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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A VERY ENJOYABLE BOOK.
PILLARS OF THE EARTH is one of those books one can really enjoy and will leave a memorable aftertaste long after the last page is turned.

The story is set in the middle ages (12th century) and starts in a stormy night full of death and new life, desperation and hope. It then follows the story of a stone-mason (Tom Builder) and his family in his efforts to...
Published on Nov. 24 2007 by NeuroSplicer

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Not my favorite title in this genre
A long book set in Medieval England which is filled with many characters over 40 years, as a Prior of the Church and master builders complete a monumental cathedral.
For many years this book sat among my to be read collection and while I often thought about picking it up, the size of it 973 pages, was daunting. Then when a book group I am with chose to read and...
Published on May 31 2004 by Nancy R. Katz


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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A VERY ENJOYABLE BOOK., Nov. 24 2007
By 
NeuroSplicer (Freeside, in geosynchronous orbit) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
PILLARS OF THE EARTH is one of those books one can really enjoy and will leave a memorable aftertaste long after the last page is turned.

The story is set in the middle ages (12th century) and starts in a stormy night full of death and new life, desperation and hope. It then follows the story of a stone-mason (Tom Builder) and his family in his efforts to continue building a cathedral (Kingsbridge) and, thus, carve out a living for his family.
The story, of course, also branches out into a number of interweaving stories, from the villainous lord William Hamleigh and pious Prior Phillip, to beautiful Aliena and Tom Builder's children and their own ambitions and schemes.

KEN FOLLETT is a well above average English writer (I would recommend also trying his NIGHT OVER WATER). If you have came across interviews of his declaring himself an atheist, do not let this discourage you from buying this book: he approaches a religious theme (the building of a cathedral by a monastery Prior) with respect and fairness.

Although not a masterpiece (and hardly a classic), PILLARS OF THE EARTH does occupy No.33 on the BBC's Big Read (a 2003 survey with the goal of finding England's Best-loved Book), just below Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude and above...Charles Dickens' David Copperfield (yeah, I know...) - which goes to show how much people are enjoying the easy narrative and interesting plot.
The book runs for almost 1,000 pages, so make sure to have some free time ahead before getting started.

RECOMMENDED.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A big, fat, rich tour of the 12th century, Dec 5 2007
This is a wonderful book-a historical novel fan's dream come true. I have read this book twice and loved it even more the second time. If you only read one book this year, make it this one. Even though it is long and daunting in size, you will find it to be hard to put down. While reading this novel, I resented the intrusion of my job, my household chores and other mundane activies like eating and sleeping. While I believe it would make a great movie, I would be afraid that it would be spoiled by the need to cut so much. Thank you, Mr. Follett! It's a treasure.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars surprizing!, Nov. 15 2007
By 
Michel Morel (Quebec City, QC, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This book has been given to me by a friend. Not beeing a frequent book reader, the beginning of the book with the characters descriptions and all I was not too motivated. But getting into the story has got me using spare time to read more and more. Very credible story happening around the 12th century. Ken Follett's strenght, in my opinion, is describing the state of mind of his characters at any given time. I could imagine easily beeing there. Very good!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Follett's Best, Dec 1 2007
If you like historical fiction, this is a book you can get lost in. Don't let the thickness of it intimidate you because it doesn't seem that long while you're reading it. You'll be on the 900th page before you know it.

Being familiar with and a fan of other books by Ken Follett, I originally bought and read this book several years ago. I was absolutely knocked out and captivated by the story and read it in two settings.

Part of what makes a story great to me is when I truly get wrapped up in its characters and begin to associate and have feelings for them, good or bad. In a sense, they come to life while I'm reading the story. This was especially true for "The Pillars of the Earth," having been totally entranced by the end of the first chapter. I especially come to care for Tom and his family, and later, for Jack and his mother. In fact, when one of the major characters dies midway through the story (I won't say who and spoil part of the story), I was shocked and had to lay the book down for several minutes.

As another note on this and Mr. Follett's other books, even though I am male (if that should make any difference), I respect his use of a strong female character playing a major role in his stories.

If you like Philosophy I recommend the book Understanding: Train of Thought.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Incursion into Middle-Age England, Aug. 1 2014
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This review is from: The Pillars of the Earth (Mass Market Paperback)
The Pillars of the Earth is set in 12th century England and tells the tale of several individuals and families with intertwined stories over the course of 40 years. Ken Follett writes remarkably well and is very well read on the history of that period. If for nothing else, the story brings out the atmosphere of the Middle Ages and some of the personal, political and philosophical issues of the day. A couple of points can be made here. Follett writes with forethought and, as a reader, you quickly become on the lookout for anything in the text which has may have significance for some future event. The writing is carefully planned, for which I am grateful.

