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Summary

Set in the turbulent times of 12th century England where civil war, famine, religious strife, and battles over royal succession tore lives and families apart, The Pillars of the Earth tells the story of the building of a magnificent cathedral.

Against this richly imagined backdrop, filled with intrigue and treachery, Ken Follett draws the reader irresistibly into a wonderful epic of family drama, violent conflict, and unswerving ambition. From humble stonemason to imperious monarch, the dreams, labours, and loves of his characters come vividly to life. The Pillars of the Earth is, without doubt, a masterpiece, and has proved to be one of the most popular books of our time.

© Ken Follett; (P) Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Critic reviews

"Richard E. Grant's virtuoso vocal characterisation is a shortcut to establishing the colourful variety of the enormous cast. If you become addicted, you can follow it up with the just-released sequel, the even longer World Without End, also read by Grant." Christina Hardyment ( The Times Books)

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Kurt
  • Tunbridge Wells, United Kingdom
  • 30-11-07

Absolutely absorbing

I had always meant to read this book, but never quite got around to it. The size of the volume might have had something to do with it. I even hesitated to purchase the audiobook when I saw that it required four separate downloads. However, I am really happy it did. I couldn't put it down. What a great story. It was Ken Follet's passion and it shows. Richard Grant does a fabulous job of narration. Not only is his voice a pleasure to listen to - he handles the various characters beautifully. Buy this book. You won't regret it.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Disappointing

Its so short that the storyline has been killed off. I should have never bought this & the sequel. Stick with the good old book and read the full story.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Too many cuts

I always prefer unabridged books and this abridged version confirmed that view. I had read this book many years ago and wanted to refresh my memory before reading the sequel ?World Without End?. I loved the book when I first read it, the images it conjured up and the emotion it stirred in me. I was so disappointed in this rather butchered substitute. A colourful epic novel has been turned into a short sharp narrative that almost seems to want to get the story over too quickly. There?s no time for real character development or to understand feelings and relationships. I was looking forward to listening to ?World Without End? ? but not unless there is an unabridged version.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Steven
  • cardiffUnited Kingdom
  • 23-05-10

not as the author intended

firstly let me say that I love this book! in fact, I would say its up in my top 5 books that i have ever read. also let me say that I don't doubt that Grant's naration is superb.

it is hard however to think of this long masterpiece cut to shreds for a 9 hour audio book. Its particularly hard to accept given that there is an unabridged version available over on audible.com that, as another reviewer points out, we can't have. I'd love to know why, particularly as some of his other books are available in unabridged format. I can only hope that audible will see fit to sort out the rights issue and allow British readers the chance to have the unabridged version of this modern classic... wonder if they'll let this be published?

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A true masterpiece

This book is an amazing piece of historical fiction. It's set against the background of the civil war between the followers of King Stephen and Empress Maud (with the murder of Thomas Beckett thrown in), and follows the situations surrounding the building of Kingsbridge Cathedral.

It's a bit of an unusual book in that there's no particular hero - the book follows various people over the time from before the building of the cathedral, to after it was completed many years later.

I was a bit worried about the narration, as I'm not a fan of Richard Grant's, but he did a fantastic job. I didn't want to stop listening to this story. I'm looking forward to getting 'World Without End' (the sequel) and hope it's as good as Pillars.

If you like historical fiction, you MUST get this book!

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Sophie
  • Brisbane, Australia
  • 09-01-15

Historically interesting but lacklustre narration

I have greatly enjoyed other works by this author, but for some reason this book failed to captivate. Partly I think because the narration was rather flat and partly because I found the jumps in time a bit jerky. Worth the listen, just not one of his best.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Susan
  • Maidstone, Kent, United Kingdom
  • 27-03-11

Unexpectedly Brilliant

I did not really know what to expect but I was hooked and loved every moment of this book. I have just discovered to my joy that there are 2 further books in the series so I have downloaded them straight away! Well done Ken best book I've read/listened to in a long time!!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Chris
  • Teignmouth, United Kingdom
  • 19-10-10

Pillars of the Earth

This is a fantastic book which I had read previously in paperback, but which I now have to listen in audio. I was extremely disappointed that such a good book should be abridged to about a quarter of the true length. However, the book and story is a really good read and is narrated superbly.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

pillars of the earth

great book looking forwards to book 2

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

A summary

I loved the book, but more than abridged this audiobook is nothing more than a summary of the original. Nice to bring back to mind a story you've once read and loved, but nothing like the story itself, the essential is lost. In short, I hope there will be some unabridged (or 'less abridged') version, in the meantime this one is not really worth listening to.

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Michelle
  • 29-11-08

poorly abridged

No doubt a good book but spoiled by being poorly abridged - and of course no unabridged version available in my geographical location!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Colin
  • 22-03-08

Cinematic

Ken Follett writes with such vivid prose it's impossible not to drop into his world as he projects the story directly onto your imagination. Whilst the ending is a little rushed it is a deeply satisfying tale full of adventure, courage, loss, retribution and the full melodramatic palette. There is also screeds of fascinating information of time, place and matters architecture.
Highly recommended.


1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Margaret Murray
  • 25-06-10

Pillars of the Earth

A great author that took me along the journey of hardship, sadness, relief, anger, cruelty, self obsessed people, generous people, heartache, determination and survival. The book ending was a slight anti climax and seem to end before it should have but I think that about good movies I want them to go on forever.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • DIANA GILLATT
  • 01-08-09

Long and heavy

Well this certainly killed time in the car, but how it drags on. Not my best read of the year.