A spellbinding epic tale of ambition, anarchy, and absolute power set against the sprawling medieval canvas of 12th-century England, this is Ken Follett's historical masterpiece.
©1989 Ken Follett; (P)2007 Penguin Audio, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc.
"Follett is a master." (The Washington Post)
"A historical novel of gripping readability, authentic atmosphere and detail and memorable characterization." (Publishers Weekly)
this book was thoroughly captivating.
however, there are definitely many "R-rated" parts.
it is unfortunate, because my 15 year old daughter is fascinated with medieval history, and this book would be a great addition to her education, but I would never let her listen to it.
there are parts whose images I still cringe at.
the author is obviously skilled at creating characters, both normal people, heroes, and villains; however, in his effort to create particularly horrid villains, he describes in graphic sexual detail what he inflicts upon his victims. It's salacious, disgusting and gratuitous. I feel that the author takes too much pleasure in the descriptions, and is my only (but large) caveat for any reader.
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.
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.
How to Clean the Attic in 40 Hours
If You're Not Getting Any, Here's Some
I came to Pillars directly from 2 Michael Chabon books, (Gentlemen of the Road, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay), and had Chabon's high-tone and fun stories winging through my mind. His writing has made my ear overly sensitive to the dissonant clang of Follet's script-like conversations and arms length approach to emotion (16 year old girl knifes an outlaw on the road to save herself and brother. Brother later says, "you're awfully grumpy." Brilliant).
After the first of the violent rapes I figured Follet got "that" out of his system. But he never did. He rounded out the entire 40 hours with rapes and seductions of every buxom, curly haired brunette in the book. If you're a middle class white guy, you'll need a cigarette about every 2 chapters.
The story itself was good enough. The Euclidean math and mason work and a general sense of medieval England and hierarchy of the Catholic Church was worth reading through.
All the unfinished business getting wrapped up with a bow on top by the end gave a Hollywood feel to it.
In the end, it was a good distraction for cleaning out the attic but I won't be recommending it to anyone looking for a "great" read.
Follet's preface, about how he'd come to write this novel, had me hooked. His effort, research and honesty propelled me into his novel with enthusiasm. The reader, John Lee, does a superb job. His tone is rich, full of a multitude of vocal inflections that carry ones imagination deeply into this historical adventure. And like a great actor he never shines so brightly on the material that his 'acting' takes precedence over the reading. I can't wait to get the sequel. One thousand cheers to Mr Follet for having ventured into terrain so different from his home.
scott stambler. real name.
Five stars - An exception work of fiction. Compelling story and virtual tour of 13th century England. Follett really delivers with this masterpiece. My first review after more than 200 downloads. Don’t be put off by the length. You will be wishing it were even longer. Am ready to tackle World Without End next.
I found it very difficult to get into this book. The descriptions are often unnecessarily too detailed and drawn out. The characters are either all good or all bad, and not much is left to readers` imagination. Felt like a waste of money and time.
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).
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.
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.
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