Monday, September 6, 2010

113 - Pillars of the Earth; Ken Follett


















Pillars of the Earth; Ken Follett

I've been meaning to read this book for about 10 years now---has that ever happened to you?

Well, I finally took the plunge, by reading and listening to this book. Nearly 1,000 pages in print and 32 discs, unabridged audio version, this epic novel was well worth the time I spent.  The prologue alone, hooked me immediately. For those of you who still haven't read this novel, this is how the prologue began.....
"The small boys came early to the hanging.     
It was still dark when the first three or four of them sidled out of the hovels, quiet as cats in their felt boots. A thin layer of fresh snow covered the little town like a new coat of paint, and theirs were the first footprints to blemish its perfect surface. They picked their way through the huddled wooden huts and along the streets of frozen mud to the silent market-place, where the gallows stood waiting.

The boys despised everything their elders valued. They scorned beauty and mocked goodness. They would hoot with laughter at the sight of a cripple, and if they saw a wounded animal they would stone it to death. They boasted of injuries and wore their scars with pride, and they reserved their special admiration for mutilation: a boy with a finger missing could be their king. They loved violence; they would run miles to see bloodshed; and they never missed a hanging."
Set in 12th century England, Ken Follett has woven a rich and colorful story of people, places and events.   The story spans a period of fifty years, and for the most part revolves around the building of a wondrous Gothic Cathedral in the destitute township of Kingsbridge, after the former dilapidated church burns to the ground.

Some of the central characters are: Tom, a master builder, Aliena, a beautiful noblewoman and daughter of the fallen Earl, Brother Philip, Prior of Kingsbridge, Jack, an artist and stone mason, Eileen, a forest woman who can cast spells. Other characters include, monks, bishops, craftsmen, peasants, soldiers and noblemen --this book has it all. The characters are complex and memorable, and as a reader ,I felt fully transported to another place and time. The author's attention to detail, allows you to wrap yourself up in the characters and their lives. Pillars of the Earth is a brilliant epic tale that tells of love,  war, politics, and even torture and death. I was sorry to see this one end. I hope to get a copy of the sequel, World Without End soon. The reader of the audio version, John Lee, was excellent, and I highly recommend both reading and listening to this novel for maximum pleasure.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - 5/5 stars
(Library audio and personal print copy)

I tend to read multiple books at the same time, so this one took me nearly a month to finish.

42 comments:

  1. This one is on hold for me at the library. I plan to start it tomorrow after work, so I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it.

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  2. I have books on my TBR from more than 10 years ago, lol! This one esp! I'm both intimidated and awed by this book. I want to read it, but I'm scared too. Once I finish with Ulysses, I hope to pick this one up!

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  3. I read this book a few years ago, so my recollection is definitely foggy. I know I loved it though--glad you did too.

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  4. This book was so out of my comfort zone when I read it many, many years ago. It's a chunkster, and I never read books during that time frame. I ended up reading it with a buddy and a schedule to help get though. It turned out to be a very good book, and I'm glad I took the time to read it.

    It's so great to see that you loved it! It was worth the month you spent on it, wasn't it? :)

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  5. I have to confess, I wasn't very interested in this until the miniseries got everyone buzzing, and now the reviews have me very intrigued! Yours especially -- I think I'll add it to my TBR.

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  6. This book is in my top ten of favorites. I love historical fiction and, in my opinion, this book is the cream of the crop! The "sequel", World Without End, is also excellent. It picks up about 100-200 years into the future of Kingsbridge with the ancestors of Jack, etc. Incidentally, I just finished watching the mini-series of Pillars on Starz and it was very well made. It had a great cast of actors and it was very well-acted. The movie stayed very true to the book.

    I'm so glad you liked it. It thrills me when other people like my favorite books!

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  7. I read this years ago. It is one of those rare books that have stayed with me.
    Aths, I promise you will find Pillers much easier than Ulysses. That book was on my TBR pile for three years. I think I finally read it just to make room.

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  8. Yes I too have heard of this and put it at the back of my mind - I hope I will get to it someday.

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  9. I completely agree with everything Michelle said!

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  10. I look forward to reading this one, but the sheer size of it means it keeps getting bumped! Glad you rated it so highly.

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  11. This is one of those books on my radar, but I just haven't had time to read it. I borrowed it from the library, but it wasn't gonna happen in two weeks. I'm probably going to have to buy it.

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  12. My son's friend has this and has promised to loan it to me. I hope to get to it next year. I really got the itch to read it after I got a sneak peak of the mini-series on Encore Channel. Sadly, the real thing was on Starz channels which I don't have and refused to get just for this.

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  13. I absolutely, absolutely loved this book -- I couldn't put it down and the story still sticks with me! I am so glad to hear that you loved this book!!

