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The Pillars of the Earth Audiobook

The Pillars of the Earth

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Audible Editor Reviews

Award-winning novelist Ken Follett is at his most magnificent in Pillars of the Earth, Book One of the Trilogy series by the same name, narrated by professional voice artist John Lee. This incredible book has been voted in the top 100 of Britain's Best Loved Books in the BBC The Big Read. The scope of detail in this audiobook is unparalleled. Its intricate plot is weaved with history, religion, politics, love and dishonour. It is an all-encompassing saga, delicately capturing the very core of existence in 12th Century England. Available now from Audible.

Publisher's Summary

The Pillars of the Earth tells the story of Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, a devout and resourceful monk driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has known... of Tom, the mason who becomes his architect - a man divided in his soul... of the beautiful, elusive Lady Aliena, haunted by a secret shame... and of a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state, and brother against brother.

A spellbinding epic tale of ambition, anarchy, and absolute power, set against the sprawling medieval canvas of 12th-century England, this is Ken Follett's historical masterpiece.

©1989 Ken Follett (P)2007 Penguin US

What the Critics Say

"Enormous and brilliant . . . this mammoth tale seems to touch all human emotion - love and hate, loyalty and treachery, hope and despair. This is truly a novel to get lost in." (Cosmopolitan)

"A historical saga of such breadth and density... Follett succeeds brilliantly in combining hugeness and detail to create a novel imbued with the rawness, violence and blind faith of the era." (Sunday Express)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.6 (1653 )
5 star
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Overall
4.6 (921 )
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Story
4.7 (921 )
5 star
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2 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Robert 31/10/2010
    Robert 31/10/2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The Pillars of the Earth"

    Watching the current TV series is rather like reading the abridged version of this epic tale which is the only version that was hitherto available in the UK. One of the things that really draws you into this tale is the vast array of interesting characters and the depth of their characterisation. Enjoy the minutae of their everyday lives, the way that people ate, slept, worked and were beholden to their Lords & Masters in the 12th century. Historical facts like the English civil war and battles fought in 1142 are interwoven with everyday tales of love, hate, treachery and corruption. Absolutely compelling listening and despite the length, I was dissapointed when I finally came to the end.

    47 of 50 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie United Kingdom 13/12/2010
    Julie United Kingdom 13/12/2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Better than the TV series"

    I know its a cliche, but i would strongly advise anyone who watched and enjoyed the TV series to listen to this unabridged version of the book. While i thought the series was excellent, it does contain some alterations to the original story. The story contained in the book hangs together much better. It is also more historically accurate. For example Stephen was not captured at the same time as Gloucester. The book more accurately represents Stephens weak character and his reluctance to take on the Earls- which doesn't come across in the TV version.
    It is a story which you do not want to end. Moreover, the ending is not obvious- just when you think everything is sorted the book has another twist in stall. The characters in the book are very realistic, while William and the bishop are more evil than appears on the tv version.
    Beware the book is much more graphic than the series- some pretty sexually explicit scenes- not for children to hear! Although this is not arbitrary, it adds real sense to lawlessnes of the society during this war and immorality of those given power.

    24 of 26 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mrs Whitland, United Kingdom 23/12/2012
    Mrs Whitland, United Kingdom 23/12/2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fabulous book"

    Ken Follett's ability to keep his readers interested in long novels is wonderful - this is epic Follett, wide ranging, believable characters, he gives a real sense of history. This kept me entertained through ironing, mucking out the horses and driving to work! The second time I listened to it was as good as the first - there were bits I hadn't really taken in. A great listen.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adam Armidale, Australia 03/09/2012
    Adam Armidale, Australia 03/09/2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    4
    1
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    "Fantastic!"

    Easily the best audiobook I've ever listened to. The narration is superb, and the story is fascinating. I'd highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Si 10/02/2011
    Si 10/02/2011 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "OK, I guess,,,,"

    The novel is decently written with some entertaining and compelling sections. It is worth listening to but in my opinion it is by no means a masterpiece, or worthy of such a high star rating.

    The characters are fairly two-dimensional and the story arcs are written as a 300 page thriller's would be, just extended or repeated, rather than having the depth or abstraction that comes from reality. Everything is resolved in time. In epic novels which span large periods of time and encompass a spectrum of events and characters the most successful understand that in life not all problems are solved neatly. It is this neatness that shows the author's true talent is as a thriller writer and not an epic novelist. Once you have listened to a fair portion of the book each time a new crisis emerges it becomes a waiting game for the resolution and a wait for the next crisis to follow.

    The characters are pretty simplistic too, there are two camps, the good and the bad. The bad seem to spend their entire lives scheming to ruin the good. The conflict becomes monotonous and frankly unbelievable, especially during the end sections of the novel which take place 35 years after the original offences, which further damages the novels credibility.

