaning as the relationships of my favorite characters developed, succeeded, and sometimes failed I was emotionally spent loving and hating these characters and it might be the most I have ever been emotionally invested in characters in a long time if ever.I cannot say that this book will be for everyone, but it is worth giving it a try Especially if you like any of the following Historical Fiction British Fiction Stories about church vs government Knights, monks, kings, and other medieval dramatis personae Character studiesThis comes with a warning, though I know I have some book friends who do not like violent depictions of sex If that is a problem for you, either go into this story being aware that you will be uncomfortable, or steer away from it completely. This book was popular As in a mini phenomenon Seriously Am I being punked Tell the truth no one else read the book It was all an elaborate media pop culture scheme to trick me into reading this book Please lie to me about this I m not sure I can go on living if I have to believe that this is what my fellow man is reading these days.My utter disdain for the book comes from many a source A It s 900 pages Mind you, I ll read 900 pages, even 1,500 pages, if it s amazing But it has to be a crackerjack of a book This was not B Here s where this book and I really parted ways Tom Builder s beloved wife, Agnes, dies in childbirth on the side of the road Only hours later, Tom s rolling in the leaves with an attractive forest wench in a sex scene so ridiculous I could practically hear the bow chicka wow wow music in the background Poor Agnes body isn t even cold yet and Tom s getting it on with a woman he had a 15 minute conversation with earlier in the book.C It s hard to believe this is medieval England, what with all the modern sensibilities and modern vernacular C It could have been whittled down by about 500 pages if the scenes of people eating had been omitted.E The women, oh, the women Witches or whores or victims of tag team rape Here s the basic rundown of the plot Building a church, building a church, building a church Oh, crap, a plot complication We might not be able to build the church Crafty Phillip overcomes the complication Insert licentious sex scene Building a church, building a church, building a church Oh, crap, a plot complication We might not be able to build the church Crafty Phillip overcomes the complication Now insert gratuitous sex scene.Lather Rinse Repeat For 900 pages.Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder
I did not hate this book hate would be too strong a word, and I can t hate it because I applaud the fact that Ken Follett attempted to write an epic novel But I did not like it I didn t like it from the start his writing style hit me like a brick, but Jim thoroughly enjoyed the book that I kept trying to convince myself that I ought to give it a chance, hoping it would get better When I was about 500 pages in, he saw how miserable I was and asked why I didn t just stop reading it, but at that point, I was invested in it I had spent all that time getting that far, that I needed to finish it, and I couldn t wait to come to the end I kept counting down Only 450 pages left only 300 to go last 200 pagesyay, I have 50 pages left Those fifty pages were the toughest to get through By the time I was at the end, I thought it was a wasted effort both on his part and mine It s so much easier to explicate on what I did not like because there were so many things I loathed the writing style he vacillated between pages and pages of highly complex architectural discourses to third grade level simple sentences grouped into short paragraphs Sometimes it was bearable Other times, I wanted to pull my hair out There were times when I felt the only time he came alive as an author was when he was discussing architecture, but these parts were so didactic in nature that it couldn t hold my interest for long periods of time I did not like the author s narrative style He had to tie everything together causality was so prevalent throughout the text that I wondered how he didn t work in how the killing of a fly affected events 60 years later Every single storyline was wrapped up too neatly for my liking, in some cases Everyone was tied to someone else it was like playing Six Degrees every single character had to have a denouement every little plot twist had to be explained closure had to be achieved, no matter how preposterous the circumstances, over time and space The characterization was poor In fact, it was appalling how two dimensional these characters were Good people were good Bad people were loathsome As time went on, the good were always suffering one thing or another they were put upon they were harrassed they were constantly challenged and put to the test like Job something Follett actually used as a sermon The badfolk became oppressive over time they were not only detestable, but they had absolutely no redeeming qualities And to go with a typical medieval stereotype, the good were always excessively beautiful, honorable, intelligent geniuses or savants, even and if they weren t rich, they would be at the end I half expected Havelok the Dane and his refrigerator mouth to pop up somewhere, proving once and for all that in the medieval period, to be good was to have the purest light shining out of your mouth each time you opened it Nevertheless, the bad became uglier, became despotic, scheming throughout life to get the better of their enemies the goodfolk But in the end, good always triumphed over evil those who could, repented and were forgiven Those who couldn t, were killed off somehow, because apparently, death is the only way an evil person gets his or her dues And then