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on December 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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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.

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on November 26, 2008
I am very confused about my feeling for this book. I really enjoyed the story but there are so many bad things about this book. First, from page 700 til the end I really skim throu the book because I couldn't read one more thing about trancept and buttress and all the repeatious things about construction work. But way before that I did pass over cockfight and dogfight and bearbaiting etc.

I laughted a some of the language. I don't think the term BAMBOUZELED was used in the 1200th. Kids didn't pay football because even my mother, 60 years ago played with a pig's blader on the farm. So my guest is it was pigball or simply ball.

I enjoyed all of the characters. Although they were pretty flat such as the bad one were bad without one iota of goodness in them and the good ones were good to the core.

Finally, I am very picky about giving a 5 stars to a book. If I could have given a 3 1/2 to this one that's what I would have done.
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on December 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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on November 14, 2007
This is not your typical Ken Follett story. It is one of my (and my husband's ) all-time favourite books. It hooks you from the first sentence. I have given it to friends who also love it. Could never believe that someone didn't turn it into a movie (yet!). Glad it's finally getting the recognition it deserves. Enjoy!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon November 26, 2007
This masterful, well-written saga of life in twelfth century England is epic storytelling at its best. The author weaves a rich and colorful tapestry of people, places, and events surrounding the building of a magnificent cathedral in the medieval town of Kingsbridge.

Early twelfth century England was a country in a state of flux. King Henry I had died without a male heir. His daughter Maude was to be queen. The English barons, for the most part, however, refused to swear fealty to her. Maude's first cousin, Stephen of Blois, then usurped her rights and proclaimed himself king. This was to plunge England into a civil war that was to last for many, many years, turning England into a virtually lawless and tumultuous land, until Maude's son became King Henry II of England.

For most people, however, life would go on with every day concerns being paramount. The book tells the story of a number of these lives. One story is that of Tom, a master builder, whose life long dream was to build a cathedral. The lives of Tom and his family would intersect that of a humble and intelligent monk named Phillip who would become the prior at Kingsbridge Priory. The fates would intervene and provide Tom with an opportunity to pursue his dream.

Their lives would intersect with a number of other individuals, some good, some evil, who would have a great impact on their lives and their goals. Tom would lose his first wife, Agnes, by whom he already had two children, brutish Alfred and sweet Martha, due to complications sustained during the birth of another son. This son was to provide a connection between Tom and Phillip of which Phillip would long be unaware.

Tom would ultimately marry Ellen, a strong willed independent woman of the forest, perceived by many to be a witch. Her son Jack, a sensitive, highly intelligent lad, whose father was deceased, would grow to manhood. His dream would begin where Tom's had left off. In Jack's background, however, was a mystery surrounding his deceased father, a French jongleur. That mystery in some way involved Sir Percy Hamleigh, Waleran Bigod, and Prior James, the old prior of Kingsbridge before Phillip.

When Earl Bartholomew of Shiring makes the treasonous mistake of siding with Maude in the conflict with Stephen, he ends up on the losing side. Sir Percy Hamleigh and his son William, siding with Stephen, attack the Earl's castle, and take Earl Bartholomew captive. Imprisoned for treason, he loses his earldom to the Hamleighs. His young son and heir, Richard, and his daughter, the beautiful Lady Aliena, are left to fend for themselves, but not until William Hamleigh has slaked his thirst for revenge upon them. You see, William had been engaged at one time to marry the Lady Aliena, only to be spurned by her to his vast public humiliation. This was the moment for which he had been waiting. Aliena and Richard would ultimately migrate to Kingsbridge to begin a new life.

Meanwhile, the church itself was having its own political intrigues. Phillip was tricked by Waleran Bigod, an ambitious arch-deacon, into supporting him for the post of bishop. Phillip would later best Waleran and incur his enmity for a lifetime. Remigius, a spy for Waleran Bigod, was a monk at Kingsbridge Priory who saw his dream of becoming prior at Kingsbridge dissipate with the advent of Phillip. He would spend a lifetime undermining Phillip and plotting against him. Moreover, the fate of Kingsbridge and the building of its cathedral would always seem to hinge upon the political vagaries of the time. Its fortunes would ebb and flow with the political winds.

Ever present throughout the destinies of all these characters is the age old battle between good and evil. Complicating it further were those who sought to do good but did evil, believing that the end justified the means. Spanning over fifty turbulent years, this is a spellbinding story of love, hate, faith, betrayal, revenge, and triumph. Against a backdrop of civil war, the sharply drawn characters grasp the imagination of the reader. Twelfth century England is laid out in painstaking detail, providing an unforgettable backdrop for the lives lived within the pages of this memorable work of historical fiction. This book is simply riveting. Bravo!
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on September 23, 2008
This book was enjoyable to read and actually kept my interest throughout the approximately 900 pages. It is very delightful, however I haven't really thought more from the book since I finished it. It's one of those novels that one enjoys whilst reading it, but afterwards its put at the back shelf.
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on August 15, 2008
When a novel is as thick as "Pillars of the Earth", I am usually skeptical whether it will keep me interested throughout. And, the start was slow, but only for a couple of pages. And then, it really started. I had a tough time putting the book down before I reached the ending. The depiction of medieval times was so vivid that I could picture the villages, the buildings and the people quite clearly in my mind, almost as if I were watching a movie instead of reading a novel. The storyline is very good and kept me on my toes as if the book were a modern day suspense thriller. If you want to spend a couple of days reading a good novel, you cannot go wrong with this one.
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on January 11, 2011
I was hooked from the first sentence. The characters were dynamic, imperfect and interesting; the dialogue was compelling and the wealth of story lines very well tied together. I really appreciated the author tying up loose ends throughout the narrative - not leaving anything unfinished. The author's voice was so sublte; it felt as those I was being read to aloud rather than reading it for myself. This book is totally worth its weight.
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on January 10, 2008
I'd read Ken Follett's Eye of the Needle, an espionage adventure novel and was surprised to see the change in genre.

I was pleasantly surprised once I began reading Pillars of the Earth. I wasn't privy to any of the "hype" surrounding this novel before I read so I was able to purchase without any preconceptions.

It is a long (almost 1000 pages) epic tale of the lives of several people involved in the daily life of a middle ages English priory and how we see their lives intersect over their lifetimes.

I thought Follett did a marvelous job painting the antagonists, William Hamleigh and Bishop Waleran Bigod as poisonous malevolent evil-doers. The progression of the book kept me leading to believe they would earn their own punishment and I was appalled that they managed to continue to pillage the countryside untouched.

Where other reviewers have indicated this book was too long or too descriptive - I disagree. I enjoyed the descriptions of monsatic life and cathedral building in the middle ages.

My only negative - I would have liked to see the conclusion unfold over a longer period of time. It seemed like the last 50 pages of the book were crammed with "what happened to ..." for each character.
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