The Pillars of the Earth

The Pillars of the Earth

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A spellbinding epic tale of ambition, anarchy, and absolute power set against the sprawling medieval canvas of twelfth-century England, this is Ken Follett’s historical masterpiece.

Abridged edition read by Richard E. Grant

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Details

  • Paperback: 976 pages
  • Publisher: NAL Trade (February 4, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451207149
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451207142
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4,845 customer reviews)
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4 comments

  1. I’ve never been a fan of Follett, and picked this book up with some misgivings – anyone these days can try to do an “historical” novel with some quick sex, some fake archaic new-speak, and a TV-movie-miniseries concept of history. While there are some minor flaws in this book, its sweep, characterization, tensions, and love of its subject are simply riveting. I could not put the darned thing down and have lost sleep for a week compulsively page-turning. Follett, unbelievably, seems to have made little splash with this book when it first came out – more shame to the critics who missed a “Gone With the Wind” from a conventional thriller author.
    His primary strength in the book is his magnificent characters. By the end, Prior Phillip, Aliena, Jack, Richard, “Witch” Ellen, William of Hamleigh, Waleran Bigod, and a host of supporting characters are as real as people you know. Their strengths and weaknesses feel as sound as earth. I’ve just reached the part where the Cathedral is finished, and its magnificent image, built in love, hardship, and devotion, colors the whole book like light through stained glass. And I suspect the ending will be as immensely “right” as the entire rest of the book in its proportion in spinning out complicated human lives and emotions.
    Follett manages to write of an age of religious devotion without tumbling into the two pits – making fun of medieval Christian faith, or uncritically adopting it. An IMMENSELY satisfying read.
    I could quibble with what I feel is some gratuitous sex, some slightly contrived plot twists, but that’s like complaining about some flotsam in the river as you’re going over Niagara.
    DO NOT MISS THIS BOOK if you love wonderful story-spinning and history.
    Well done, Mr. Follett!

  2. I actually listened to this book on tape, while my wife read the paperback. Both of us loved it. I not only recommend the book, but also urge people to rent the Book on Tape version, narrated by David Case, whose acting and narrative talents shine through, bringing the various characters to life. (But still purchase the book from Amazon!) I came to Pillars of the Earth after spending about two solid years reading, in my spare time, nothing but medieval histories, with a focus on fourteenth century England and the Plantagenet kings. I had never before read a book by Follett, who I had assumed mass-produced pulp spy fiction. I only chose the book because of of my interest in medieval history. To my delight and surprise, I discovered the book to be a true work of literature, which might well still be read in 100 years. I found myself amazed by Follett’s ability to create an extremely complex and compelling plot, with compelling characters, against a backdrop that seemed true to the histories I had been reading. The early twelfth century is a period neglected by us moderns; but it’s one that’s inherently interesting. Who, today, has even heard of King Stephen (who preceded the famous Henry II, immortalized twice by Peter O’Toole in the 1960s movies Beckett and Lion in Winter)? Because, in England at least, Stephen’s reign was a time of virtual anarchy, Follett was able to use the period to create characters who demonstrate the brutal lengths to which people can go when unconstrained by law and an effective legal order.Read more ›

  3. Personally, I don’t place a lot of stock in Oprah’s book club lottery. The instant stardom that placement on this reading list bestows authors isn’t always, in my opinion, justified. That being said, this is a wonderful book.

    Pillars is complex, moving and informative. The research was excellent, the characters are engaging and the story moves at a surprisingly quick pace for a novel of this length. The descriptions of the scenes, the completeness of the political interplay and the twists of the plot make this one of my favorite books of all time. Normally, I have little patience for historical fiction unless it brings something new or truly engaging to the table. Pillars certainly does that and more.

    In other words, while there is no such thing as the perfect book, this one comes very close. My advice is simple…READ THIS BOOK — YOU’LL LOVE IT!

    But do yourself a small favor, go to the used bookstore or the library, this is not a new release and you can enjoy Follett’s favorite work for a fraction of the cost. A quick search of Amazon shows dozens of options that don’t have the Oprah name or any other bells and whistles that I’m sure are unneeded to enjoy this spectacular piece of fiction

  4. This book was highly recommended by the owner of the bookstore I frequent. Another customer noticed I was holding it in my hand indecisively and declared it was the best book she’d ever read. On the strength of these recommendations, I bought it for my vacation reading. It was a good read, but I had higher expectations of it than it delivered. I must disagree with those who have reviewed this book and called it “an epic”. It’s not an epic–it’s just a long book. It has more similarities to a t.v. mini-series than to the epic tradition. I will forgive any number of transgressions in your average 300-page murder mystery, but given that “Pillars” is 983 pages long,I expected “more bang for my book”, to pervert the idiom. I wanted to learn things that I didn’t know before.
    The first few hundred pages are quite well written. Follett’s writing flags toward the middle (but by then, I was two days into the book, and it was raining at the cottage, so I continued reading). The problem, I think, is that we are to believe that this is a mostly historically accurate portrayal of daily life in the Middle Ages. Follett even thanks several people at the end of the book for assisting him with their “encyclopedic knowledge of the Middle Ages”. In my opinion, if an author is going to go to that much effort for historical accuracy, he can’t marry it up with sentences such as: “They looked fascinated: they had probably never seen a woman done by two men at the same time”. There are parts of the book where the reader is brought up short by Follett’s lapse into lurid prose and it is all of a sudden unclear whether one is reading a historical novel or a Harlequin romance.Read more ›

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