The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Published in 1989
Recommended Age Group: Adult
Summary: The Pillars of the Earth covers the building of the Kingsbridge cathedral in twelfth century England. There are five people who guide us through this journey. Philip, an ambitious monk that serves God through his intelligence; Tom, master builder of the cathedral; Ellen, Tom’s second wife and a practicing witch; Jack, Ellen’s son who later becomes the master builder of the Kingsbridge; and Aliena the destitute daughter of a former Earl who rises unexpectedly to triumph. It is from these five views, and a few others, that we learn of Kingsbridge and the struggle to build the cathedral amidst threats of weather, poverty, and numerous malicious enemies.
These enemies also play an important role in the book. The principal villains are: Waleran Bigod, a monk who thinks that the end justifies the means in service to God, and William Hamleigh, a power-hungry man who will stop at nothing to ensure that people fear him because he feels this is the only way to lead.
Through the tale we also learn of the miracles of building of the Middle Ages and the ingenuity of the men at the time. We are led through time and space on this expedition that not only built a cathedral, but a town.
Personal Notes: I was interesting in the book right from the start. A friend recommended it to me and wanted me to read it and let her know if it was worth finishing. This intrigued me because not only do I love recommendations but it was flattering that she wanted to know what I thought. For me it started well enough but it was slow. Around 250 pages into it I started reading it because I wanted to and I was thinking about it when I wasn’t reading and thus showing interest. By page 400 I decided I had to finish because it was so good and I was thoroughly engaged in the story. It was also at this point that many of the horrible and disturbing scenes with William Hamleigh stopped. I have to admit that was the only failing the book presented to me. William rapes quite a few women and I feel that there is needless detail and while it does secure the readers hate for William it also removes some of their virtue. I feel that the book would have been better if these scenes were smaller because I do see the need for them but not the length.
Overall it was a great book not something to be taken on lightly as it will demand time but it is well worth the effort.