(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.