The story tells the stories of Prior Philip, Tom Builder and William Hamleigh, and those that gravitate around them. Life trajectories intertwine and life philosophies clash. Survival, power and faith are consistently and continuously brought out as prominent life lines. Follett continuously asks the question: How can the evil thrive? How can the innocent be mocked and suffer? How can the pious be without knowledge? In a religious society, he implicitly asks the question (a question he explicitly asks in the sequel to this novel), Where is God? These questions were important in the middle ages, when there seemed to be no law that could be used to submit everyone and where power and fortune ruled. However, these questions continue to haunt us, at a time when conflicts, illness and famines, global warming and multi-national carelessness and greed continue to lead us toward the proverbial brick wall. So while the story is set in the Middle Ages, there are ominously clear ramifications for our time. As a strong writer, Follett is able to weave story lines to address some of these questions over the course of this 1000 page novel. He doesn't cheat, doesn't offer easy answers, but always allows for some hope.

Follett develops characters very well and he is particularly adept at bringing out character's emotions and thoughts and how they may have a part in shaping long-term trajectories and destinies. He also brings a special knowledge of the activities and tasks of Middle Age England. The ideas behind engineering and architecture at that time are particularly well brought out, as are some of the different social and economic structures that regulated the lives of individuals at that time. In many ways, this novel is an immersion into a way of life that has long been forgotten, but that still resonate today, in economic institutions and social thinking. The economic importance of markets, the financial strain of war, the impact of famine and the very real concern for survival, the smells and humidity of castles, the warmth and poverty of peasants' homes, the incredible task of cultivating the soil in harsh conditions - all come home through Follett's writing.

One thing that Follett does not do so well is portray Christianity. It is perhaps the greatest weakness in Follett's writing in general. Religion is central to the Middle Ages, and religious characters are omnipresent in The Pillars and in almost no circumstance do we go beyond the superficial, modern portrayal of a non present, distant God. It is true that the institution of religion dominated that time. It is also true that faith was lost for many at that time, in many ways. But there might have been the opportunity to draw this out in some meaningful way. Some research in the spiritual writers of that time might have allowed for the cardinal points of Christianity to be more clearly drawn out. The character story lines certainly bring out many opportunities to make implicit references to the Christian message, that would have made the explicit message more accessible. Follett doesn't have to be Christian or agree with Christianity. Simply, portraying the issues at hand and the true struggles of marrying everyday life and suffering with questions of faith might have been historically pertinent.

