I will try to be brief; for something this hefty it’s only right.
The Pillars of the Earth is unlike any other I’ve ever read in my lifetime. I’ve been generally inclined to be wary of big reads such as this but my attempt one Sunday afternoon to convince myself otherwise proved useless. The effort to scratch it off my list of must reads started at a bookstore; standing in between shelves reading the epilogue. That was the end of my conviction, this book is indeed great and I’d be cheating myself if I did not take it home.
Published exactly two decades ago, very few hardbound copies are out there so I resolved myself to a paperback. From word of mouth, many have said that it is reasonably magnanimous. An unintended warning that more or less intimidated me given the 1076 pages it imposes. I’ve never attacked a novel this lengthy and with such a formidable thesis, yet the epilogue sold the story well finding myself overlooking the risk.
The story weaves around the building of Kingsbridge Cathedral. It incorporates romance, politics, religion and skilled masonry of the Gothic structures of 12th century England. It also has Christendom’s memoirs and England’s history gracefully intertwine in it, giving readers an astute picture of how it is to live during the Anarchy Age. The story is teeming with lust, torture, family drama, murdering noblemen and unconditional love.
The young boys arrive first to watch the hanging. These children enjoy the hangings for their entertainment value; the youngsters are vicious and cruel and despise everything that their elders value. Soon the village men arrive and speak knowingly of hangings they have previously witnessed. Before long, the entire village turns out; the older women sell ale and food as an impromptu market springs up around the gallows. The townspeople get their first look at the condemned man as he is brought in by oxcart.
Although author Ken Follett’s novel is about a time long ago, you won’t be weighed down by its language. The book is divided in six major chapters; all of which follows the linear journey of each character from 1123 to 1174. This towering tale’s pacing is flawless, the tension is both vicious and absorbing, and the passion is epic in proportion. The author writes with vivid imagination providing astute descriptions of greed, ambition and triumph.
What may be more striking than the novel itself is that the author originally writes thriller novels and – brace yourself – does not believe in God. It may come shocking that Ken Follett continued to write the story via research which was brought about by his curiosity in architectural designs and clergymen. The weighty novel’s well-mechanized story is nourished with straightforward bravado and soaring imagination – a testament of a true genius.
The Pillars of the Earth encapsulates the striking labor between good and evil. Yes it is a big read but it is first and foremost a brilliant read.