The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

I received this book for Christmas from my parents. My mum had been lining up to meet Ken Follett to have Fall of Giants signed when she was recommended this book by someone else in the queue. “It’s about the building of a cathedral,” the gentleman raved, “Your daughter will love it.” Now, my mother knows that building cathedrals does not rank highly on my list of preferred hobbies but she knows I enjoy Ken Follett’s books. So it was duly added to the Christmas pile. 

The book is somewhat daunting by its size – my copy was 1076 pages, plus an introduction and the first chapter of the sequel, World Without End. The print is fairly small and there are no page breaks for chapters. After the first hundred pages, we still haven’t met all the characters and there’s no cathedral in sight.

But despite that, this book is good. Really good.

What’s it about? Well, it’s about the building of a cathedral in the small town of Kingsbridge, England in the 1100s. But it’s about so much more than that – the lives of many different people from Philip the monk, Waleran the Bishop, Tom the Builder, Aliena, William, Jack and Ellen. All these characters come from different backgrounds and give their perspective of what it was like to live in these times (pretty bloody dangerous in my opinion). Although religion plays a role, it’s certainly not preaching or dominant. Philip is the type of man you would describe simply as ‘good’, no matter what his religion. William is silly but evil and shows the power of the wealthy and bloodthirsty. Waleran is conniving, always out to improve his situation. Jack is lovable despite his faults and Aliena is a strong female character. The supporting characters are also well written and memorable.

Despite the historical setting, the characters are easy to understand. The number of things the town of Kingsbridge goes through is simply amazing – bad luck or something more sinister? However, the characters manage to come through it all with good humour and hope for the future.

This book is brilliantly written – the author weaves and twists many plotlines through the narrative but it’s written in such a way that you remember every word.

Just a quick caution if you’re buying a paperback copy – mine has some pages that are rather light on ink (understandable given the length) so check you can read your copy before you purchase it. This would also be an ideal ebook due to its weight.

Read it if: you have the time to enjoy a great story. No, you need to actually make time for this one!

9.5 out of 10.

15 responses to “The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

  1. Wow I’ll have to check this out. I’ve never read any Ken Follett before. I often find that books with high page counts are printed on low quality ink or paper, it’s a bit annoying.

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  4. From reading your review, this sounds great! I don’t think I would have thought it would have been my cup of tea, but the way you describe it makes me want to get a copy.

    • It is really good – normally, this is not my thing at all (pre-1700s gives me the creeps) but Follett makes it come alive – I even found myself looking at cathedrals differently! It’s not a small book though!

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