However, in spite of this caveat, I cannot overstate how much I enjoyed reading this novel and my appreciation for the care and thought that went into writing it. Couldn't really put it down and basically read through it in a couple of days. Which was kind of a problem because, after all, it is 1000 pages long. Highly recommended.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Not the worst book in the world . . . but close., July 7 2004
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This review is from: The Pillars of the Earth (Mass Market Paperback)
I'm afraid I have to disagree with the majority on this one... this book was not worthy of the bestseller list. In the world of book editing I know that authors often sell their ideas to the publisher based on a sketchy outline and a sample chapter or two, so I can understand how Mr. Follett managed to get a contract for this book. The idea is marvelous--a sweeping plot culminating in the building of a cathedral with an intriguing cast of characters whose lives intertwine in surprising ways. But the actual execution is miserable. Not a hundred pages in I had already tired of the plodding repetition and the dull prose. It's one of those books in which the author is all too present, making sure the readers don't miss how clever he is by drilling the themes and making his research painfully obvious. As an example of the latter, when a character drinks posset early in the book, the author felt it necessary to tell us how the beverage was made, which I found annoying enough since it disrupted the flow of the story. But then, several hundred pages later I was treated to the exact same description of posset and its ingredients. The book is full of such moments when you just have to sit back and wonder what the editors were smoking when they were preparing this book for publication. But as I mentioned, it's not the worst book I've ever read, and it was intriguing enough to keep me reading to the end, so I give it two stars and a recommendation to those of you who are looking for an easy-to-digest read rather than a rich feast for the mind.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not my favorite title in this genre, May 31 2004
By 
This review is from: The Pillars of the Earth (Mass Market Paperback)
A long book set in Medieval England which is filled with many characters over 40 years, as a Prior of the Church and master builders complete a monumental cathedral.
For many years this book sat among my to be read collection and while I often thought about picking it up, the size of it 973 pages, was daunting. Then when a book group I am with chose to read and discuss this book, I decided I just had to see what other readers always raved about.
Unfortunately I am finding that I am in the vast minority of people who have read this book since I really didn't enjoy this book all that much. I didn't find the writing particualrly good or moving and found most of the book much too wordy and descriptive. The moments of interest were too few for me to rate this book any higher although I do think it must have taken great effort to write this novel.
It may just be that historical fiction is no longer one of my genres of choice as I haven't really enjoyed the others I read this year either. But I haven't given up because during the summer I will be rereading an old cherished favorite historical fiction title, Katherine by Anya Seton. I first read this book over 40 years ago so it should be interesting to see if this genre is no longer for me or in fact it was just the other titles I rerad this year which I didn't enjoy. As for Follett, it may be that I much preferred his suspsense books of a number of years ago which included The Key to Rebecca and Eye of the Needle since I haven't managed to get through any of his other boosk in sometime.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Simply great!, April 25 2004
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This review is from: The Pillars of the Earth (Mass Market Paperback)
I loved this book...I might have read it 2-3 years ago and continue to remember the great fun I had with it. Unfortunately for me, that great fun lasted for only one day cause I went through its 998 pages in just 24 hours!!!!....
I love the middle ages so much: when I read a book, visit Europe, or hear music, I love everything that was, worst case scenario, conceived in 15th century at the most. And in this same line I can tell you this is the best book I've ever read concerning the middle ages.
The way in which Ken Follet describes the way social entities live together, compite, abuse and cooperate with each other in 12th century England is simply great!
Apart from the descriptions of the towns, and of the day-to-day lives of the peoples, one of the great features of the "50 year saga" related in the book, is the contrast between the good fellows and the bad guys. To some point, the bad guys are so intensly bad that throught the book you get easily identified, at least to some extent, with the good guys. In my particular case, I even suffered when good fellows suffered, and couldn't wait to get through the pages know what would end up happening to them!!!!
Enjoy it! Great book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Something different from Ken Follett, April 13 2004
By 
Isabella K. Badenoch "izi" (Vientiane, Lao PDR) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Pillars of the Earth (Mass Market Paperback)
My local bookshop owner handed me a copy of Ken Follett's Pillars and said that I would enjoy it. At first I was skeptical, because I am not a big fan of Ken Follett, but when I read the new introduction by Follett in the book I was intrigued. In it he talks about how writers should stick with the type of book/story that got them a bestseller and it's a folly to deviate. But he did. He also says that the critics overlooked this book, yet it has beeen a strong seller, which has been mainly due to word of mouth (I hadn't heard about the book), which is the best kind of advertising. I couldn't agree more and it is an amazing book. The fictional story follows the building of a cathedral in 12th century England. Not only is the architectural history wonderful, but so are the various characters Follett populates the book with. The story is immensely capitvating, with good vs. evil (it is a cathedral after all) battling it out all the way. I'm not a big fan of historical fiction, especially the Medieval kind, but I found this book a great page turner and am glad Follett meandered down this path away from his usual genre. Good for him!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Well-researched story of cathedrals and medieval politics, March 22 2004
By 
Jerry Bull "Gerald M. Bull" (Fairview, TN United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Pillars of the Earth (Mass Market Paperback)
Our introduction to author Ken Follett was an awesome, educational, yet suspenseful medieval tale about Gothic cathedral building (some took 20 to 30 years to erect) and the politics (and to some degree, the sexual mores) of 12th century England. The stone building techniques of these early masons (from whom today's Masonic Order descends), and their rivalry in building cathedrals to stretch to the heavens, seemed incredibly well researched, forming an interesting historical primer in itself. Add to the scene the often violent clashes between the classes, and their feuding overlords, along with kidnapping and sexual preying on women galore (not for the weak of heart), with a healthy dose of politics even among the monks and churchmen, and you get quite a recipe for suspense and intrigue. It's difficult to summarize the plot of this lengthy novel, as it follows several leading characters over the course of three decades or so, but suffice to say that Follett's story-telling prowess is undoubtedly at his finest in "Pillars". His legion of fans agree, despite the one-of-a-kind nature of this particular tale and its setting. We commend this book to your attention!
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The Pillars of the Earth
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (Mass Market Paperback - Sept. 4 2007)
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