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  14. Wow, reading that one is quite a commitment. A friend of mine just read it and she loved it too, so it sounds like it's worth trying.

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  15. I'm glad you liked this! I read it last year and got so involved I was just exhausted by the time I finished. William! I'm going to have to write up a "love to hate" post about him soon. I can't think of a character I hate more!

    I read World Without End earlier this year, and while I liked it, I didn't like it as well. For me, it felt too similar to Pillars. I hope you like it more than I did though!

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  16. There was a huge hype before the launch of Fall of Giants by Ken Follett and the author has not let us down

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  17. One of my all time favourites - I'm so glad you got around to reading it and enjoyed it, it would have been awful if you had hated it.

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  18. Definitely one I keep meaning to read, but the size always puts me off. I need to be be brave!

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  19. I've been meaning to read this for ages, too! Bought a used copy at the library book sale last year, but still haven't summoned the energy to begin such a big book. Now that I'm tacking Bleak House, maybe this could be next...

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  20. I am so glad you enjoyed this one, Diane! I read it several years ago for an online book group and flew through it in just a few days, I was so engrossed in the story. I loved it. Great review!

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  21. I'm not much of a fan for period pieces, but 5 stars may get me to reconsider this one.

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  22. I read this a while back and really liked it. The writing was luscious. I have a few quotes but I need to reread it again to post it. I just might do that... really slowly!
    Thanks for the reminder.

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  23. I'm glad you finally got around to reading this. I really enjoyed it as well, though for me it took FOREVER to get in to it.

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  24. Ha! I think this one has been on my list for ten years too. I confess, the length is daunting to me. I do still own a copy and want to read it some day. Perhaps I'll find the impetus soon!

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  25. I read this one long ago, and credit it for making me a lover of historical fiction. It was a really great read, and though I haven't yet read World Without End, I really want to!! So glad that you enjoyed this book!

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  26. I admit that the size of the book is daunting, but once you read the first few pages it is incredible, and you don't even realize that you are flying through it!

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  27. I've only been meaning to read this for about 2 years, but am always put off by the length. I'm so pleased that you loved it. I will have to drag it off the shelf soon - hopefully before I reach the 10 year mark!

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  28. I just finished watching the mini-series on Starz of this book and I absolutely loved it! Makes me wish that I did read it before watching it though.

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  29. I read Pillars when it was first published and I was halfway through it when I attended Follett's signing. Noting that I was reading it in line, he asked me how I liked it—and he was genuinely interested!

    Follett isn't te writer he used to be, though, and I was disappointed by the sequel. I couldn't warm up to any of the characters, and if anything could go wrong, it did.

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  30. Nothing like a good historical novel to remind us why we're book lovers :)

    Are you planning to read the sequel? It's sitting on my shelf for ages, looking at me with those 1000+ pages...

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  31. I absolutely loved Pillars of the Earth! I'm so glad you finally got around to it AND liked it! I had wanted to read it for some time too, and then made it a reading group pick. I warned everyone that it was almost 1000 pages, but after we all started reading it, everyone really enjoyed it and didn't mind the "big" book!

    Did you see the mini series on Starz? I enjoyed it, but it seemed to me that they changed some key points of the story.

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  32. I put this off for years too until I finally caved ... and I just loved it. But yet I still haven't read the follow-up book!

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  33. I loved this book. I have his new book - A Dangerous Fortune - to read.

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  34. This has been on my to-read list forever and after this review, I think I'll have to finally get to it.

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  35. Wow, we have this one on the shelves and yes it's been there for a while. Not 10 years, but still . . . I think I originally bought it for The Big Guy but he hasn't gotten around to it either. Thanks for a fantastic review. . . . methinks I should go track down that book. I know it's here somewhere.

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  36. I liked this one a lot, but wish it had been had been about 200 pages shorter. Toward the end it felt like the story kept getting recycled. But definitely worth reading! Now I want to see the miniseries.

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  37. Yes, that DOES happen to me. And this is one of those I've wanted to read forever as well. Someday....

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  38. I've had this chunky book on my shelf for several years now. I'm glad you enjoyed, I'm quite sure I will too!

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  39. So glad you enjoyed it. I too did the audio and print route and found it especially satisfying. I can't say the same for the sequel however....it just got to be too much of the same.

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  40. I'm so glad that I found this review of 'Pillars of the Earth', because I've been watching the mini series on tv at the moment and I'm toying with the idea of reading the novel. Due to it's size, I've been a bit unsure whether to embark on such a lengthy book. However, you have persuaded me to give this a go!

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  41. I've wanted to read this one FOREVER, but the size of it has put me off. I really just need to start it and I'm sure I'll be hooked.

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