everyone had a happy ending I hate happy endings when they re so obviously contrived And this work was so elaborately, exhaustively, thoroughly contrived Maybe it s not too late for me to change my mind and say I hated it grin Historically speaking, there was so much left to be desired Granted, this novel was written two decades ago, and there have been new discoveries about the medieval period since Follett started his research But he got it all wrong anyhow His idea of medieval life was sooff, that it hurt my head to continue reading sometimes I had to pause periodically and rant to Jim about what I currently found off putting for example, there weren t many literate people at the time at the time this novel was set, there was still a distinct divide between England and Wales reading and writing were two separate skill sets, and people who knew how to read did not necessarily know how to write and vice versa orality was a prevalent part of storytelling back then and books not so much and yet somehow, he conflated much of both manuscript writing was either orally dictated or copied tediously by the monks his concept of a scriptorium was incomplete, defective and there has been so much written about this that it saddened me he used modern translations of medieval poetical verse works and couldn t explain even alliterative verse form effectively I even wonder if he knew what it was his understanding of the languages of the period Old English, Middle English, Latin, Norman French, Old French, Middle French, etc and what was spoken by the aristocrats vs the peasants vs the growing middle classes disgusts me he showed a lack of understanding of medieval law, medieval rights, the social classes, gender roles, even the tales and legends of the period, in both England and France priests were quite low on the totem pole, in terms of the religious hierarchy, and were quite disparaged yet somehow, that didn t quite come across in this novelI could go on and on, but I won t And the historical part of the novel I just found lacking There are enough histories and chronicles, contemporaneously written, of the time, that he did not have to deviate much from history There is so much written about the period between the death of Henry I through the civil wars between the Empress Matilda and King Stephen, to the time that Henry II ascended the throne including the martyrdom of Thomas a Beckett , that I don t quite understand how he couldn t have mined the chronicles for better material I understand that this is why it s called historical fiction, and that there will always be some element of fiction interspersed with historical fact But the fictional aspects usually have to do with surrounding characters and situations that bolster the history The fiction is not necessarily to the history itself Many times, when writing historical fiction, the author has to beware the pitfalls of creating a revisionist retelling, interspersing his or her own ideals or beliefs of what should have been to what was If this novel had been marketed as a revisionary narrative, it would have been okay But it wasn t I m just glad that the historical aspect of the novel just served as the background and not the real story Because then, I probably would ve stopped reading.The premise was a good one and held a lot of promise It could ve been a great historical epic had it been handled by a assured writer By someone who was of a visionary, someone who had the patience to do exhaustive research or who knew how to craft richly developed characters It needed an author who understood the epic genre, who knew how to mold the epic, who knew how to keep the narrative going, seemlessly binding time with narration and the human condition, without resorting to stereotypes and grating drama And most importantly, it needed someone who understood when the story had been told that while there will always be other stories to tell, that each book has its own natural end, and that these stories may not belong in this book.Ken Follett may be a bestselling author of suspense novels and even historical fiction such as Pillars of the Earth and World without End , but he is no writer of epics Compared to writers of historical fiction such as Edward Rutherford, James Michener, Bernard Cornwell or Margaret George, Ken Follett has a long way to go. He was mesmerized by the challenge of making soft, round shapes out 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 There are so many memorable characters populating this epic novel that I would be hard pressed to even say who is the main character of this novel, but my favorite character is undisputed His name is Jack, and later as he discovers the name of his father, he begins calling himself Jack Jackson His mother, Ellen, falls in love with a man named Tom Builder Jack finds himself nearly starving to death along with Tom s kids, Alfred and Martha, as they trudge across England in search of someone who needs something built Tom can build anything, but his dream, his most fervent desire, is to build a cathedral Jack is bright, unnaturally intelligent in fact, and it isn t Alfred who turns out to be best suited to achieve Tom s dreams although Alfred is really good at beating the crap out of Jack on a daily basis It is Jack who travels the world and discovers that cathedrals can soar high into the clouds beyond anything that Tom would have ever believed possible The backdrop for all these trials and tribulations that you will experience while reading this novel is the turbulent 12th century England Henry Ist dies and leaves his daughter Empress Maude on the throne This is extremely controversial because the nobles do not want a queen If truth be known, they want a king, but