Browsing Archives for Ken Follett

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82 – Monica Ross
OOOhhhh a new series to read. I have been looking for a good read.
I so enjoy your blog–from a fellow Kansan!!

171 – Stephanie
Love, love, LOVE Pillars of the Earth. Must have the other one!!
Timestamp: 2009-05-22 02:00:26 UTC

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Pillars of the Earth

May 20th, 2009

Several months ago, my book club was assigned the monumental task of reading Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.  This massive book is ninety nine million pages long and weighs as much as a fully grown, adult water buffalo.  I was terrified of this book.  It made me feel weak and shaky, which is a condition I have bravely struggled with my entire life.

My book club only meets every other month and we pick our books a year in advance, but I still did not start reading the book until about a week before our meeting.  A few days before Thanksgiving I picked Pillars of the Earth up and under protest and in utter defiance, filled with righteous indignation at the sheer mental toughness it was going to take to heave the book off my nightstand again and again, I started reading it.

I did not put the book back on the nightstand until I finished it.

I read it while I shopped for Thanksgiving.  I read it while I made pies and rolls.  I read it while I searched for turkey roasting directions on the internet.  I read it while I showered, while I brushed my teeth, while I ‘used the facilities’ and while I slept. I read it while I rang people up at the cash register at work.  I read it while I counted back change. I read it while I mopped floors, dusted, vaccumed, and changed sheets for company.  If for some reason, I was forced to put the book down, I felt like I was going through de-tox.  I started shaking.  I couldn’t breathe.  My skin grew clammy.  My knees went weak.  I needed to sit down.  Someone get me some coffee… please…and a buttery croissant… no, not the plain croissant… the almond croissant… the BIG almond croissant… BIGGER!  It’s the only thing that helps.  Oh!  And bring me that ‘Cathedral Book’ I was reading!  I have to know what is going to happen to all those people.  Will Tom Builder get a chance to build another cathedral?  Will Ellen be killed for heresy?  Will Aliena be able to re-build her life?  Will Jack ever come back?

Pillars of the Earth is centered around the construction of a cathedral in medieval England.   The times are dark and dreary.  The church and the noblemen are corrupt and greedy.  The average person is just trying to feed his family and hang onto what he or she has, but their tenuous existence quivers like gelatin on the table of the feudal lords and the powerful church.  In the midst of all this wrack and ruin there arrives a gifted builder who tackles an impossible project and life in one tiny corner of the world begins to change.

Pillars of the Earth is truly a sweeping, adventurous, historic, romantic, epic tale.  It has been on the best seller list twice.  Once, when the book was first published in 1989, and then again in November 2007 when Oprah Winfrey placed it on her ‘read this book because I did’ list.  The author, Ken Follett, best known for writing spy thrillers like The Eye of the Needle, had long been a ‘cathedral junkie’ and decided to channel his interest into a novel.   Pillars of the Earth was and continues to be a world wide hit still selling over 100,000 copies a year.

A few months after I finished Pillars,  I read the sequel, World Without End, which is set 200 years after the first book ends, involves the descendants of the characters from the first book and life around the same cathedral.  In this book, the characters have much goofier names – Merthin, Godwyn, Caris, Petranilla, Elfric, Buonaventura, Gwenda, Wulfric – and they also have a lot more plague.  In fact, I think that the plague is the main character in this story, but the other side stories are also engrossing.  Will Caris and Merthin ever get together?  Will Gwenda have her revenge?  Will Wulfric ever get back the family farm?  Will the corrupt forces in the church continue to grow? Will the plague kill off the evil characters or only the good ones?  Will the plague ever end?  Is the plague over yet?  Is the plague still going on?  Here  comes the plague again!

World Without End is almost as gripping as Pillars of the Earth, and if you liked the first book you will enjoy the second.

P.S.  Paradoxically, I recently took this photo of ‘St Bernards’ the catholic church in my town.  The church’s name is not pronounced like the friendly dog with the keg around it’s neck.  Instead it is pronounced  like ‘BURnerds’.  I have no idea who St. BURnerd was, but I am very familiar with Saint Bernard dogs.