As I have mentioned roughly a trillion times, I love good historical fiction. In high school, history was probably my favourite subject and I suspect that the love I had for history in my younger years, has now found it’s way to the top of my reading pile. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett is no exception and though the book itself is quite long, being any shorter would not have done it justice.
Set in 12th century England, The Pillars of the Earth is an extravagant tale of love, war, death and ultimately, revenge. The story is largely centred around Kingsbridge Cathedral. Once a grand building to be admired by locals and pilgrims alike, it is now in disrepair and the entire diocese of Kingsbridge is not as profitable as what it should be. As the threat of a civil war looms over England, a humble monk is given information that could be to the advantage of the Church. How he uses this information sets in motion a chain of events that will bring together a group of the most unlikely people and which will continue to effect the lives of those people for the next thirty-five years.
There’s so much to love about this book aside from the historical aspect. For starters, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that doesn’t like a story with knights in it. Combine this with with a suspected witch, a family mystery, a political struggle between men of the cloth and a couple of completely evil characters and there’s not much in here that wouldn’t appeal to some part of each of us. But what I enjoyed the most was seeing the same events through different sets of eyes.
Too often an otherwise great story is let down by a narrative that gets a little stale as the book wears on. Not the case this time. Follett has created an authentic set of main characters, who are as different from each other as chalk and cheese. A morally incorruptible man of God; a strong and independent young woman who doesn’t balk at adversity; and a tyrannical knight who is more cruel and ruthless than you could imagine. These are just some of the characters who you will either love or hate. With their rich background stories, there is very little that we don’t find out about these characters, which in turn makes them all the more realistic.
Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read. The writing flowed beautifully, there were no plot holes (that I noticed anyway) and although the book comes in at just under a thousand pages, there was very little in the story that wasn’t needed and the story seemed to go along a fairly steady pace. The only negative I have in regards to the writing, is that a select few phrases were repeated quite a lot towards the end (in particular, “She was as beautiful as ever.” Surely she could have been beautiful some other way?). But really aside from this there is little that an amateur like me can be critical about. So if you want your next read to be an epic one that spans across decades and will get your emotions going, then The Pillars of the Earth is just what you’re after.
RATING: 9 out of 10.
WHO SHOULD READ IT: Lovers of historical fiction, in particular books such as The Other Boleyn Girl and Wolf Hall.
WHO YOU’LL LOVE: My favourite right the way through was Prior Philip. Too many times his plans should have come to a premature end, but he always managed to find his way out of it. It’s difficult not to admire a person like that.