a weak king they can control Since Maude was born without a penis, this leaves the castle door open for her cousin Stephen, whom fortune has favored with a penis, to snatch the crown from her head and place it on his own The nobles certainly do not want to work for a woman, but I think the issue that is even bigger is that Maude is very sure of herself, even one might say imperial As her husband, Geoffrey of Anjou, would quickly find out, she is a handful Civil war breaks out, and the people who suffer the most, of course, are the peasants, who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time The destabilization of the civil structure of law also allows men like William of Hamleigh to do whatever they want to do and take whatever they want to take He is an opportunist who switches sides several times in the dispute between Maude and Stephen, depending upon which of the cousins has the wind behind them at the time William is but a brutish thug, a tool of his demented, greedy mother and then later a weapon of evil for an archbishop named Waleran Bigod great name, eh , who wishes to obtain and power at the cost of everyone else William and Jack become mortal enemies as Jack tries to build a cathedral at Kingsbridge and William tries to destroy the economy of Kingsbridge to bring wealth to his neighboring town of Shiring William also has an unnatural lust for Aliena that is one part desire and one part pain See, unless a woman is crying, bleeding, and feeling anguish, William s wee willie won t work Here is a typical list of topics with which William and his henchmen like to entertain themselvesIn the evening they would drink beer and sharpen their blades and tell one another grisly stories about previous triumphs, young men mutilated, old men trampled beneath the hooves of warhorses, girls raped and women sodomized, children beheaded and babies spitted on the points of swords while their mothers screamed in anguish Then they would attack tomorrow morning, Jack shuddered with fear But this time we re going to stop them, he thoughtJack is Aliena, and Aliena is Jack They are soulmates, and though many disastrous things happen to them to try and keep them apart, I kept hoping that love will conquer all I may like Jack the best, but I admire Aliena the most She recovers from a horrendous attack at the hands of William of Hamleigh to become the largest wool merchant in the area This is remarkable for anyone, but for a woman, a woman who has never had to work a day in her life, and a penniless one at that, to raise herself up to such heights is remarkable She survives every disaster, even the ones she makes for herself, and finds a way to achieve some semblance of security for herself despite the overwhelming odds There is one character I want to discuss, and that is Prior Philip of Gwynedd The man who shared the same dream as Tom Builder to have a cathedral rise up from the ashes of the old church at KingsbridgeJack did not like Philip but he liked working with him Jack did not warm to professional men of God any than his mother did He was embarrassed by Philip s piety he disliked his single minded sinlessness and he mistrusted his tendency to believe that God would take care of anything that he, Philip, could not cope with There are times when I want to give Philip a good shake, but at no time do I question the sincerity of his beliefs Even when those intent on evil ends are conspiring, even cheating, to obtain an advantage over Philip, he always stays on the high road He makes enemies in lofty places, including the aforementioned Archbishop Waleran Bigod, who at every turn tries his level best to destroy Philip and his dreams of a cathedral The church politics are so fascinating and create an extra level of intrigue in the novel that at times overshadow the quest for the throne There are a 1000 pages of juicy historical fiction awaiting you if you choose to accept this quest This is not War and Peace, so do not be as afraid of that page count as reason would dictate, as the pages will fly by I really needed some escapism into a different time and place, and this book served that purpose perfectly As I was reading it, I kept thinking that this would have been a great choice for that long plane flight to Scotland last year There are some graphic rape scenes, but they are purposeful to the plot and certainly are a part of a destabilized England at that time Unfortunately, the very topics that William Hamleigh and his thugs find so amusing are a part of human history going back to the days when we were battering each other with sticks and stones I would have to use another 1000 words to discuss all the other worthwhile aspects of this book, but I will leave the rest to you to discover on your own If you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit also have a Facebook blogger page at This is seriously one of the worst books I ve ever read The only reason I finished the book is because I cannot put a book down once I start.The writing is terrible The plotting may be dramatic, but I had almost zero interest in any of the characters they seem to exist merely for events to happen to them, like actors in a disaster movie Beyond that there seemed to be three characters in the book Bad guy, good guy, and good victimized yet able to overcome girl.What got me most was Ken Follett seemed so proud of his historical research that he mentions every 40 pages, took out his her eating knife Really, they didn t have forks, how is constantly reminding the audience of this fact important to the story There were other oft repeated throughout the novel as well This seemed like an attempt to fool the audience into thinking they re immersed in the middle ages, when