Saturday, December 15, 2012

“The Pillars of Earth” by Ken Follett – Building a House for God

Most of us see the Middle Ages as being an era filled with glorious knights, honorable kings, well-meaning peasants, beautiful princesses, swords, books, fancy cups, and so on and so forth.

However, what many of us forget to imagine, when thinking of the Middle Ages, is the horror. Indeed, these were extremely violent times when teachings of faith were taken very literally, a time when justice was about as arbitrary as it could ever be. In Pillars of Earth, Ken Follett explores the lives of a master builder and his community as they try to build a cathedral in an attempt to protect themselves from evil.

Even though the novel is stuffed with historical details and accuracies, it is, nevertheless, an adventure story and not historical fiction. Pretty much all of the language used in the story is clearly from the 20th century, and in the end I think it’s for the best; simply not as many people would be able to enjoy his work had Follett used authentic 12th century English.

The world inhabited by that community is described in great detail, especially when it comes to the architecture of the place; you can close your eyes and actually feel yourself being there.

What I liked in this novel, at least in contrast to Follett's other pieces of writing, is that the story isn't exactly narrow or tight. There isn't one specific plot that is constantly developed; we are simply shown the lives of the people, how they and the cathedral they are building are affected by the Church’s politics.

There isn't a world to save, a tyrant to dethrone, or even an innocent prisoner to liberate; this is life as it was in a time when the word of the Church was worth more than that of any man, woman or child. Regardless of what kind of ending such a story brings us to, rest assured the ride to it will be more than worth it.


Ken Follett (June 5, 1949)

Ken Follett


Personal site

Ken Follett is an author of Welsh origin, mainly adhering to the creation of thrillers and historical novels (often combining the two). He obtained more than 11 awards in literature so far, with some of his most recognized bestsellers being Fall of Giants and Winter of the World.

More of Ken Follett's book reviews:
World Without End
Winter of the World
Fall of Giants

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