Pillars of the Earth--Ken Follett

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I am not gaga over Oprah either way. I don't see her as the new messiah, nor do I see her as the apotheosis of evil. However, I do respect the fact that she leads many of her viewers to new and interesting books. While the majority of her bookclub were probably already readers, I can't help but wonder if her work hasn't encouraged some of the sluggish. The reason I mention her is that Pillars of the Earth was one of her book-club selections and that indirectly influenced my bookgroup's decision to read it.

I've tried to read it several times, in fact, I thought I had read it through once, but upon finishing the book I concluded that I never got much past the introduction. Most likely this was because the length of the book itself was daunting and I found other more pressing things to occupy my time with. I'm very pleased that at last I've found cause to read it.

The book is the story of the building of a Cathedral and the scheming, politics, and sheer human cussedness that surrounds it. Initially it appears to be the story of Thomas Builder and an assorted cast of characters, but it rapidly becomes a real pageant of people, places, and events during the turmoil of the reigns of Stephen and Maud. It ends during the reign of Henry II.

I have only a couple of minor quibbles with the book. One is with the author's tendency to sprinkle in sex scenes and a certain amount of vulgarity which, while probably representative of the time, had the effect of pulling me out of the story and into an analysis of why the author did what he did. The second is with an occasional bout of linguistic anancrhonism. For example, at one point a character hesitates from doing something because he thinks that the woman he is with will "make a scence." For whatever reason, when reading a book set in Medieval times, it is extremely jarring to have an introduction of this kind of thing.

Despite some infrequent questionable choices by the author, the book moves quickly and one comes to sympathize deeply with many of the characters. The story is logical, logically developed, and suitably reflective of life during chaotic times. It is a story of passionate intensity and devotion to a cause and it is the story of the growth of a town. It is, in some small way, also the story of redemption of several seemingly irredeemable characters.

Well worth while, but (for home-schooling moms) not for the kids.

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I was surprised at how thoroughly I hated this book, mostly because several of the characters had such modern sensibilities. Despite the way that I felt Follett got the atmosphere right in the overall environment, this just grated more with the way that some of the characters thought (thoroughly modern). I got about halfway through and then tossed it.

What I find fascinating about the writer’s (Ken Follet) narration is the psychology behind every action by the character. Also, the way he manipulated 3rd person narrative as 1st person narrative. However, I think it is true that he painted the character Aliena as a woman in our modern age and not that of the middle age. Furthermore, the building of the cathedral went on and on like an essay or a lecture note rather than a creatively described text in a story.

The novel started well and systematical but ended hastily. That marred the greatness of it.

All in all, it is a potential great book



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on January 8, 2008 7:41 AM.

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