the rest of the book could have taken place anywhere in time One fact does not a novel make unless it s a really clever fact The bad characters keeping the amazing building from completion felt like a fountainhead rip off, but that might just be me.On the positive side the book is an extremely easy read, I might have enjoyed it were I laying in the sun half drunk on something sweet and rum filled Violent sex too if that sort of thing titillates you.Thank you Wait Wait for warning me of Oprah s evil plan, if I can save one person from reading this book my work will done. This book was so completely fantastic that I almost forgot the outside world existed when I was reading it I ve never be so emotionally invested in a story, as I was with this It s a rare book that does this to me I think it s because it follows the characters through such a large proportion of their lives, resulting in a large amount of intimacy and investment with them Indeed, this novel spans a massive period of forty years and has 1000 pages this is no light reading it is deep, emotive and completely brilliant The intense story So much happens within this novel It s impossible to lay it down in a brief summary these characters, quite literally, go through hell Such is the life of commoners in the period They are good folk, and are just trying to erect a church for the betterment of their town However, the corruptness of the local nobility, and the church hierarchy itself, almost prevents them from achieving their aim Prior Phillip and Jack the Builder are forced to seek out the aid from their monarch, but because of the turmoil of the civil war, this monarch keeps changing They have a choice of two royal courts to appeal to Both are convinced they have the legitimate claim to England s throne Picking the wrong side would lead to the ultimate ruination of a folk that simply want to live in peace, and celebrate God s glory on earth Well, this is the mere surface level of the plot This book is so much beyond it It is a story of betrayal and seduction it is a story of love and hardship it is a story of human nature and the all encompassing morals that imposes It is just fantastic in every sense The characters are real, and their hardships are even realer These are truly some of the most human characters I ve ever read about these people could have existed.This is no less true for the villains of the book, William Hamleigh in particular is characterised superbly For all his ruthless aggression, and sense of entitlement, he s still a coward at heart He d never admit it to anyone, but the reader knows of what he is the reader can see his blackening yellow heart He is a product of society, and his parent s ruthless ambition He doesn t deserve sympathy because of this, but the reason why he is the man he is can be seen by looking at his origins His parents ruined him he has no restraint he has nobody to tell him no So, to his mind, he can get away with anything He even has a Bishop who will gladly absolve all his sins He s actions have no consequences he can murder and rape without feeling the consequences This is an incredibly dangerous mind set, and one that almost destroys the protagonists of the book He s a nasty man The strength of the church Follet also weighs the potential power of the church I love the way he contrasts godly Prior Phillip with the twisted Bishop Waleran It shows us two routes the church could take it shows us two possibilities for God s monument on Earth Prior Phillip is everything the church should be he is kind and forgiving he is benevolent and just he is a true believer of Christ s teachings He is in the church for the simple reason that he is a man of faith Contrastingly, Bishop Waleran is a tyrannical despot He represents evryhting the church shouldn t be he is the personification of its potential evil The Bishop is vain, greedy and ambitious In this his will is his own he is completely self serving He abuses his power to meet his own ends and self aggrandisement So, he is slightly corrupt He s only in the church for its political power and rewards In this, he is not a true believer of his own faith By contrasting these two characters Follet demonstrates how the church has the power to do great good and also great evil This, for me, is quite a strong message to take from the book because it shows us the dividing nature of man, of life, of good and evil it shows us that all things can be benevolent or terrible It also hints at redemption If something is this bad, it can be made into something good once it has the potential to be as it should be in the right hands I do love this story It shows that if people can come together, to achieve something greater than themselves then humanity is not lost despite the backdrop of war, corruptness and general chaos Jack begins the novel as a mute boy with little human socialisation At the end of the novel he is a respected builder and farther of the town He is the anchor of Follet s story telling Everything centres on Jack, and his family history His narrative questions the restraints the common man lived under in the period it highlights the injustice the legal system exerted in the time He cannot marry his love without a written divorce from his horrible step brother who d sooner see him live in misery than have the happiness he couldn t achieve The church doctrine almost prevents him from being a farther to his child But, he perseveres and overcomes the restrictions of the church, his awful step brother and the corruptness of society itself Jack s story is one of human perseverance and fortitude it is a story of a man who somehow managed to survive a system that was completely against himNevertheless, the book