Set in the turbulent times of twelfth-century England when 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.
I’m finding it very difficult to summarise, or even understand, my feelings about this book. If you are going to read The Pillars of the Earth, though, you really must prepare yourself. It. Is. Long.
I think in the end what pushed me through to finish this book wasn’t the writing or the characters but the story itself. I didn’t particularly enjoy the writing style – it’s very monotonous and the exciting scenes are written in the same tone as the day-to-day details. The sex scenes couldn’t be a more obvious example of women being written by oblivious men. The characters are one dimensional and did not necessarily inspire any love or hatred. But the story, starting slow and muddled by the cast of characters, grew in interest and complexity and I had to keep reading to find out what would happen next.
If you do persevere and read all 1100+ pages (in the kindle version at least), I can promise that every character is rounded out and a satisfying ending is reached. No cliffhangers or what-ifs in this tome.
I’m realising this review is likely harsher than I truly felt finishing the book, I told you I was conflicted. I think if you go into it aware of the length and the writing style, this is a very enjoyable novel to read. It’s not going to prevent me from continuing with this series and I would not discourage anyone from tackling this book with the correct forewarning.