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)
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.
Like a beautiful painting with flecks of vomit on it, this book is mostly enjoyable--except for a few jarring passages. The prolonged scenes of rape are awful. And the love scenes were gratuitous and self-indulgent, I thought. I kept hanging on, thinking surely the villain would meet a grisly, brutal end equal to his violent history. But it was rather brief and anticlimactic. It seemed to me the author enjoyed torturing only women--and at every opportunity, elaborating on every squeamish detail.
Seriously...here is how good this book is, after I downloaded and listened to the audible book, I ran to the library and bought the print book just so that I could read it again with my eyes. The villians are as bad as bad can be and the hero and heroine are cheer-worthy. Great book.
I just finished reading this book and I have to say that it is one of my FAVORITE books ever.
I have no idea how Ken Follett was able to tie so many threads together to build a magnificent tapestry which tells a historical but fictional account of the lives of several families in the early 12th century, but he has done it masterfully. I have a better understanding of how difficult their lives were and the perils they faced in their daily lives from greedy Land owners, corrupt and inept Kings and Queens, and treachery of those who were supposed to give them spiritual guidance.
I found it interesting that many of the concerns they faced are still faced by young people and families, governments and even religious institutions today.
I just can't wait to read his next book!
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 live in Beijing and am thoroughly addicted to Audio Books.
Someone less offened by the heavy-handed use of female characters.
Zorba the Greek
I have not listened to any, but I thought the performance was excellent. I would be happy to listen to him again.
I thought that the many rape scenes became both more gratitious and unecessary as the book progressed. It seemed the Follett came to rely on rape as a literary device whenever the plots began to dwindel. I found it dissapointing, as in many ways the book was quite interesting; however I think his havy handed use of rape to move the plot along became both offensive and tiersome--espechially in a novel centered on the building of a church.
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