gave Jack a feeling he had never had before, that the past was like a story, in which one thing led to another, and the world was not a boundless mystery, but a finite thing that could be comprehended This is a phenomenal story, and though that I ve got hundreds of books I want to read in my lifetime, and little enough time to read them in, this is a book I will definitely be reading again in the future it s a story that I simply have to revisit regardless of its vast length This is a book I just have to read again. &FREE PDF ⇜ The Pillars of the Earth ⇹ Ken Follett Is Known Worldwide As The Master Of Split Second Suspense, But His Most Beloved And Bestselling Book Tells The Magnificent Tale Of A Twelfth Century Monk Driven To Do The Seemingly Impossible Build The Greatest Gothic Cathedral The World Has Ever KnownEverything Readers Expect From Follett Is Here Intrigue, Fast Paced Action, And Passionate Romance But What Makes The Pillars Of The Earth Extraordinary Is The Time The Twelfth Century The Place Feudal England And The Subject The Building Of A Glorious Cathedral Follett Has Re Created The Crude, Flamboyant England Of The Middle Ages In Every Detail The Vast Forests, The Walled Towns, The Castles, And The Monasteries Become A Familiar Landscape Against This Richly Imagined And Intricately Interwoven Backdrop, Filled With The Ravages Of War And The Rhythms Of Daily Life, The Master Storyteller Draws The Reader Irresistibly Into The Intertwined Lives Of His Characters Into Their Dreams, Their Labors, And Their Loves Tom, The Master Builder Aliena, The Ravishingly Beautiful Noblewoman Philip, The Prior Of Kingsbridge Jack, The Artist In Stone And Ellen, The Woman Of The Forest Who Casts A Terrifying Curse From Humble Stonemason To Imperious Monarch, Each Character Is Brought Vividly To LifeThe Building Of The Cathedral, With The Almost Eerie Artistry Of The Unschooled Stonemasons, Is The Center Of The Drama Around The Site Of The Construction, Follett Weaves A Story Of Betrayal, Revenge, And Love, Which Begins With The Public Hanging Of An Innocent Man And Ends With The Humiliation Of A King For The Movie Tie In Edition With The Same ISBN Go To This Alternate Cover Edition This was incredible After reading this for weeks, I ll need a bit to sort out my thoughts on this one Review to come Also, how great is the feeling when you re the first person to check out a brand new replacement copy via the library I know I m going to be in the minority here, but this is truly one of the worst books I have ever read I came so close to throwing the book across the room on several occasions, and ended up skipping through many pages just to get to the final and not too surprising finish The characters were flat and lifeless and seemed to have been transplanted from the 20th century into medieval England The book was rife with unnecessary profanity that in no way enhanced the storyline and obscene gratuitous sex I mean how many times did William have to rape someone to prove that he was a really really bad guy I noticed that at least one other reviewer commented that this book was required reading in his child s school, which if you are a parent I would recommend you take a good look at this book and perhaps take issue with your school district As an adult I was shocked at the language and violence in this book, and find it totally inappropriate for a child and or young adult I also noticed comments about the historical accuracy and research that must have been involved in writing this book If that is so, it must only be in regards to the building of the cathedral and the civil war between Stephen and Maud As for the rest, I must disagree, I have read many well written and researched books of medieval times thank you Sharon Kay Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick for such awesome reads , and I was infuriated on numerous discrepancies in this book Examples and anyone may correct me if I m mistaken as I am not a history major Aliena is frequently described as having long, curling loose flowing hair Women in those days wore their hair braided and covered, it being quite scandalous for any man other than her husband or lover to see it loose After the attack on the castle, and the imprisonment of their father Aliena and Richard are allowed to live alone in the castle with only the steward I doubt that the king would punish the children so for the sins of their fathers, and most likely would have been made wards of the king until they reached their majority This was most desirable as the king could then skim the proceeds off the estates and funnel them to the crown s use Sometimes a king would give ward ship to another party as a reward for service, etc Young boys of the noble class were typically sent to another noble household to be raised and educated, first as squires and then trained in that household as a knight What on earth was a teenaged Richard doing living at home Much was made of William s warhorse These were formidable beasts that were not easily handled by strangers Yet Aliena and Richard were able to not only saddle the warhorse, but to get right on and ride it I don t think so The English nobility of that period were Norman French and did not speak the language of the peasant class So how did Aliena manage to not only communicate with them, but could set up a successful business in that atmosphere I could go on with examples if I had remembered to take notes, but there were many similar instances to this throughout the book All I can say is that if you want to read a very well written and researched book on this period, please see Sharon Kay Penman s When Christ and His Saints Slept and Time and Chance Ballantine Reader s Circle JMO.