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
"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)
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
I really wasn't expecting much from this book. Being a big fan of Bernard Cornwell and being used to his type of writing, I was pretty sceptical about Ken Follet's writing, however, I was more than mildly suprised to find that after getting over the different fashion of writing and story telling, this became a story that I just could not leave until the very end. It was fabulous - a very well written story of a priest whose ambition to build a fantastic church comes to life, the many wonderful characters with intricate stories surrounding the building. I never want to give much away in a review, other than to say that if you like historic stories, this is one of the best ones that I have come across. I was delighted with the characters, the ups and downs of the events, the knotting created in your stomache by some of the characters, its brilliantly laid out, has some real 'feel good' moments and you really must read/listen to this one.
"Without doubt one of the best..."
I kept putting off listening to this wonderful book, I wasn't sure if it was going to be a bit dry- boy was I wrong! This is one of the best audiobooks I have listened to alongside Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrel and Under The Dome, what connects all these audiobooks is the strong narration and excellent character development by the authors. Pillars is one of those books where you can see, feel and smell the era and people. You really get to know each character so well, you cheer on the heroes and boo the villians- I was very sad when it was over. It is long but that is what makes it so great, value for credit and I have listened to some real duffs recently so was crying out for a good listen. John Lee is a great narrator and I can't wait to listen to him again reading World Without End. My new favorite author- Ken Follet and my new favorite narrator John Lee!
"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!
This is a gripping tale, and well read. As is usually the case, the book is much better than the TV series. I enjoyed the TV series but can't understand why the producers mucked about with the story as they did because the book is never less than action-packed. I didn't want it to end and will doubtless revisit the story sometime in the future.
"Unlikeable Stereotypes & Predictable Plot"
I listened to half in the hope that I would glimpse some reason for the positive praise, but in the end found myself dreading listening to it. There are no likeable characters amongst the 2D stereotypes and the plotline was exceedingly predictable. I like long books and have just completed the 14 books of Robert Jordan where each one is the length of this. My hopes for something engaging were quickly dashed. Even the historical aspect lends little with nothing much to add to any basic historic knowledge. There are many better historical novels out there and I would suggest those unless you like to play predictable plot bingo.
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.
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