Ken Follett – The Pillars of the Earth
Length: 992 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Started: 12 May 2011
Finished: 20 May 2011
Where did it come from? Bookmooch.
Why do I have it? ??? (translation: I don’t remember how this one wound up on the wishlist.)
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 19 August 2008.
The tale of building
a big ol’ church requires
a big ol’ book too.
Summary: In The Pillars of the Earth, England during the Anarchy – the nineteen years (starting in 1135) of civil war and disputed succession to the throne – is full of some very single-minded people. Tom the Builder wants nothing more than to build a grand cathedral, both to honor God by creating something magnificent, and to provide a measure of prosperity for his family. Philip, a humble monk, wants nothing more than to take the ill-managed priory of Kingsbridge and turn it into a thriving monastery and community again. Waleran Bigod wants nothing more than personal power, preferably in the form of an archbishopric. When the lives of these men intersect, not only individual fortunes but whole buildings and communities will rise and fall on the outcome.
Review: The Pillars of the Earth and I wound up having a very strange relationship. While I didn’t ever dislike it enough to stop reading it, neither did I ever really get into it enough to be motivated to keep reading it. For shorter books, that kind of ambivalence can usually be powered through, but when you’ve battled your way to page 500 and realize that you still have to motivate yourself to slog through another 500 pages, it’s a bit more problematic… and that’s the situation I found myself in with this book.
But, I did want to know how the story ended, so: I cheated. From the halfway point on, I skipped any part where the characters were rambling on about architecture, battles, drawn-out scheming or politics, and all the times when Follett felt it necessary to text the subtext of conversations that had just happened, and covered the last half of the book in a fraction of the time it took me to get through the first half. And I do not regret that decision one bit. I did enjoy reading about a period of British history that I hadn’t previously encountered, and it was a good story with interesting characters. It was just a good story that could have been told equally well (if not better) in half the space. 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Hmmm, hard to say. Lots of people love it just fine, so it’s probably worth a try for historical fiction fans – but if it’s not grabbing you early on, don’t expect the pace to pick up after you’ve put in a few hundred pages of effort.
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First Line: The small boys came early to the hanging.
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