The Pillars of the Earth

The Pillars of the Earth

(picture and game found here)

The Pillars of the Earth is set in 12th century England, and sweeps a period of about 40 years.   It is the story of the building of a grand Cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge (there is a real Kingsbridge, but not this one), and the people involved.  That doesn’t sound like it would make for a very interesting novel, but it turned out to be a page-turner of a book with flawed characters and enough twists and turns to keep any soap opera buff happy. There is sex, violence, murder, sabotage, intrigue, historical fact, and lots of ups and downs.  The main characters all seem to almost get what they want, time and time again, only to have their desires pulled out from under them.

The strength of the novel is the characters, who are fairly well drawn, and the research Follett put into the architecture and history of the time.  I enjoyed getting a glimpse into how life must have been lived so long ago…the common living/sleeping areas, sometimes with horses and cows brought inside to live.  It must have smelled very bad.

The weakness of the novel is that, like a soap opera, the story lines are drawn out and predictable for the most part, which I found somewhat annoying.

It definitely kept me engaged, but at 967 pages, I thought it was probably about 400 – 500 pages too long.  There is a “Gone With The Wind” feel to it, with the epic drama taking place in a mixture of real and imagined events, but without a central character as flawed and complicated as Scarlett O’Hara, it falls short in comparison.

I’d recommend it, but not as highly as I expected, as so many people suggested this book to me.

I read Pillars of the Earth for my 2008 TBR Challenge, and finished it with 4 whole days to spare.  Whew.

8 thoughts on “The Pillars of the Earth

  1. You know, I’ve had this on my bookshelf for years now, on a friend’s recommendation, and I still haven’t gotten around to reading it!

  2. Well Deb, it’s a LOT more interesting than the premise sounds. You know, unless you’re a huge fan of Gothic architecture. But it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be.

  3. I’m glad you stuck with the book because it looked like you were really uninterested it for the first half. After your big readathon the other night, it seemed like you finally got into the story and you were hooked until the end.

  4. I really loved this book, but you’re right about the annoyance of the plot lines becoming a bit too drawn-out. The only reason I didn’t become overly annoyed was because I didn’t want the book to end. I am a fast reader and I have gotten to the point now where if a book is less than 350 pages, I just don’t want anything to do with it. I can read it in a day and feel cheated.

    apathy lounge–the sequel is a good read. it has the same drawbacks as the first (an unredeemable villain and the “why can’t they just leave these people alone” plot lines) but the sense of place and the authenticity is very present. i love to learn something when i read, and in these books, you get a great story AND some interesting info about life in a time that is very, very different than what we know.

  5. Nance, you were right about the irredeemable villain! I told my husband, “If this guy doesn’t die at the end, this book is going in the fireplace!” 🙂

  6. I like historical books, that 967 pages is really a lot, that is like three books together, but by todays standard, it could be 1.5 books.

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