    A decent enough listen and disposable entertainment but a lack of depth can be infuriating and really lets the novel down.

    15 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michelle Watford, United Kingdom 11/01/2011
    Michelle Watford, United Kingdom 11/01/2011

    I have always been an avid devourer of the written word. I am now no longer to read books and cannot wait for Audible day each month.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Simply the Best"

    This is, quite frankly, the best book I've ever read - and I've read a fair few in my time. 'Pillars' is an epic, in the true context of the word, and despite its length I was disappointed when it ended. It is a tale of good versus evil over the period of the lifetime of the main protagonists; the characters grew from young people into adults and then into old people, and the development of these characters was superb. The evil, as opposed to the merely unpleasant, characters were deepened with graphic descriptions of their acts; some of these made me feel extremely uncomfortable at the time, but with hindsight were an excellent way of moving the plot along and developing the characters at the same time. It should be remebered that the backdrop is 12th century England, and such barbarity was not uncommon at that time. The narration was also excellent, and made each twist and turn of the plot line come alive. I don't often recommend books as reading is a very personal thing, but I can recommend this to anybody, and the length should not deter anybody.

    16 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ian Bolton, United Kingdom 17/02/2011
    Ian Bolton, United Kingdom 17/02/2011 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Thank the Lord its over!!"

    I know its a failing in me. If I've invested in a book I have to see it through to the end, and this one required rather more teeth-gritting than is entirely healthy.
    I love well-written historical fiction (see Patrick O'Brien) but this was the most unbelievable tosh.
    Bernard Cornwell on a bad day making an unholy tryst with Dame Barbara Cartland and a very VERY sub-standard D.H.Lawrence.
    Another reviewer refers to the two-dimensional nature of the characters: this is an exaggeration... all the characters are barely one-dimensional, there is little or no psychological development(astonishing considering the time-scale covered by this novel) and they are all either unbelievably good or unremmitingly bad.
    I gave a star for the reading and a couple of stars for the descriptions of the Cathedral-building, but then I remembered those endless, passionless, colourless, distincly unerotic,cold, clincal sex scenes, and knocked a star off! You can see them coming a mile off, the bells clang, the sirens sound, the hooters blare (no pun intended) and you know you're in for a very trying 20 minutes indeed!
    If a reader is really interested in the Early English Cathedral as a literary journey, may I strongly recommend William Golding's 'The Spire': rather more challenging and rather less a Medieval East Enders.
    Save yourself almost 2 days (I can't believe that) and pass this one by!

    15 of 21 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kirstine 14/06/2014
    Kirstine 14/06/2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Medieval soap opera"

    I downloaded this book having been impressed by the first two parts of the author’s Century Trilogy. These latter books illuminated the impacts of the First and Second World Wars by creating fictional characters whose lives are played out against the backdrop of world affaires. I had hoped that Pillars of the Earth would do the same for 12th century history and the turbulent time of the civil war caused by King Stephen and Queen Maud both claiming the throne of England. Pillars isn’t in the same class as the Century books. The historical content is subservient to a medieval melodrama of baddies versus goodies with little subtlety in characterisation. A saintly Prior is trying to get a cathedral built but is perpetually thwarted by a dastardly knight and corrupt bishop. It’s a story of repeated crises where the Prior’s hopes are dashed only in the end to get the better of his adversaries. The book reminds me of dark fairy stories where a monster lives on the outskirts of a town and requires repeated sacrifices by the villagers to ward off an attack but in the end good triumphs over evil. There is an interesting story buried in this book but there are just too many similar scenarios. Somewhat incongruously there are repeated sex scenes that seem more like soft porn than real life. I felt that rape scenes were too lasciviously described than necessary and the sheer number of references to large breasts that are salivated over, fondled and pinched became risible!
    The reader is excellent and contributed to me carrying on with this very long book. Had I been reading it I would have given up but, as I use audio books as company on walks and while doing household chores, I soldiered on.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robyn 07/01/2014
    Robyn 07/01/2014 Member Since 2015

    I get bored quickly so take ages choosing my books. Preferred authors are Sanderson, Rothfuss, Abercrombie, tho' C Harris makes me laugh too

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "This is a special book"

    I delayed reading this - it just looked dull/unappealing. Boy was I wrong.
    42 hours of listening pleasure! It's got everything - intrigue, humour, well developed characters, great plot.

    According to Ken Follett himself, this is a book which has grown in popularity with time, and by word of mouth - and you can see why.

    If you enjoy full, detailed, and well constructed epics, then treat yourself with this. It's not hard going despite it's length.

    9 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa Stoke Hammond, United Kingdom 05/12/2011
    Lisa Stoke Hammond, United Kingdom 05/12/2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
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    6
    6
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    0
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    Overall
    "Ok"

    I prefered fall of giants, had hoped this was as good. It's not go for fall of giants :)

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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