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)
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.
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.
The least helpful reviewer on audible.
At nearly 41 hours in length a book about monks building a cathedral seems very daunting and a huge gamble to spend a credit on. Plus, several years ago I tried listening to an audio book by Ken Follett (I can't remember which one or even what it was about) and I couldn't get into it and gave up about a quarter of the way through it. So, The Pillars of the Earth spent a lot of time on my wish list before I gave it a chance.
What kept me from deleting it from the wish list and finally breaking down and buying it is two fold; 1) it got great reviews on audible, and 2) I've always been intrigued by the idea of monastic life. I know it sounds silly, but I often daydream about what it might be like to spend all day everyday praying and studying and gardening and meditating without the worries and rigors of modern life.
This was a long book, but the story covers four decades in the characters lives and there are not a whole lot of really big jumps in time. It is about the building of the Kingsbridge Cathedral, but there's a lot more to it than that. There's wars and famines and people struggling to gain and keep power. There's relationships that intertwine in strange ways, and there's a lot of sex.
This brings me to my first criticism...
Now, I'm not a prude. I don't mind graphic sex scenes if they're done right and make the characters seem more real and interesting. However, in this book there are a lot of sex scenes and they don't always seem necessary. In fact, a few of them made me uncomfortable. I'm not talking about the rape scenes either. There are several of those too, but they make the villainous people seem more evil, and lay the groundwork for the motivations of the victims. It's the needlessly graphic sex that permeates a large portion of the book that had me rolling my eyes.
All in all this is a solid four star book with five star narration. It was very long and I may need to take a break before trying the sequel, but I probably will in a few months.
A friend recommended this book to me because she knows that I enjoy history and historical fiction. I was appalled at the cruelty and malice in the book, about which I began to imagine that Follett really enjoyed writing. Yes, life was not gentle back in this period, but the rapes and the animal blood baths were over-written and so unnecessary.
No - I will still read other historical fiction, but I doubt that I will ever read another novel by Follett.
The reader did a good job.
I found very little in this book to love. Some of the historical notes on cathedral construction were a bit interesting, but otherwise, nothing could make up for the violence. I am generally not squeamish, but this was over the top.
It should be noted that I did not finish this book. I tried. Seriously, I tried. I even tried to skip over some of the gratuitous violence, but I just couldn't do it. Very rarely has a book turned me off so totally.
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.
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.
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.
Love sailing, private pilot, Home cooking. Lecturer in pharmacology of local anesthetics used in dentistry. (M.Sc. PharmD) CCPE
Ken Follet was consumed with weird painful sex and violence...far in excess needed to convey his passion for cathedral edifices and their construction. I was disappointed.
Haynes Darlington M.Sc. PharmD.
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