Most of the forty hours I spent listening to this book I amused myself by planning what I would say about it. It wasn't bad enough to stop, but it's a bit of a slog. The characters are moderately interesting and there's some history, but it's a soap opera - good guys and bad guys duking it out - over and over and over. I kept thinking, "enough already!". Truly, it's one struggle after another, some graphic and disturbing violence. The prose was basic, the story only moderately interesting and very repetitive (ie. the bad guy raped and pillaged his way through the book which got old), and the end didn't ring my cathedral bells. Kind of a set up for the next long book. The one stellar fact is that the narration is outstanding.
I have over 250 audiobooks in my library. This is by far the best book to which I have listened. It has all the elements that make a book exceptional. John Lee's reading makes you feel you are right there in medieval England. The characters are so real I never wanted the story to end. How lucky I am there is a sequel.
I really enjoyed listening to this book and found John Lee's performance to be engaging (as always). Great plot and i would have given it 5 stars except that there are many very explicit rape scenes in this book which were quite disturbing. The first two had a point but the rest were unnecessary in my opinion--I started to wonder if the author had a hidden facination with sexual violence because the rest of the violence in the book were not as explicit. If explicit rape scenes bother you, I wouldn't recommend this book (which is unfortunate because the rest of it is quite good).
I have to admit that I was hesitant to buy a book that was 40 hours about monks building a cathedral in the 12th century. This book came highly recommended and that is why I bought it. I am glad that I did. It was great. It was masterfully written with great characters and a plot that always kept you guessing. The first hour or so was a bit slow, but after that I found myself sitting in the car waiting for the chapter to end before I got out.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or just a wonderfully written story. My only concern at this point is that i do not think that WWE will live up to this book.
John Lee, yes; Ken Follett, no.
I had high hopes for this book, but I was sorely disappointed pretty early on. The characters are one-dimensional; the baddy is always bad, the goody is always good, the cunning is always cunning, etc. None of the bad characters have any redeeming qualities and the good are good to a fault. No one is like this in real life, which makes it very difficult to relate to the characters. The plot was just generally boring, the repeated misfortune and spoils of the characters got old, the building-not building- building again, lather rinse repeat got really old, really quickly. Everything about the story was predictable and the end was extremely anticlimactic and, yes, predictable. How pedestrian.
Thomas Becket. This storyline was completely superfluous and added nothing to the story. William could have been hanged for some other crime, it's not like he was lacking in that department.
The difference between reading a paper book and listening to an Audible title was brought home to me when I listened to this book.
Years ago, before I joined Audible, I read this book in its paper format and remember telling myself that Ken Follett should stick to World War II spy stories because this book was just boring.
When I saw it available on Audible I had no desire to listen to it, but finally, after seeing all the praise, I relented and bought it. The one good thing was that I was so bored with the paper book that I remembered nothing of the story line. Listening to it was a revelation. How I could have been bored by such an interesting story with such interesting characters still baffles me, but I thoroughly enjoyed listening and expect to order the sequel. The only negative thing I can say is that the characterization of William as such a thoroughly evil man seemed a bit overdone. Each subsequent villainous act seemed unnecessary and some were difficult for me to listen to.
I still continue to be amazed at how differently I view the physical book and the Audible version. Perhaps it was because of the wonderful job that John Lee did in narrating the book, or perhaps I was just not in the proper frame of mind of a large scope book like this when I originally read it, but this is a wonderful book and I recommend it without reservation.
I was searching on Amazon for good historical novels and found this continually referenced. Due to that and its sequel World Without End being on sale, I decided to get both. Ken Follett primarily writes "beach read thrillers" as I call them. While his are revered among those books, that isn't my preferred genre but this book was supposed to be great historical fiction. This book wasn't far above a beach thriller in a historical setting. While the story line was interesting and I found myself drawn in by the characters, much of the story didn't match its setting. Many plot twists and characters seemed more suited to the 21st century than the 12th, as if forcing the story into a historical context somehow made it more intellectual. There were also several plots twists I saw coming from miles away, and had to wait until the book revealed them 2 hours later. Due to all the praise this book received, I was expecting something more thought provoking and memorable. Pillars of the Earth was decent enough for me to listen to the sequel; however if I hadn't already purchased it, I'm not sure I would be.
While I'm not a huge Oprah fan (I don't think I've ever watched her show), the Oprah's book club isn't a bad place to start when looking for good novels to read (or listen to). As dull as the description of this one sounded (I'm really not into historical dramas), I gave it a chance mostly because of the Oprah recommendation AND because it was ridiculously long (at 40 hours). I have become addicted to audiobooks (the longer the better) because of a very long commute. I admit this is a slow start one--a little too much background to cover before the real story can begin--but don't give up. A few hours in, you are HOOKED. This is the kind of audiobook that you arrive at your destination and sit in the car a little while because you just CAN'T turn it off. Historically accurate (although with definite dramatic license), occasionally uncomfortably graphic and sexual for some tastes, but very, very good character development. You get to KNOW these people, and care deeply about then.
If you are looking for light reading, go else where. If you are a history buff, and can deal with the horror of England in it's dark age, this is for you evil and goodness at every level. I enjoyed every word of this unique story. Brilliant.
My only criticism is that the book is perhaps a bit too long. Not a lot too long...just a bit. There was a time towards the end that I felt it dragged. This is a wonderful example of historical fiction at it's best. Well researched, I learned a lot about the day to day life of 12th century England. The author manages to involve the characters in important historical events of the time. I recommend highly.